A story of a revelation, of forgiveness, of understanding and ultimately acceptance
I Once Was A Boy, Well, Almost, Kinda
Life can throw some funny twists and turns as well as a few harsh awakening, what you do with them is what's important.
The highlight of Theresa's life had been being with her two and only grandsons. It had been that way from the moment they were each born and watching them grow from that moment they entered her world continually filled her heart with nothing less than pure pride, joy and pleasure. She didn't get to see “The Boys” as she called them, very often but when she did, it had become the highlight of her life. They had their “get-together s” usually once every two to three weeks. Their routine normally entailed her picking them up at their school after it ended or during the summer months she would pick them up at their house and they'd all three head off to have an adventure together.
Theresa would sometimes take The Boys to lunch, it just depended how hungry they were. They would play miniature golf or video games at the local arcade. Once in awhile they would even go bowling. Theresa always left the choice of what they'd all do up to them. A pact had been made between Theresa and The Boys from the moment they were old enough to understand what a pact meant. “When in Nanna's minivan, what happens or is said in her mini van, stays in her mini van!”. (This actually included anywhere they happened to be together.) Nanna of course being The Boys name for Theresa.
As Theresa loved watching both boys as they transformed from babies to little boys to young boys. Each stage had been even more interesting than the last and so much fun! It was much more different being with her grandsons than it had ever been with any of her three children when they were growing up. Being a parent is a tough job, ask any parent. Theresa always felt that being a grandparent had been the reward for all those tough years and there were many.
At the age of 9 and 11 The Boys were still in that young boy stage, full of fun. Still kids. She looked forward to picking them them up and couldn't wait to hear about their day and anything new that was going on in their lives since the last time she had seen them. The Boys had always been excited to see their Nanna as well. They knew they had her full attention at all times. It didn't hurt that she also had individual bags of goodies waiting for them in her mini van. Each bag being specifically prepared for each boy by their Nanna. They both had different likes and dislikes so she made sure their individual bag carried only what each liked. Looking for their special bags was the first thing they did after greeting their Nanna with a big kiss and hug. With big grins, they always thanked her as they anxiously opened their bags to see what she had brought them. She could see they loved and appreciated that little extra attention she gave them.
It was on one of those days when Theresa had picked up The Boys up from school that a most interesting topic began. A topic which ended up impacting Theresa in a most unexpected way.
The “F” word
Theresa while driving had asked how The Boys had been and the younger one was the one who answered. He spoke of how during school that day, his friend had gotten into big trouble for saying a really bad word. When Theresa asked what the word was, he replied, “the 'F' word”. She had been watching both boys via her rear view mirror the whole time since they were seated in the back seats of her mini van. After the news about the “bad word” that was said, she could see how both boys were intensely looking at the back of her head. She could see both sitting with wide eyes as well as being a little apprehensive. Talking to an adult about “bad words” or cussing has always been such a taboo so she imagined they weren't quite sure what to expect. They knew this was their Nanna they were talking to, and they didn't think she would get upset, but bad words? This was new ground, were they pushing it to far? She could see there was doubt in those little worried eyes.
After a few tense seconds Theresa could not keep quite any longer and burst out laughing. While still laughing, she asked, “What the hell was he thinking?” At that moment all tension flew out the window. Breaths being held in suddenly burst free! Flood gates opened up as both boys joined along with their Nanna and also began bursting into laughter. They had heard an occasional “bad” word slip from her lips before but nothing outright intentional. When everyone finally calmed down and the laughing had ebbed, she then asked if they also cussed? In unison, there came a profound, “of course”. Then to her surprise, they followed by a giving few choice words as an example. Such words that began spilling from those innocent little lips!
Theresa spent the rest of that afternoon listening to her grandsons as they continued giving examples of when and how they thought certain cuss words should be used. She was amazed at how proficient these little guys were! She would have never believed it had she not heard them herself. Now and then one and then the other would give her a look of worry after saying what they thought was a really “bad” word. She imaged they again might be wondering if they had gone just a little to far and said one to many words. She would laugh and that tension would fly away. She did find how with a couple of words she had needed to explain what those words actually meant. She also had to remind them not to get too comfortable saying them. The whole time, she listened and couldn't help but smile, being a pretty heavy “cusser” herself, she couldn't believe how well these two had mastered the art of cussing at such a young age. She didn't think that she was even that good at their ages.
That day the time flew far to fast for Theresa and as much as she had enjoyed listening to The Boys and watching their animation when speaking of how they used this word or that, it was time to take them home. While dropping The Boys off at their house, she made sure to remind them, “What happens or is said in Nanna's minivan stays in Nanna's minivan, right?”. They both laughed as they jumped out, saying in unison, “We know Nanna, we know”. “Damn right you do!”, she said as she gave each a hug and a kiss. They all burst out laughing again and The Boys ran into the house.
An Unexpected and Interesting Question
As Theresa headed on her hour drive to her home she couldn't help but wonder about cussing, and if this age that The Boys were was when most kids started using “bad words”? She thought, “How old was I when I started cussing?' It turned out there was a lot to think about when it came to cussing, who knew! She thought about how most often many adults avoid using “bad” words, and children – heaven forbid! She thought about herself and knew she cussed quite a bit and realized how this had been for as long as she could remember and it seemed to her that her cussing had been a bit more than the average person. That wasn't the worst of this revelation! She could see that the older she got her cussing was getting worse. Yikes!
She thought about how so many cuss words were considered as taboo. Then she wondered how it was that these words at times could seemingly give a person power and yet could also possibly wound the recipient while, at other times, could make a person look like a complete and ignorant imbecile. She remembered one person calling cussing a beautiful language. Thinking about cussing, she did figure out one thing in that hour drive which was, if she'd have to say, she must have been around the age of seven or so when she first began her cussing.
When at last she arrived home, and still thinking about being at that age of seven when she first started cussing, she began to experience an uneasy feeling. Why was that? She shrugged it off and instead began to wonder if she started cussing around seven was the “when”, then the next question she wanted to know was the “why”, why at that age? She had become intrigued and then determined on finding the answer. She felt in her gut, that for some reason, this was a really important question. So during the following several weeks Theresa began digging deep in those old memory banks. It turned out harder than what she thought it would be. Some of what she was trying to remember had been vaulted shut pretty tight and had the keys thrown away long ago. What she was looking for were memories hidden deep inside. Part of her held a feeling of not wanting to see those memories but she felt she must. She at last broke through the vault door and what she found turned out to be not anything she could or would have ever imaged!
What she discovered was her world of cussing had mostly likely began because of one very surprising decision on her part, a decision she had made, the decision that she made to be a boy! A boy of all things! She remembered how at seven years old of wanting in the worst way to be a boy, but why? “Why in the hell would a seven year old little girl want so badly to be a boy?”, was a question that ran through Theresa's mind over and over. What had happened to her when she was seven that made her go from being happy as a girl to wanting to and (pretty much succeeding by the way ) to being a boy? That “cussing” question had become insignificant and turned into, “What had happened to her for her to make such a decisive choice at such a young age?”
As she pursued this question, one by one, memories started seeping forward into Theresa's thoughts. Slowly with each bit and piece of her memory coming forward a part of this profound question began to be answered. It was all coming back, pictures, scenes, sounds, emotions, feelings, events, all coming back. This answer had finally worked it's way out and when it finally did arrive it hit her with one very painful memory she had hidden deep deep inside. This memory came forward and she now saw herself as a little seven year old girl. A little girl crying and who had decided she wanted to be a boy because of one very powerful statement. She could again hear this statement, a statement which ultimately impacted this little girl for the rest of her life. A statement, she remembered being made directly to her by a person whom was the closest to her at that time. A person she trusted and looked up to with all of her heart. This powerful statement had been made by her own Mom! She could again see her very angry Mom, a Mom so angry at the world, a Mom who had let out this anger on her own little seven year old girl. “Why couldn't you just have been born a boy!”
As far back as she could remember she had hated being a girl, now she understood why. She tried so hard to not be female. Always striving to prove she could do anything a male could do. Never once asking, why? Here it was, the very core of a feeling, a desire and all those actions and decisions she had made throughout her lifetime, all because of a statement her own Mom had made to her. All done because she wanted to prove to her Mom she could be good enough to be loved.... To be accepted.... To be worthy.... The gates to her soul had been blown open and so many painful feelings came forth consuming her whole being. She cried as she had not cried in such a long while. She sat holding herself as she rocked back and forth, as a mother might console a small child. As she wished her own mother might have done. As she wished any loving person might have done.
When at last she felt she had accepted and came to terms with what she had learned, Theresa then felt that she needed to understand why her Mom would make such a statement as she did. She knew in her heart that her Mom was not a mean or vicious person. Her Mom had shown in far to many other ways how much she loved her children. She knew the life of her Mom needed to be looked into if she was going to find the answer to this new question. She began researching her Mom's life and what she found of her was a very tragic and sad story. She had discovered that her Mom's childhood as well as other familial connections, had been filled with so much neglect, ignorance and abuse that she could only feel a deep sorrow and empathy for her Mom.
Her Mom had been born in 1922 and was the oldest of 12 children, a very difficult time. Her parents had taken her out of school when she was only 12 years old just so she could work as an adult in order to help support the younger siblings. Taken out of school at such a young age to work as an adult just to help support her siblings! Childhood taken away! Dreams taken away! Hope taken away!
In those times females were not allowed very many freedoms and their lives generally consisted of cooking, cleaning, caring for husbands and kids. There were specific “Rules of Life” for her that were passed from generation to generation. These rules consisted of children learning they were to be seen and not heard, more so for females. Each child learned to respect their elders, it didn't matter if the elder deserved it or not. Males were ALWAYS treated better than females. Age was power. A male with age was the ultimate power. Females became almost invisible. Theresa could envision her Mom becoming invisible, feeling unimportant, not worthy, no value. Needless to say, being female was not a good thing to be, this made worse by the fact that they were Hispanic as well as of Ute Indian decent. The women from her Mom's line held no self esteem, no worth.
Theresa's remembered the story of how her Mom had married when she became pregnant out of wedlock at the age of 22. Her own Mom, Theresa's grandmother, had kicked her out of the house, calling her all kinds of foul names. This same mother who had profited off of that daughter's sacrafice for so many years! A daughter who helped her parents support a brood of children they could not support themselves. Theresa had at first held disdain for her grandmother for doing what she did but then realized, her grandmother was most likely a victim of a world that treated woman worth less than animals and had probably been treated just as badly as she treated her own daughter.
After being kicked out of her home, Theresa's Mom married the father of her yet unborn child. She went on to give birth over the following 10 years to 5 more babies - 4 boys (1 being still born) and 1 girl. They were years of watching her husband drink away all his earnings. Years of struggling and wondering how she would feed her babies. Years of abuse because she was an uneducated woman living in a man's world.
When her youngest child was about 3, she at last left and divorced her husband. It was about a year later she met Theresa's Dad who had told her he could not father children. Theresa remembered hearing the story from him about this. In his words, “When I was about 17 years old and being a bronco buster rodeo rider in Montana, I suffered a riding accident. The Dr. that examined me said that, because of the accident, I would not be able to father children.” Well, needless to say, the Dr was wrong for not long into his relationship with Theresa's Mom, Theresa was conceived.
From the moment she found out she was pregnant she was ecstatic. She knew for sure she was going to give birth to a boy. She would give her man a son for sure, but no and much to her dismay, that didn't happen! They instead got Theresa, a nine pound baby girl. A month after she was born, her Dad decided to “do the right thing” and married her Mom. His one stipulation before getting married was that she get “fixed”. He decided that if he was going to raise her first four children and now they also had Theresa, five kids was enough and he wanted no more!
Well, unbeknownst to Theresa's Dad, her Mom didn't, nor did she ever have, a plan of getting “fixed”. Not getting “fixed” only lead to one thing, yes and it did, 5 months after giving birth to Theresa, her Mom was pregnant yet again. When her Dad found out and confronted her, she played the Catholic card, at least that's what he later told Theresa. “I'm Catholic, I can't do something like that”, she had told him. One year and two months after Theresa's birth came her new baby brother, that strapping baby boy her Mom had first dreamed for. That boy her Mom had wanted to give her man was finally born. Words could not describe her joy where as far as he was concerned he could have cared less and let it be known. He had never stopped fuming over the fact that, not only did she not get “fixed” but, she also hadn't told him she wasn't “fixed”. He had come very close to leaving her and all of the children after finding this out, so close. Ultimately he stayed but he no longer had any trust for his wife and did not again ask her to get “fixed”. Instead, he knew this time he wasn't going to be taking any chances, he got himself “fixed”.
Remembering that life changing day
As a small child, Theresa didn't have any memories of whether she minded being a girl or not. As far as she could remember she had never really thought about it. Thinking about her childhood she did remember that living in their household, kids were more like fixtures than anything else. A kid just “existed” doing kid stuff and so for her life was fine. She had learned “The Rules of Life” and understood that she was there to be seen but not heard, she had no problem with that. She learned that she had to stay out of the way and that was their life, her life.
She also remembered was how during those years none of her siblings or herself ever really saw her Dad. He being a guitar player who played Country Western music with a band at night and then teaching guitar during the day kept him out of their site as well as them out of his. Her Mom also worked nights as a bar tender and then during the day cleaned houses. She remembered how with both parents gone most of the time it left the care of the younger children, her and two brothers, in the hands of the older ones, who were all teenagers. Most of the care was automatically put on the shoulders of the only other girl, Theresa's older sister by eight years. The older boys weren't to be bothered by the younger ones, they were males after all. Caring for “kids” was a female thing. They also had learned “The Rules of Life”
Learning all she could about her Mom made Theresa's own understanding of what had happened on that painful day, the day Theresa's life changing day, easier to understand.
What she remembered of that fateful day was that both her parents had been having one of their usual fights and this one had been a really bad one. Fights between them were anything but rare, on the contrary they had been a regular occurrence. She couldn't help but think how her parents were what one might call “a match made in Hell”. Both were insecure and each very angry at the world. Both non-trusting of the other and always blaming the other for any faults in their marriage or life. She knew if she had not come along, there would be no way her Dad would have stayed with her Mom.
On this day she remembered having done something annoying. It was probably something a seven year old might often do. Unfortunately for her was that she was seen at that moment by her Mom, an angry Mom! A VERY angry Mom who was still fuming over a blow out she had just had with her husband. She had not paid attention to their fighting, she often tuned them out and hadn't realized that her Mom had just left her Dad in the other room at that moment. Once she had been noticed, it was to late for any kind of exit. Especially since she could see her Mom had that “look” in those angry eyes of hers! It was the look she and all of her siblings dreaded. Immediately after noticing the “look” came a seething voice directed right at her, “What the Hell are you doing!” Not a question but an accusation filled with a whole lot of anger. Theresa remembered standing there dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. She had seen that anger before and knew she didn't want to make it worse by speaking, so knowing better, she just stood there silently frozen. She said nothing.
The words that next spewed out of her Mom's mouth, those damning next words, words that had changed Theresa's world for the rest of her life, words that hit her worse than a slap in the face were,
“Why couldn't you have just been born a boy!”.
These harsh angry words yelled to a little seven year little girl from her own Mom! A seven year old who still held a profound love and admiration for her Mom! This coming from a person a little seven year old girl had put all of her trust in! She remembered how she had felt at that moment. The realization that her own Mom had wished she were something other than what and who she had been, this filled her with such a pain she had not felt before or since.
After that day, after those words, she couldn't remember how long, but she did remember it was from that moment on that a great adjustment had been made in her mind and life. She remembered crying and her seven year old mind figuring out what it thought needed to be done to “fix” this. She remember feeling that in order to please her Mom, she had to go from being a girl to being a boy. This was the moment she had decided, this young age, this it when it happened! She was going to do whatever she felt would be the best way in becoming the boy her Mom had always wanted her to be! She remembered how determined she was to show her Mom she could be as good as a any boy. She did not want her Mom to continue with a regret of having this girl, having her. She never wanted to be looked at as someone's regret, least of all, her own Mom's. And so that was the beginning of her “Tom Boy” years.
Tom Boy years weren't so bad
What a revelation and it wasn't over! It took sometime for Theresa to wrap her feelings around what she learned but once she did, she kept going. She thought about those days of herself going from being a girl to being a Tom Boy and found yet more, so much more. She remembered how, for a while at the beginning of wanting to be a boy, she had been living in two worlds. What few people didn't know, or at least she thought, was that when she wasn't learning how to be a boy she would be in her house and upstairs in her special corner playing with her dolls. It was a special corner, a place her Mom had created just for her to play house in (so her Mom wasn't all that bad). In this corner sat a little homemade wooden play stove, a tiny baby crib, and a lot of dolls.
Those two worlds existed until they had to move from that house to another state far away. She remembered her thinking at that time of how she could play with her dolls while she was learning how to be a boy. Somehow she felt that learning to be a boy was going to take some time and a part of her still wanted to hold onto her little girl self, at lest for awhile. Part of the big move had been that all of her dolls and toys, her world it seemed, were all taken from her and then given away and she had no say in any of it.
With no more dolls, living in another state, more like another world, she learned to be a boy pretty well. Theresa remembered that wonderful world of climbing trees, digging tunnels, handling all kinds of bugs and insects, talking about gross things, cussing, as well as a plethora of other things only boys seem to be allowed and able to do. Such freedom she had never experienced when she was “just a girl”!
Unfortunately nothing lasts forever and those “Tom Boy” years didn't either. It was time again for life's funny twists and turns as well as another harsh awakening to hit her. The “Tom Boy” years went on until about the time she turned twelve. She remembered those “Tom Boy” years as five of the most glorious, fun filled years in her life! She really did try and stay in that world of being a boy for as long as she possible could but when life makes up it's mind, as it always has, it'll get it's own way and it did. Sadly for her life rarely went as she planned for herself. Life for her usually mixed things up, as it did yet again, and so she had no choice but to let those “Tom Boy” years go. Life had decided that it was time for her to be a girl again.
Now she imagined that most people would be angry at a Mom who would say something like what Theresa's Mom had said to her all those years ago. As she thought about it, yes she had been so very angry at her Mom for years, not for that instance but, for so many other “events” which had occurred in her life because of her Mom. Now all she feels is a great gratitude for what had happened that day with her Mom. Her remembering her life as being a “Tom Boy”, what that still means to her, has brought back all those wonderful feelings of so much freedom she had experienced during that time! Being a Tom Boy made her feel as though she could do ANYTHING, well almost anything, and all because she had looked at herself as a being boy! She was actually thankful to her Mom, that pleasure, those feelings of freedom were far more important than the anger she could ever have.
This question of cussing had turned into something Theresa had not anticipated. This question actually ended up bringing answers to so many other questions in which she had not even known she needed/wanted or thought to ask. The hurt she felt from her Mom has long gone and been forgiven. In the end, she realized, it was that determination to be a boy that had enabled her to survive in a far more difficult world in which she grew up in after those “Tom Boy” years. She'd realized that those words spoken in anger, in all actuality, ended up saving her in so many aspects during her life. She learned better than to let being a girl get into the way of doing anything she wanted to accomplish, well almost anything.
Now while watching her grandsons doing their boy stuff, Theresa has an even greater appreciation for them and herself. She watches them and smiles to herself as she remembers those wonderful five years when she too was a boy. Well, almost, kinda.