That Hour of Love Forever Lost
by Parisianne Modert
Past the age of being born, the counting of fingers and toes, burped after feeding, changing of diapers, baby baths, crib naps with music, first words, crawling, a stroller, standing and falling came the happiness of sunshine, white and purple clover, green grass, being read to, hugs against my father’s flannel shirts and the beginning of innocence. Wonder flamed the crackling, fireplace embers, freshly unpredictable as first seeing snow fall with a glee of sugar plum fairies dancing in the winter scented air. A new season appeared of digging in a sand box, rain drops. a soft clown marionette and my bunny rabbit. When does a child’s love of life really begin?
My mother called me her beautiful baby, loved my father, was content without worries during most of my first three years of life. Her second pregnancy sickness and birth of my Down Syndrome brother robbed her youthful optimism. Her attention turned to him which I resented and didn’t understand in 1955. My older, first friend, Jennifer became my playful days. My new bedroom became my Egyptian curtains, loneliness, and dreamscapes.
I rolled in the colors of fallen maple leafs in Fall with Jennifer, my next door neighbor, Mary, and our girlfriends. It was an age of wishing on stars that my parents could smile again.
The summer between age four and becoming five was the beginning of asking why others couldn’t see me as the girl I knew I was. One day in summer, three months before age five, I was visiting at Mary’s. Her house shared a grassy, unfenced backyard with mine. The older girls went to the living room to play ignoring me. Mary’s mother, Dorothy, was in the kitchen packing for the neighborhood picnic gathering in our joint backyard.
I wandered into Mary’s bedroom drawn to her open closet of crinoline, party dresses. Wide-eyed in love and imagination over the dresses rather than my slacks and a t-shirt, I fingered my favorite dress before getting caught by Mary and her giggling friends. I didn’t care, fantasizing of having long, curled hair rather than my disgraceful crewcut. In my mind, I had become the prettiest girl ever. I clung to the dress with my joy increasing.
Mary called out to her mother. Dorothy arrived to find me still insisting that I was a girl and wishing I could wear pretty clothes like Mary’s. I cringed in fear of Dorothy’ reaction to my boldness, but she was in a theatrically playful mood. As the girls giggled, Dorothy dressed me in the gown of my heart’s desire, put stockings, Mary’s shoes and make up on me. I was gushing happiness.
Dorothy and Mary paraded me proudly among our neighbors and my parents. They all laughed at me. My outraged mother called me a boy and insisted I go put my own clothes on.
I wept in private, humiliated by my mother’s angry judgements. That hour of love forever lost never was reconciled during my mother’s lifetime.