A friend from my junior high years – my BFF in those days – posted a new profile of her and her daughter Sophia. It’s blissful seeing their huddled selfie faces, a mother and daughter team. They sported colored hair, pink for mom, and poison ivy green for Sophie. Julie donned glasses something I didn’t expect to see. Not for any reason other than it spoke of growing older for both of us.
Then, I felt a bit melancholy. And, It’s continued to stay with me. I realized I never met Sophie (or Julie’s son, Uly) or Tanya’s beautiful Chloe or Myra and Evan’s gorgeous girls. I briefly met Rita’s adorable mini-me, Ilyana, before we went out and left her with David, her husband of some 20-plus years. That’s an exception. It’s also just a mini-list of some of the influential people over the years.
I consider these some of my most profound friendships. A few best friends a gay man has ever had – my family — and all women. (Although, I know Sean would feel differently. He was my first in many ways.) They’ve witnessed me at my worst…and best, I hope. When I I look at their Instagram pics or Facebook photos of them with their grown-up kids, I feel I missed a vital aspect part of their lives. I missed lavishing their kid with birthday toys, turning them into princesses and cowboys on holidays. Or babysitting, while the parents went out on date night. I didn’t get to see my friends turning into adults. To be sure, as mothers they reached it faster than I did.
While my friends were creating families, I was traveling and in a long-term relationship that turned into a regrettable decision. Now, I’m gray, older and more substantial in weight with a partner who has siblings. They have kids, but I haven’t met them yet. And, I’m sure as they grow-up, we will become more significant in their lives.
But as I’ve seen the images come through on social media feeds, I’ve come to realize that the trips amounted to nothing more than party conversation-memories. (“Yes, I’ve ridden the gondolas in Venice.” “The Eiffel Tower is so beautiful when it gets twinkles at night.” “I love going to that resort in Bali.”) The red-carpets I once worked are nothing more IMDB credits for forgotten actors no one knows or remembers. They weren’t Bette Davis or Cary Grant. And superficially, none of it matters.
I always wanted to be a male Auntie Mame truthfully. It didn’t make a difference whether it was Rosalind Russell’s or Lucille Ball’s semi-farcical version. I wanted to become close to their brood – like their mothers were to me. Teach my friends children about the movies, take them to Disneyland and do things with them their parents didn’t want to do. And to sing to them, “Yes, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” I’m sure this has something to do with being an only child of a single parent and not feeling a part of something bigger.
Now, my friends are all going to be becoming grandparents. Their grandkids will remember them as gentle souls who gave them candy, telling stories of buying bread for $1 or listening to 45s. I have dusty remembrances of seeing elephants, temples and an occasional twinkle somewhere.