Powerful words, “Once upon a time..” Yes, once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I was a little girl who hated my curly locks, and wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. I dreamed of many things. Growing up in the Deep South, a white child, I heard people called “colored,” and “Negro,” and much worse when their skin was darker than mine.
John Howard Griffin had published Black Like Me in 1961, but I didn’t know that because I was only 5 years old. Yet I must have had his same questions because I found one of my mother’s dented saucepans and took it outside in the back yard. I scooped up handfuls of soft, brown earth and heaped it in the pan.
When the pan was 3/4 filled, I grasped the water hose and added clear liquid, stirring my mixture till it might have been mistaken for fudge ready for the oven. I dipped my little hands in the pot and smeared the mud on my legs, my arms, my face. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be a black person. No, not in a derogatory sense. I admired their strength under hard circumstances (what bits I understood), and they seemed unshakeable, connected, family to each other.
I tried a similar experiment about the same time. In the bedroom, I pulled open the drawer of the old maple dresser where my mother kept her make-up (except it wasn’t old furniture back then; it was only “old” the last time I saw it, in 2003). Slipping off the lid, I gently twisted the lipstick until the rose-colored tip was exposed. Then I smeared the creamy goo all over my face. Now I was an “Indian” looking back in the mirror, expecting to stare down the Lone Ranger or Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone…
Too much imagination makes one a dreamer.
I bought my very first 45rpm record with my very own earned-money (from baby-sitting) in 1970. It was ABC by the Jackson 5. Would have been about 13 years old. Thereafter, I loved just about every Motown song that was released (and earlier ones as well).
Some Motown hits….
Well, I didn’t grow up to be a cowboy, or an “Indian,” or a black person. I wasn’t a princess who “once upon a time…” I was someone who took on the label “lesbian,” and later transitioned from female to male. I didn’t want to be a fairy with a magic wand. I wanted to be an ordinary guy with a wife and kids, and grandkids some day. That was my fairy tale.
When I met my wife-to-be, I thought I’d wakened into my dream. One frosty night, once upon a time, white powdery snow, tinted indigo blue from the starlit ski, kissed the grass and the asphalt of the streets.
Paula and I dimmed the lights, sipped Bailey’s Irish Cream, cranked up my old Motown favorites (and other songs we shared), and swayed to the music, blended together, two hearts beating as one. It was the first time I had danced with a woman “as-a-man,” and certainly the first time I had danced with a woman as-a-husband. The world had become magical.
Sadly, the rest is not “once upon a time,” but “could’ve been.”
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