Monday, March 11, 2013


I often complain about my family, my mother in particular who is an overly possessive and at times – almost every time – too controlling.

Today a friend forwarded me a story about a Cuban-American man and his experience growing up as a gay child in a traditional Cuban family. I felt so sorry for that man, for that child that had to endure such an experience!

I am not gay but I was very lucky in the sense that my mother was and still is not homophobic. She never had a problem with gay men or lesbians being around me; she never thought it was a contagious condition. But as I think about it after reading that story, even my mother and family – that were pretty liberal in that sense – had prejudices and made comments that I can recall whenever they were talking about homosexuals.

For my family homosexuality was not contagious and no one was at risk of becoming gay just because they shared the same space, and that was clear to me because we had a neighbor that her sister was obviously gay and visited her quite often. My best friend’s mother wouldn’t let her play at that house because of this, but my mother never prohibited me to be there not even when the gay sister was present. Whenever my mother referred to her, it was to praise her for being so close and devoted to her sister. Today I wonder if they were sisters or lovers, but that’s a different story.

Thinking back to those days, however, I do remember my mother talking with friends or family about gay people. I do remember my mother proudly saying that “homosexuality didn’t run in our family”, and by that she meant our ancestry. I find this to be hilarious because she only knew her family up to her grandparents, beyond that she had no idea who the rest of the family were because they stayed back in the homeland, but she still felt that we didn’t "carry those genes."

Today, when I think about my family as I was growing up I realize that we were a very small family but besides thinking that homosexuality was a gene that some families carried and others were “lucky” not to have, my family was pretty exceptional in their views and behavior.

I was always the way I am today, but I was a work in progress. My mother never tried to change me. I remember one time when I showed up at home with a homeless woman and her 3 little children. I must have been around 7 or 8, the homeless children were anywhere between 2 and 5. They were dirty, very dirty and you could see their hair hadn’t seen a comb in their lives. They were indigents, their clothes were colorless, their skin was as dirty as their clothes… and I brought them home with me and asked my mother to feed them. My mother was preparing some food that she planned to put in a bag for the poor family but I didn’t let her. I wanted them to enjoy a meal seating at our table, using our china and silverware eating, at least once, like human beings. My mother didn’t say a word and without a bad face or prejudice, at least not while they were present, served them a hot meal while they were seated at our table, using our china and silverware. That gesture is one of the most beloved memories I have of my mother from when I was a child. She didn’t reprimand me, she only told me not to make her use our china again.

I used to write a lot when I was little. Mostly philosophy and the way I thought the world should be. I wrote about the injustices and disparities I noticed around me… some things never change! I am sure she read them when I was in school or sleeping, she didn’t see anything wrong with it until a neighbor told her not to let me continue writing “that stuff” because I was too young and was going to go crazy – she told me this before she took away my notebook and prohibited me from writing again. No matter how much I begged, she didn’t change her mind so from that day forward I did my writing in hiding but it was never the same.

I am glad I read that story my friend sent me… made me realize that I was luckier than most. My family wasn’t sophisticated, pretentious and most weren’t even educated – they had their flaws, as all of us do, but they were more human than most and I do owe them a lot. My grandmother, who studied only up to second grade, taught me to love all creatures, she was an animal lover. My grandfather - a carpenter, an atheist and a socialist - taught me, since I was old enough to speak, that all men are created equal and that not one human being is better than another; that money didn’t make a person but their actions did. My great-uncle, a barber, taught me to love nature. He spent hours describing to me the beauty and the majestic forests and hills of his homeland and my mother allowed me to be myself, even when she couldn’t understand me. I indeed, was a very lucky child.

No comments:

Post a Comment