"I don't think I knew that."
My daughter Hannah and I were browsing through shops on Granville Island in Vancouver and were walking towards the Kids Market - a little mini-mall of shops, each one of which sold children's goods - whether toys, books, clothing, etc.
I don't remember what triggered her comment, perhaps something in a shop window, but Hannah mentioned that she loved interior design.
"I don't think I knew that," I said. She then proceeded to tell me how she liked to rearrange the furniture in her room when she was younger. I laughed and told her the story about how I re-arranged the furniture at the house of my mother's friend when I was 5 or 6 years old and joked that perhaps that was one of the earliest indicators that I am gay.
As we walked, Hannah told me about how, when she was 10 or 11 or so, she started drawing house plans, down to the detail of where the appliances should go. I stopped in my tracks and simply said, "No way!" If I ever knew this, I had forgotten it; but I'm pretty sure I never knew this.
I was literally flabbergasted. The air seemed almost electric. I told Hannah about how I had done exactly the same thing when I was 10-12 years old - the exact same age Hannah was. I am quite sure I had never told any of my children this. It was part of my past that was too "gay" to talk about - or at least that's how I had felt. So between what I deemed too "gay" to talk about and what I was too ashamed to talk about, i.e., my family's dysfunction, my mother's abuse and my father's abandonment, my children knew very little of my childhood.
I proceeded to tell Hannah how I used to go down to the news stand in the little town in southern Illinois where I grew up and buy house plan magazines to look at the plans, then use them for ideas for my own plans, which I drew one after the other on graph paper. I further related that I would then proceed to furnish and decorate each of these houses with stuff picked out of the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, making detailed lists of catalog numbers and prices. I mean, really, how gay is that?!
Telling Hannah all of this somehow seemed to open a secret passageway between me and my childhood and my daughter. Such a simple thing, yet so magical. It made me feel alive and connected to both myself and my daughter in a new way.