When sitting around with friends talking about when we were children I am often amazed at how some people say they don't have many memories of being really young. Because my mind is like a rolodex of memories. I can pinpoint memories back to the mid 70's when I was barely old enough to talk. I remember where I was when Elvis died and I remember walking around the house with my freshly painted nails, pillowcase tied around my neck like a cape and my moms high heels on spinning in circles pretending to be WonderWoman. I remember staying up late on Friday nights to watch the Donny & Marie Show with a bag of ketchup chips and a can of pop with 2 holes on the top. Of course people my age just said "Oh my God! I totally forgot about those!" Yep, you had to open the small hole to release the gas so u could open the large hole and drink the pop. I only opened the small hole and then put my straw in there to drink my grape pop and watch Donny dancing and singing for an hour. Those days are long gone but I totally remember them.
All this being said, I was a pretty gay kid. My mom and I would watch Miss America when my dad and brother weren't watching hockey. She would read me the stories that I wanted to hear and buy me toys that I wanted to play with. She let me be me. Those early years under the protection of my home were the best memories I had. Before I went out into the world of school and bullies that didn't understand me. I have already blogged about the days when I started to realize that I was indeed different than most boys in my neighbourhood.
School was shocking at times and I was taunted and teased often by my peers but my teachers were usually a sense of comfort. They did their best to not let the crap from the schoolyard into the classroom and I had some great teachers.
I remember Mrs Antle. She was my grade One teacher and she was old. She was in her 60's back in the 70's and had been teaching since the 1930's. She was old school for sure but she was soft spoken, too tired to give a shit and she seemed really nice to me. As I advanced into the older grades and she eventually retired I would see her often at the hospital where my mom worked. She was a volunteer there and never forgot my name and always made a point to smile, ask me how I was doing and how my family was. She was always so nice.
A few years ago I was talking to my mom and we were talking about my teachers growing up. I said that Mrs. Antle was my favourite teacher and I wondered if she was even still alive. Mom told me that at her first parent teacher conference with Mrs. Antle, she told my mother that I was gay. Mom was not pleased with her observation to say the least and let her know.
I am not sure why I was so shocked by this. I couldn't believe that she knew. Then I realized that maybe that was why she was so nice to me. She was protecting me from what I didn't even know myself.
I now know that my Mother was fully aware of who I was but back then but "GAY" was a bad word. My mother hadn't labeled me at all. To her I was just Jason. Her little boy that liked her shoes and nail polish. How dare some old lady come to her and label her child with a negative term like "GAY!"
The truth is back in the 70's not a lot of people knew how to deal with a gay kid. I remember the whispers and odd looks. I remember the sneers and the comments from parents of other kids. Obviously I had no idea that I was any different than anyone else at this point but I remember the reassuring touch of my mothers kiss when I was hurt or upset. I also remember Mrs. Antle always having my back in grade One. She protected me and made school fun for me. I like to think she told my mother what she knew in a way of helping me fit in.
She is probably dead now but she was indeed my favourite teacher. She was the only teacher who knew me better than I knew myself. She was the only teacher who treated me like a man when I was a boy. She was the only teacher I ever saw outside of my school and she never forgot my name.
I never saw her after I "came out" but I would like to think she would smile at me, pat me on the head and say, "good boy Jason, good boy."