I know now that some of the experiences that I encountered during my younger years were definitely purposeful and thought out, but I wasn’t aware of any of it.
All of it had an impact on how I view prejudice and labeling and still affects how I see other human beings.
When I stayed with my grandma, (which was as often as I could pull off) she would pack our time together full of as many things as she could so that I could ‘experience life’ as she put it. Of course I had no idea what she was talking about but it sounded like fun.
Looking back it was obvious.
She wanted me to see that there were good things in the world.
Fun things. Positive things. And mostly, funny things.
Humor was her escape & the arts were her passion.
I really enjoyed gazing into her world and getting away for a while.
He life revolved around reading and writing and creating and living in the world as a force for something unapologetically good.
The plays that she wrote and produced were charismatic, witty and hilarious as were the ones that she was cast in. Sometimes at rehearsals I would peek in and watch everyone getting into costume, perfecting their make-up and going over their lines. I would walk around and take trips to the pop machines and I liked hanging out, observing everyone. There was a lot of commotion, but overall it was just a fun environment to be in.
My grandma was always busy but never made me feel like I was in the way. I was always close to her in proximity whether she was a cast member, if she was bossing other people around, if she was emcee, or involved in some other capacity.
Some of the most fun I have ever had in my life I had watching and being with her and her friends.
I came to love these people. Over the years her friends became familiar faces to me and eventually, felt like family. I had been acquainted with and close to and around several openly gay men and women for years before I even knew what gay was. I had no clue that some of my grandma’s best and closest (and most treasured, trusted, loving and loyal) friends also happened to be gay.
Probably because it was never mentioned because it never came up because no one cared.
We didn’t have discussions like that.
I wasn’t shielded or protected from anything because I wasn’t in danger. I never felt threatened or weird or unsafe or anything. It was a nonissue so there wasn’t anything to take note of. I had seen so much musical theater and community theater and drag queens tearing sh*t up and I was completely oblivious; I truly had no idea that there were people in the world who might not appreciate single one of these amazing, talented people. I really didn’t understand it.
There was a lot of traumatic stuff that I experienced as a young person.
I might not have had morals and values instilled into my heart in a pointed and purposeful way and I wasn’t taught about religion and I had no idea who Jesus was and no one who I grew up around really cared about praying before they ate a meal or thanking God for daily blessings.
I also know many people could say that sadly, I just didn’t know any better or that I didn’t have a compass to guide me along as a young person, so I was just floundering around without sound judgment.
I really can’t disagree with any of that, actually.
I was floundering and I didn’t have a leg of moral truth to stand on.
And I am not advocating for that parenting technique for obvious reasons.
But the one aspect of my upbringing that was consistent and that I am truly & deeply thankful for?
No one took the time to teach me to hate anything or anyone for any specific set of reasons.
I suppose that is one major perk of spending the majority of your time as a child with a primary caregiver who had other things to do besides instill things in the small people who mostly got in the way… 🙂
If my grandmother were still here I would tell her that I get it now.
It all finally makes sense.
I understand why she encouraged me to play on a special needs softball team as a child.
I can see why she fought so hard and patiently jumped through ten-billion hoops strategically set up for people like her to fail, so that she could open up her day care center that would allow her to serve the special needs community AND the typically developing children in ONE facility. I finally see why she was so adamant fighting for inclusion for people who don’t have a voice that is loud enough.
I see why she fought the city council when they told her that she couldn’t paint flowers on the outside of her home, simply because it was part of the historical district.
I finally get why it was so important to her to put up her annual ‘public’ volleyball net and croquet.
Or why she was combative with people who told her that she was ‘too old’ to line dance or have neon lights underneath her car.
I am not saying that her life was perfect or that she had it all right or she didn’t make mistakes.
But I cannot disregard or ignore what she got right.
I recognize that she did all that she could do to stand up for the rights of other people, and she refused to waiver.
When people told her what or who or why she should be something or anything other than what or who she wanted to be or why she should fold or bend or back down, she never did.
That’s not an easy thing to do.
From a young age I watched her tell people that she didn’t care about what was ‘normal’ she cared about what was ‘right’ and people didn’t always appreciate that.
She was a notorious boat-rocking lady who was either loved and accepted or passionately hated.
There never really was an in-between.
If I can continue to learn anything from people who pave the way it is that the road is bumpy at first.
It is the more difficult road to walk.
It takes guts to do new things and to stand for things that might not be the kinds of things that people are ready or used to standing for. It is uncomfortable sometimes and it isn’t always pretty.
But we have to stand anyway.
Today more than ever.
Whether it is race or murder or injustice of any kind regarding any issue- love wins.
Love wins it all. It always has. It is the greatest command that we have. Love God and love others.
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”