Though I was born with a defect, having a male marker, my childhood was not always terrible. I suspect that those even under the cruelest and most inhuman conditions manage to find a spark of happiness, a single moment of time that they may claim as their own. Myself, I knew something was wrong, couldn’t understand it and therefore my young mind compensated as it could. Being different didn’t mean I was without good memories, happy times. Christmas time was usually an extremely happy time for me. Despite my having severe ear infections almost every winter, it would usually clear up by Christmas time and I would be happy to be out of pain and ready for Santa Claus.
One of my favorite Christmas times was in our house on Ballard St. I don’t remember what age I was, perhaps 9 yrs old or so. My Mother and Father were still together, so happy times were dependent on our father’s mood. The house was a huge two-story home, or it was huge to an 9 yr old child. The second story was its own full apartment, my Great Grandmother lived there. She was a devout and firm Christian, and would not have approved of what I am, it’s ok I still loved her and miss her. I can love past another’s faults.
But the first story was where we lived, Mom and Dad, my younger brothers, Scott and Paul. There were only two bedrooms, so we three children slept in the same room. My father had built a huge loft that encompassed ¾ of the room, which gave us a lot of space to play. Luckily the ceilings were 12 feet high, so the loft was about 8 feet up, but gave us very little head room once the three mattresses were laid next to each other. The bedroom had an old, heavy door that slide into the wall, to me the most fascinating aspect of the entire house. With my then recent reading of “The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe” and inspired by the disappearing door, I often spent time searching the house for hidden secrets. (I sadly never found any) This door led into the living room, and though you couldn’t see the television from there, if we left the door cracked we could hear the tv while in our loft at night. On Christmas, if we left the door open, you could see the Christmas tree and couch and one of the chairs. But on this Christmas Eve, the door was closed by our parents.
The lock in the door was old and actually had a keyhole so you could look through it to the living room. Our parents had the foresight, with three inquisitive children, to stuff cloth into the keyhole so that we couldn’t see into the living room. That night, our Father pulled the door closed, with admonishments that we go to sleep. Of course, we were wide awake and whispered to each other all night about what we gifts we expected. Somewhere along the way, we had actually fallen asleep. I was the first to awaken, both my brothers were in a deep sleep. I woke both of them, as being the first awake on Christmas, the duty and privilege had fallen to me.
We clambered down the ladder and planned to slide the door open quietly and silently look through the haul of presents under the tree. Traditionally, or as traditional as it could be for a 9 yr old, we would come into the living room and clamber around the tree looking at labels to see who got what size and how many. We would look at the stockings on the mantle and then turn on the tv and try our best to wait for our parents to wake up, perhaps playing the tv a bit louder than usual, so as to “accidentally” wake them up. But not this Christmas, something was different. As we climbed down the ladder of our loft, we could hear quiet voices in the room beyond. We were up very early, around 4am. And there were a lot of voices, more than two people. We whispered to each other, I can’t remember what we said, but I know we concluded that presents were more important than fear.
We slid the door open, not sure what to expect, to find our grandparents, great grandmother and most of my mother’s family was there in our living room and kitchen! This was unprecedented, typically we visited them later Christmas day and most we didn’t see even on Christmas. I know we got presents, I know there was a petrol-powered model helicopter (also unprecedented). But what I remember most, the thing that made this my favorite Christmas, was all this family seemingly being here for the three of us. I can’t tell you everything about that Christmas, I just know that the real gift was that they were there at 4am waiting for us to get up, to surprise us. I will never know that unconditional, selfless love from a group of people again, something you get as a child from your family. But I will always remember it, our gift at Christmas.
I want to say, I hope you all have a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah & eid Mubarak. I am grateful for those parts of my childhood, times of happiness. I am also grateful for my family and friends, those who are no longer with us and those still here. I know that not everyone has a good childhood or adulthood. A lot of my readers are also transgender and often we are alone, having been turned away by family and friends. Find those who are still there and those things that mean something, your life matters, you matter. Hold true, for there is no darkness where light cannot triumph. But also, be kind and forgive, even those who have wronged you. A small kindness can be the thing that another will remember all their lives.