"You played with Hot Wheels."
My mother was leaning over me, watching as I struggled to restrain my rollie pollie baby sister and I paused to look up at her. A silver spoon dangled from my lips, a dish left over from an attempt at feeding the hellion toddler and I had to mumble around it as my hands worked a little plastic dog from my sister's mouth. "What?" I asked, although it came out as a grunt of question.
"You played with Hot Wheels when you were little. I never gave you any dolls."
I wanted to laugh. I didn't mention that I was terrified of dolls. I just smirked around the spoon as I set the drool soaked toy on the coffee table in front of me. For a moment Amy's face scrunched into a threat of tears before the spoon caught her attention and she reached for it.
"Hot Wheels have nothing to do with it. I also had a tea set that I played with daily. Mac the Hot Rod loved his afternoon tea."
My mother stood over me while I sat on the couch waving my spoon before my sister's face. She tried grasping at it with chubby toddler hands and my mother watched us, her face all lines and shades. Her hair was pulled back, a signal she had been thinking deeply. The creases in her forehead deepened as her eyes moved between me and my sister.
"I should have made you wear more dresses." There was a deep regret in her words like she was at fault for everything I've done wrong. I glanced down at my jeans, splattered in baby food and baggy and my dark tee shirt proclaiming PROUD in rainbow letters. I'm all dark colors and baggy clothes. "If you had dressed more like a girl…" she trailed off looking tired and annoyed.
I thought back to my five year old affection for mud and the three to four outfits I went through a day. I remembered the spankings that followed behind each outfit, but I didn't mention it. She doesn't believe in spankings anymore.
"Wouldn't have matter," I answered as I dropped my spoon onto the table next to the puddle of drool and the confiscated dog. Amy had lost interest in me and was making a speedy retreat toward a pile of blocks. "The modern woman is a pant suit woman. Pants and jackets are in this year." She didn't laugh, I thought it was hilarious.
"This is your father's fault." I wanted to laugh, but my face remained stoic. My mother looked so serious, arms crossed tight across her chest, eyes searching my face. "All that time you spent alone with that man. If only you had more feminine influence in your life."
I didn't tell her about my father's constant girlfriends who streamed through his bedroom and my life. She never knew about the blond bimbos with the short skirts and tight tops that fawned over me and my adorable braids and band aide covered knees. I didn't bring it up then and I didn't tell her now. The divorce was messy then, and it was just as messy fifteen years later.
Instead I pushed myself off the couch and moved to scoop up Amy before she grabbed the poor cat's tail. My mother watched me intensely. "I spent as much time with you as I did dad. Child of divorce is not interchangeable for lesbian."
My mother scowled and pulled my sister from my arms. The toddler whined to be released, but our matriarch ignored her. "I just don't understand."
I didn't mention how she had been telling me that since I was sixteen. Probably longer since I had always been a "pretty off-beat" kid. That was the nice way my dad had put it when he had met my first girlfriend.
"You don't understand or you're trying to find the cause to save Amy from a life of immorality?" I smiled up at her with a wide toothy grin and she had the decency to look embarrassed.
"Well-" she stuttered. "It's just that…I'm worried, alright? You don't go into motherhood thinking your daughter might be a lesbian and be automatically okay with it." The words stung, but I stayed quiet with my hands shoved in my pockets. "I never even considered that you…I did something wrong, didn't I? I had to."
"You talk like I'm unhappy. Have I come off that way?" Amy began to fuss, squirming in my mother's arms and without offering, I took her. She quieted with her tongue hanging from her mouth and I laughed. I mirrored her face and my mother frowned.
"Stop that. You're teaching her bad habits."
My face contorted more and Amy laughed harder, trying to imitate me in every way. "Yep, funny faces today. The art of loving women tomorrow." Again, I thought myself to be hilarious. My mother didn't. She twisted my earlobe, a painful reminder of childhood punishments. "Ow! I thought you stopped doing that." I covered my ear protectively and Amy copied the action, shrieking a giggle at the new game we were apparently playing.
"That wasn't funny." My mother spoke with her hands on her hips and her eyes focused on me with challenge in her features.
I glared at her and Amy's face contorted to a mock glare focused on our mother. "I thought it was pretty damn funny."
"There's nothing you can do to make someone gay or not gay. It wasn't something you caused." I kissed Amy's head and her soft baby curls tickled my nose as I breathed close to her skin. "You can't save her. You didn't ruin me." She didn't look soothed by my words. "I'm happy, you know."
She shook her head and wisps of brown hair swept across her eyes as they escaped from her bun. "I know. But I still don't understand."
I sighed. If she didn't understand now, I doubted she ever would.
Before I could get the words out of my throat, she hugged me with loose arms and kissed my forehead. Her hand rested tenderly on my cheek and I said nothing as I smiled at her. There was nothing I could do to make her get it. She dipped her head to give Amy a quick kiss which the toddler returned with sloppy lips. When she stepped back, she studied us with proud affection in her eyes before turning away, laughing softly as she did.
"I just worry what your stepfather would do if his only daughter ended up gay," she called over her shoulder as she disappeared into the kitchen.
I glanced down at Amy so snug in my arms and she watched me with pale green eyes, waiting for a new face to imitate. I grinned and she returned it. My stepfather and I had already discussed the scenario and he had already assured me it would end in my very painful death. Then he had laughed; like he was joking. At least, I hoped he was joking.
But I didn't tell her about that.
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