I was around seven. My parents sat us all down. We occasionally had family meetings where we talked about needing to be nicer to each other and trying to keep the house clean, but I never paid too much attention. But recently, my mother looked different. She had been changing, and I had noticed. She cut her hair and dyed it blonde. My father was changing, too -- drinking more and spending more time alone in his car while listening to old love songs.
After beating around the bush, my mother finally said it, "Kids, your mother likes girls."
At the time, I didn't get it. The words bounced around my head like pinball. "Your mother likes girls." I was at the stage I had my first girlfriend and I knew what that meant. Is that what mom was saying? Did she like to see and hold hands with other girls? My little brain went into overdrive, connecting dots like the detectives looking for Carmen San Diego. My mom's friend, Cowboy Carol, dressed like a boy but had boobs, like a girl. She would ask me questions like "do you have a girlfriend?" and "what kind of sports do you like?" I always wanted to ask a question of my own, like, "How do you know my mother?"
Before I could find out what all this meant for us kids and for my father, Mom was gone. Her mother got sick, so she moved from where we lived in Sacramento to her hometown Boston. My family made do. I realized how little my mother actually did. My father did all the cooking and cleaning, so when she left, it didn't seem to make much of a difference. The day my mother came out is the day everything changed. It was the day I realized my parents had their own lives and problems. She says that leaving us was one of the hardest decisions she's ever had to make.
I can't imagine how hard it would have been if she had stayed.