Yesterday, I received what appeared to be a late Christmas card. I almost stuck in with other recent mail delivered to read at some later time. I glanced at the returned address to see who it was from. The name read, “Conoley/Clarke.” It didn’t ring a bell. Neither did the address – Santa Fe, NM. I stood on my front step thinking, who do I know in New Mexico?!
So giving in to my anticipation, I ripped opened the envelope to find what was indeed a blast from the past!
The card was from Sanna, the mother of a close high school friend and her partner, Elizabeth. In the late 80s and early 90s, back in Austin, I grew close with my friend Eric B. and his family after we both had graduated from Crockett High School. I didn’t know many gay people who were actual adults. I had been limited to the few I knew in high school, college, as well as the budding friendships I was making with other chorus members of the Austin Lyric Opera – Curtis and Steven come to mind.
I recall one day after spending the night at Sanna’s and Elizabeth’s, Sanna was driving me to work. In the car, almost as we were pulling into the parking lot to drop me off, I asked her how her son, Eric and the rest of her family took the news of her coming out. She said that they were very understanding and loving. I recall her saying all you can do is hope for the best and pray that your friends will still be your friends, and your family will still treat you as family.
The next weekend when we were all over their house playing Dragon Quest (yes, we were those nerds), Elizabeth came over to me and handed me a business card. To this day, I cannot recall the name of the organization on the card, but I am sure it was for some group whose mission was similar to that of PFLAG and/or the Sexual Minority Youth Advocacy League (SMYAL) in Washington, DC. There was no internet back in 1990, so there was no way to research the group without actually contacting them.
I had never come out to them, but they knew. I am sure of it! They were my role models as I tried to figure out how to live the life of a gay man. The next year, Sanna and Elizabeth had a commitment ceremony. The thought of gay marriage or marriage equality was foreign to even most gays. Since it wasn’t legally a marriage, Eric kept calling it a “melding” (Star Trek fans will get the reference). My opera buddy Curtis and I were asked to sing at the wedding. It was such a delightful service.
What is so amazing to me, and why I look upon getting this card as fate, is that all these two wonderful ladies knew was my name and the city I moved to over 15 years ago. They found an address, and sent me a card with a lovely note. I received the card the day before I moved from that address. Two days later, I would never have received it.