Wednesday, April 30, 2014
And I Thought I Was The Reporter
I was pretty good at it. But when I went back and listened to my mother's appearance on my friend's AM talk radio program in 1995, and her reporting on Bishop Gene Robinson's consecration for "This Way Out" in 2003, well...
I was in awe.
Mom loved radio, too. And she was nothing short of incredible when given the opportunity to speak into a microphone. She was an amazingly articulate advocate for the advancement of Love.
This past weekend, I held a memorial service for her at one of her most favorite haunts in Tallahassee, the Mickee Faust Clubhouse in Railroad Square. About forty people turned out to learn more about this woman, who had to grow up pretty quickly. Her parents divorced when she was only eight years old, and so in 1935, my mom became a "latchkey kid" before there was the term. Her dad stayed in Bay City, Michigan, and her mom returned to New York, spending some of that time in Rochester and also in Bronxville.
My mother bounced back and forth between the two parents traveling by train. She used to tell the porters that she was a runaway princess. And she'd do her version of Shirley Temple's "Good Ship Lollipop" routine in the train car. She attended Carleton College for a year. She then went to work at Time/Life Magazine in New York as a secretary. It was shortly thereafter that she got involved in the Eisenhower campaign where she met my dad, a young lawyer and Navy veteran from WWII. They made their home in Bronxville, where my three brothers were born. In 1963, my dad took an offer to join a law firm in Exeter, NH, and the family moved. Mom got involved in George Romney's campaign for president in 1968, and that's when I was born.
Both my parents loved all four of us unconditionally. Many other people, those I remember well and some who I vaguely recall, also felt that same love from my parents. They had a knack for taking in people, and taking care of those whose own parents were strangely absent from their lives.
That strength of my mom's love really came into focus for me when I came out to her in 1991. After some initial discomfort (mostly on my end because I got tired of fielding her many ill-informed questions), I told her to go to PFLAG and talk to them. This was the start of my mom becoming the PFLAG momster.
At her service... which really wasn't so much a service as an opportunity to gather friends and have a time to remember and reflect on my mom... I played a clip of a video of the 1993 March on Washington for LGB Rights (they hadn't added "T"ransgender to the acronym yet!) Mom carried her big pink sign with "I Love My Lesbian Daughter and So Do Her Father and Brothers!" and she yelled, "Fuck You!" at the protestors who met us who were marching with their "Repent or Perish!" banner on the sidewalk.
But the real gems that I shared at her gathering in Tallahassee were the opportunities for people to hear my mom's greatest radio moments. The first was when Margie Menzel, upon meeting my mom and hearing about her Republican credentials while being a national board member of PFLAG, decided she wanted to introduce the Anonymous Peggins to the Tallahassee listening audience. As folks listened, they were in awe of how masterfully my mother handled phone calls from a hostile audience.
The other was her wonderfully descriptive report of Bishop Gene Robinson's consecration at the "Episcopades." Mom, who was an alto in the Christ Church choir for almost three decades, was singing at +Gene's consecration service. I got her hooked up with Greg Gordon, one of the producers of "This Way Out" and my mother became an international radio star for the many LGBT listeners throughout the globe.
When I got done playing these videos, I remarked that she did a better job on the radio than I did. Maybe I pulled on her hidden talents to make them my own. I was just thrilled to share her voice with those who attended this particular tribute to the Anonymous Peggins. Now more people have been touched... and more people have experienced what a love she carried in her heart. I hope we pass that on.