I remember standing on the barstool talking to my mom. She was working in the kitchen making us some lunch. I still have a picture of the room in my head. The room was bright, the floor was tile, and the kitchen and family room were open together in one space. There were patio doors that led to the back yard. Our friend Christopher lived next door and he was our constant companion.
I recall one time me, Christopher and my sister, Kelli were playing in the front yard. I believe we must have been about 4 or 5 years old since none of us were in school yet. Our tricycles there with us in case we need to go somewhere.
All three of us were shirtless – it was summer and we were in Florida. That means it was really hot outside. We often went without our shirts and never; I don’t think we ever gave it a thought. Mom never asked us to put one on.
That day, Mr. Johnson, our neighbor stopped his car at the end or our driveway and yelled out the window at us. He yelled, “Put your shirt! You are girls, not boys!” to Kelli and me.
That was the first time I had ever heard of girls needing to wear shirts!
I was totally confused – our chests didn’t look any different from Christopher’s!
Why did we have to put a shirt on and get all hot and sweaty but he didn’t?
Another memory I have is when were at Christopher’s house and went looking for some candy – to sneak. (There was no other way we were going to get any)
To this day I remember that candy; it was ice blue and almost transparent. We each took one out of his mother’s cabinet, looking around to make sure no one saw us. I was scared to death, but not so scared that I didn’t take the candy. I was so scared in fact that when I put the candy in my mouth and Christopher’s mother walked in the door, I choked on the candy. She immediately knew I was choking (not knowing what I was choking on), and kept trying to dislodge it by trying to get me to throw it up. It was terrible! I was caught, and my punishment was that I was going to die.
I didn’t die and she never even said one word about that piece of candy… as it finally went flying out of my mouth. She was only concerned for me. It’s crazy how loud the voice of guilt and shame are.
Another afternoon my constant companions were absent. It was hot outside and I was getting hungry so I went inside to see what Mom up to. She was in the kitchen making bologna sandwiches for lunch so I climbed up on the barstool so I could watch what she was doing.
I asked, “Do you remember when I was a boy?”
“Not really” she replied.
“Of course you remember! I was your favorite little boy! How can you not remember? I played outside all the time. I climbed trees and didn’t have to brush my hair or wear shirts or shoes…It was wonderful!”
She just raised her eyebrow and continued to make sandwiches.
I was remembering what being a boy was like with such longing in my heart. Why couldn’t it be like that still? Why did I have to be a girl? Girls never had as much fun as boys did.
Mom continued on with lunch, listening to me but not taking too much stock in my words. She suggested that I may have been asleep and dreaming when I thought I had been a boy, but that wasn’t possible; of course I used to be a boy, I had all these great memories. I continued to imagine or remember what it was like. I was a brave boy. I was bold and courageous too, afraid of nothing.
Maybe it had been just a dream but that day, when I was talking to my mom about it, it was a memory of something real and not just something I made up! It was a mystery to me.
I was a girl and always had been.
My youngest brother, Adam was born while we lived in that house. Mom and dad brought him home from the hospital on Christmas morning. What a great present he was – all bundled up in a huge baby-sized Christmas stocking. I think dad even placed him under the tree so we could all see him. Back in those days, kids weren’t allowed to come to the hospital so this was our first time seeing our baby brother.
The day came when we had to move. Dad wasn’t in the Navy anymore but he still did photography. We were moving to Sebring so my dad could be the photographer for the local newspaper. I remember crying when we found out that we had to move away. Kelli and I argued constantly about who was Christopher’s best friend. We argued for a week! I remember seeing him sitting on his little bike in our driveway, shirtless and filthy as usual while we drove away to new adventures, craning our necks to watch him as long as we could. Finally. we turned the corner and never saw him again.
When I was a boy…
When I write about this memory now, I can’t help but think of Peter Pan and the lost boys. I felt like one of those boys. That was the flavor of who I was. Not rebellious but adventuresome and being all about the business of playing and fighting. It was with great, longing that I talked to my mom about it. I was on some level hoping that she could confirm that this was who I was; an adventurous, bold courageous boy who was much loved!