When I was six-years-old, I told my mother that I wished she would die so I could have a daddy. We were in a yellow NYC taxicab on the way to my sixth birthday party, an affair which, like my wildly successful fifth birthday party, would be held at a children’s theater. A performance of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was to be held in my honor, followed by ice cream cake and a sing along. My other mother, the one I loved unreservedly, was already at the theater awaiting our arrival.
As soon as I said the words, I regretted them. I had tasted them before, like a recipe you consider before making. In the same way you wonder if ricotta cheese might be nice with pine nuts, I had thought… what would it be like to put the words “dead” and “I wish you were” with the words “so I could have a daddy.”
I had found my non-biological mother’s Achilles’ heel and swung a golf club into it. And it felt like shit for both of us.
Because I was about to have a birthday party and because neither of us knew what to say, we said nothing.
By this point I had been in therapy for two years. I just wasn’t getting along with R and it was toxic to our family. I firmly believed that I was in therapy because of what I perceived to be a bat hidden in the overhead light of my bedroom. I would tell the therapist how I was afraid of the bat in the light in my bedroom. She would, I thought rather nonsensically, ask why I hated my mother. I would respond, for what seemed like the ninth time, “You do realize that there is a bat haunting the overhead light of my bedroom?” Then I would chug Perrier and help myself to a fistful of the therapist’s amazing jelly-filled cookies. We didn’t seem to be communicating. I was four.
The therapist’s name was Annie and her office was the first place I ever experienced a cushioned toilet seat. I thought it was miraculous because it was like peeing into a couch with a hole through it. I loved therapy. Then I would start to play with dolls and Annie would watch. I thought it was a little dumb that she wasn’t playing with me, but I didn’t let it get in the way of my fun. I would just mumble softly between the dolls to give myself privacy and ignore the total weirdness of a giant adult peering into a dollhouse. I wrote her off as a very, very attentive babysitter with excellent taste in food and beverage and an exceptionally soft toilet. Then suddenly, just as one doll would kiss another goodnight: “Let’s talk about Mommy R.”
In case you are not in a sufficiently privileged position to know; there is nothing more jarring for a little kid than to be interrogated midway through her play therapy.
Another therapist showed me Rorshachs: those ink blots that are supposed to reveal the depths of your spirit. I saw black butterflies, black clowns, black horses, black clouds and then… still butterflies. Sometimes I saw boats, but I never saw any clarity on a) the bat who haunted the light fixture in my bedroom or b) my relationship with my mother, Mommy R.
She would buy me presents, endless presents from her business trips: Dolls and headbands, watches, beautiful clothes. She gave me everything I wanted, but you can see in those childhood photos, in footage of birthday parties, that I was angry at her always. At my third birthday party, covered in frills and blonde bangs, I push the knife into my birthday cake and scowl at R: A small, supervised, angry child with a knife.
R’s enthusiasm and love for me was Herculean. She was fearful of losing me; anxious at her legally tenuous ties to me. Anxious at the dearth of a genetic tie to me.
She loves me with the force that perhaps only a non-biological mother can. A force that is less like the strength of blood and more like the strength of a Mack Truck. In the absence of a genetic bond, our mother-daughter relationship has many dimensions; she is my confidant, my mentor, my coach, my guide, and captain of my cheerleading team. Our connection has a greater sense of wild coincidence, like two spirits blown together in a powerful windstorm. Maybe it was just plain old-fashioned fate, but there was very likely some sort of windstorm involved.
Throughout this turbulent preschool/elementary school period, and indeed always, I told my friends and the strangers I met a simple story: “I’m Emma and I have two moms.” As it must be for the Kardashians and any family with a public image to uphold, reality gets streamlined: “Yes, they are both my moms. Yes, I love them both the same way and with no differentiation between them.”
The constant assertion that both M and R were my moms in the very same capacity perhaps made me angry, though I was the one promulgating this most vocally. I don’t know how much I actually wanted a dad. I think the last thing I needed was more parents. But the lack of a dad was the thing I could point to. I wanted for nothing else, so naturally that came to mind.
I think I told R that I wanted her to “die so I could have a daddy” because a) children are horrible, and because b) I didn’t know what our relationship was and I was tired of pushing and pushing for there to be another identical mom spot when I already had one filled. Never in a million years would I have said this to a therapist as a four-year-old, because a) I just figured it out when I wrote this and b) when you’re blazing a path for LGBTQ families, there is little time for troubles. Things simply must be good. They must be good and they must be simple or you’ve lost your platform.
When I was 10 years old, R would take me and a sizable group of my closest friends out to the movies. We all held hands in the giant empty parking lot, forming one long snake of kids. She would jerk her supremely strong arm and we would ripple and dance with her superhuman energy throughout the parking lot. In those moments, thrown around at the end of a chain of powerful love, I didn’t feel angry at her. I just held on tight, laughed and shrieked, and let her force carry me.