№6 Full Circle
I’ve known the necklace my entire life. My mom wore it always. It’s a simple gold chain with two old-fashioned figures hanging from a horizontal bar. One is a boy in a top hat; the other is a girl in pigtails. My dad bought the necklace after I was born, in 1968. The kids on the necklace represented my brother and me.
When I was 23 and my brother was 25, I came out to my parents. My mom said, “This is not what we want for you.” She cried. My mom was a feminist and I grew up under women’s lib, but when I told her I was a lesbian, all of her work in the women’s movement slipped out of her brain and the 1950s Southern girl emerged. She was very concerned with who I had told and said I had ruined my future. “You are digging yourself a hole so deep you will never get out.”
My dad also disapproved. He thought no man would ever love me, which is funny if you think about it. But since my childhood, my dad hadn’t been paying attention and I knew he’d go on not paying much. In this case, that was a relief. The real loss was my mom.
From the outside, everything looked the same. I wasn’t thrown out onto the street. My parents didn’t cut me out of their wills. But my relationship with my mom changed from the inside. She stopped listening the same. And I stopped sharing the same.
I moved from Miami to Los Angeles and years passed. We didn’t stop speaking, but when we did speak, it wasn’t about my relationship, which after six years was breaking up and breaking my heart. My mom was the person who knew me best. She understood me best. She was the one I wanted to talk to. But I didn’t.
Instead, like a kid vying for attention, I acted out, which meant I acted as gay as possible. I cut my hair above my ears and stopped shaving my legs and armpits. When I came to Miami, I wore a T-shirt with DYKE printed across the chest. One Thanksgiving dinner, I wore a giant pendant in the shape of a Georgia O’Keefe flower.
My mom said, “That’s a vagina.”
I lived three thousand miles from home. I told my mom over the phone that I didn’t feel welcome in Miami. I felt exiled.
She said, “I’m Demeter and you’re Persephone.” She was referring to the Greek myth that explains the seasons. When Persephone chooses to be in the underworld with Hades, her mom, Demeter, gets so angry, she freezes the earth.
I said, “Only if you think I’ve gone to hell.”
And then, at 34, even though I was single and a lesbian, I announced I was going to get pregnant on my own. And then a few months later, with sperm I bought from the California Cryobank, I announced that I was pregnant. And then, without discussing it, the anger between us dissolved. And the banishment I felt dissolved too.
Maybe my mom thought her feminism led me to lesbianism. Maybe in her mind, equality of the sexes was one thing, but lesbianism was shameful — a form of hell — and that it was her fault. Or maybe me coming out scared her on a personal level. Maybe she had lesbian tendencies herself. Or maybe the thought of me not having a baby was my mom’s biggest fear.
I don’t know exactly why my mom exiled me, she doesn’t even know. Maybe it was my own exile. But I do think a baby was the thing she wanted for me the most. A grandbaby was also the thing she wanted most for herself.
I didn’t know this would happen, but when I had a baby, my first, a little girl, I got my mom back.
Two years later, I came home. I moved with my baby to a little house in Coconut Grove, twenty minutes from where I grew up. There, I met a woman, Vicky, who became my wife. Then, a few years after that, she had our second, a little boy. Hours after Sebastian was born, my mom put the necklace around my neck. And now I wear it, always.
When I turned 50, I challenged myself to write 50 essays in 50 weeks. This is №6. #weeklyessay #weeklyessaychallenge.