There are significant days you remember as a mother.
The day my youngest son was born will stay with me like it was yesterday. My first son, not so much, as I was subject to a Morphine hazed C-section, knocked out before surgery by an anesthesiologist who was simply tired of hearing me curse the nursing staff. But the day Logan was born is crystal clear in my mind. I remember the last push, the doctor lifting his huge, red baby body onto my chest. I remember thinking his feet were like his father’s. I remember his first cry. I remember how he latched onto my nipple like a pro. How ironic.
Just as clearly, I remember the second day Logan was borne to me. It was 15 years later, over a side salad with house vinaigrette, during lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. “I’m gay,” he said. Two very small words that weighed a million pounds. Tunnel vision set in. The only thing I could see was him in front of me, but it was as though he was a mile away. It was like we were at one of those tables in fancy British castles, except without a butler or beef roast. “I’m gay.” I think he repeated it a hundred times. Perhaps not. Maybe it just echoed in my brain.
It has been almost 4 years since that day, Gay Day, the day Logan came out to me. I vaguely remember the rest of the lunch. He didn’t eat. I picked at my salad and asked for a box. I think I stumbled over a few things that I thought I should say, like, “Are you sure?” and “How do you know?…Never mind.” And finally, “You’re my son and I love you no matter what.” We left, I think, no, I’m sure, because we aren’t still there (not really, anyway.) I don’t remember the ride home, like someone really drunk or tired who pulls into the drive and says, “How did I get here?”, then “Whose shoes are these?”
Once inside, he retreated to his room, his place of solitude. This was not unusual. For a while, he had been quite sullen, hiding in his room with his computer, likely trying to deal with his sexuality the only way a young teenager in 2010 knew how – via the Internet. I noticed his hibernation, but I attributed it to “moody teenager” stuff. I thought maybe he was simply trying to acclimate to a new household, as my husband and I had only been married for several months. On that particular day, I welcomed his retreat to his room. I needed time to process. I needed time to figure out what to say and how to feel. I needed to cry.
Cry, I did. In my garage, where he couldn’t hear me sob. I cried like a child, loud and snotty. I cried because I felt like I had lost the child I knew. This was an especially difficult thought, as I had miscarried a baby only weeks before. Now, still in a hormonal state of madness, I had “lost” the kid who couldn’t say his R’s, whose teeth were too big for his mouth, who freckled in the summertime, who drew pictures of roller coasters.
I cried because I was very afraid of what could happen to him if and when this all was made public. In the mid 1980’s, when I was in high school, a guy who would have dared to reveal his homosexuality would have been beaten to death. Not that we didn’t have gay guys, because we certainly did, but no one knew. But what I remembered of high school was that it was not exactly gay-friendly. I was afraid, even though Logan was well-liked, smart, athletic, and funny, that things could turn ugly for him. The very last thing a mother wants to do is send her child to a place where he or she is bullied. The thought of someone hurting him in any way caused me to well-up with physical pain.
I cried because I didn’t know how I was going to tell my husband. We had only been married for several months, and we had fallen in love and married pretty quickly. I loved him, and I knew he loved me, and I knew he welcomed my sons into our home with open arms. But he hadn’t been there when Logan was a baby. He hadn’t had Logan jump into his lap with a book. He hadn’t rocked him to sleep. He hadn’t taught him to ride a bike. How would this man, who was still adjusting to having a wife and two kids come into his life, take his den, and rearrange his furniture, react? This man, who is quiet and calm, who is methodical and logical, who despises drama, who is a Republican, for Christssake, how would he possibly cope with this?
I cried because I felt completely stupid for not knowing this enormous thing about my kid. I thought I knew everything. I knew he had obtained all of his vaccinations and when. I knew he had contracted scarlet fever and mono at age 7. I knew he had hated his fifth grade teacher. I knew he had wanted to be a meteorologist when he was 5. I knew what his PR was in cross country. I knew all these details, but when it came to the mother of all details, I was remiss.
I called the one person whom I knew could know exactly how I felt in that moment, my friend Michelle. Her daughter had come out two years earlier and I had been there for her, saying stupid things I didn’t mean, like “I understand.” I hadn’t understood. But I did now. She let me cry and didn’t judge. “I shouldn’t be crying,” I said. “I’m a Democrat!” But she let me, as she knew I needed to mourn the loss of the son I thought I knew before I could get to know the person he truly was.
That day was a turning point in my life, as well as his. I went to his room and hugged him for a while. The next year would prove to be a huge learning curve for us, navigating the pitfalls of boyfriends and openness at school and with family (which, on some level, is ongoing.) But the greatest thing to come from that significant day was this – Logan came out of hibernation. He trusted me and himself after that. He became comfortable in his skin. He was out of the danger zone that so many gay teenagers live in, the one that leads to depression and suicide. He knew that if I loved who he was, just how he was, then he could love himself, just a he is.
And in an instant, he was reborn to me. Just as precious and loved as the first time, only taller and less attracted to breasts.