When I was a kid, I never stopped dancing. As soon as I was in my bedroom—with the door closed, of course—I would be twirling and doing the splits. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone dance, other than dancers in the music videos my brothers would watch, but I always loved dancing. From dancing to cassette tapes that my dad had of 1950’s music, to dancing to the demo songs on my Casio keyboard, I was always dancing.
One of my favorite times of the year was when I would have a break from school, and I got to spend a week with my Aunt Bertha. Aunt Bertha is my mom’s youngest sister, and at the time, she had two girls. She had a son later in life, but I was grown by the time he was in the picture. Usually two-three times a year, I would go to their house for a whole week. I called it “vacation.”
I am going to reflect on two stories about their house in this post. They are both significant to my queerness, and I just want to say how much I am grateful for my Aunt Bertha and how much I love her. I am not sure if I have ever told her how much she means to me and how much her love and compassion helped me while growing into the queer human I have become.
The first story happened when I was four or five, and I was on one of my week-long vacations in Myrtle Grove, LA. Myrtle Grove is on Hwy 23, and it is on the way to Venice, LA, which is the closest you can drive to the mouth of the Mississippi River. There is one way into Myrtle Grove and one way out, and the nearest grocery store was a 20-30 minute drive. Aunt Bertha had two daughters: Angel, three years older than me, and Tiffany, three years younger than me. Angel and I were best friends, but our relationship was always hot or cold. At the beginning of my stay, I would move into her room with her, but by the end, we would be clawing each other’s eyes out. As I said, we were best friends!
One night we were on the bed playing “beauty shop”—this is where we would do each other’s hair and makeup. We had hot rollers going, and we were open for business! Everything was going great until I rolled off the bed and hit my head on the corner of a speaker. Blood was running down my neck, and I remember everyone screaming. Aunt Bertha ran to the phone and called my mom, and I am sure the conversation went something like this: Girl, he done busted his head wide open!
Then Aunt Bertha asked me if I wanted to go home, and I boldly replied:
No! I am on vacation!
This story is special to me because it reminds me of how much I loved being in their home. They were like the sisters I never had. I love them very much.
The second story happened when I was probably seven or eight. When I would visit, our school schedules didn’t always align since we were in different school districts. On this one particular trip, Angel and Tiffany had school the whole week I was there. So while they were at school, I had to entertain myself, which isn’t hard to do at their house. They live on the bayou, so you could walk out the door and go fishing…and there were tons of other things to do!
Angel took dance classes. She always took dance and was always performing in recitals. I had never seen a dance class, much less taken one, but one of the days of this trip, I decided to see if her tap shoes would fit my feet. Well, they didn’t! But, I didn’t give up, I squeezed my foot into them—sorry, Angel! For probably an hour, I tapped my heart out using Angel’s cassette tape from her dance class. I didn’t know what I was doing, but what I felt was freedom. And then, out of nowhere, Aunt Bertha slung the door open and asked me what I was doing. I just looked at her… She smiled at me and said: I won’t tell anyone. You keep dancing, honey.
I remember this moment like it was yesterday.
I wasn’t a boy in her eyes; I was me. Gender had nothing to do with it—she knew I was having fun, and she let me have fun. Thank you, Aunt Bertha. I love you so much, and I hope you know how much you mean to me.
© 2020, Westley Hodges (firstname.lastname@example.org)