A Collection of Summers

Amber Huddle

June 2015

The “addie” was a wooden structure covered in chipped paint with a single window that was just empty space instead of glass. While the rest of the structure was a dusty cream color, the horizontally split door was a forest green. Kaitlyn, Madelyn, and Mariyah were sitting at the picnic table on our addie’s porch. I was sitting on the same bench as them, but I wasn’t sitting with them. It felt like there was some invisible barrier between me and the rest of the girls. Kaitlyn and Madelyn were three years older than me and the only interactions we had were starting four months earlier when I was old enough to be in the young women’s group in our church. Although me and Mariyah were in the same grade, we didn’t get along.

Our moms got along. Both had three kids who were the same ages, so they made us play with each other. Play-dates with me and Mariyah usually started out with me asking “so, what do you want to do?”

 She would respond, “I don’t know. You choose, you’re the guest.”

“Well, it’s your house. I don’t know what we can even do.”

 “We can play games on our phones.” I wouldn’t respond. I would look down at my blue flip phone and start to text my real friends.

            Kaitlyn, Madelyn, and Mariyah were casually talking to each other and I was paying enough attention to them to the point where I felt like I was involved in the conversation. Kaitlyn stood up and approached the bear-proof cabinet of snacks. She took out a bag of limited-edition caramel M&M’s. Mariyah and Madelyn both reached out and grabbed their own small red bag. Excited to see how they tasted, I stood up and started to reach into Kaitlyn’s hand full of M&M bags. Before I could reach it, Kaitlyn abruptly said, “Hey! You need to ask before you take someone else’s food” She sounded annoyed and weirded out that I would attempt to do what everyone else was doing. “I mean you can still have some I guess” she continued, “you just need to ask before you do something like that.” Shocked and no longer wanting to eat the M&M’s, I reluctantly took the bag from her hands. “Some of us bought these snacks with our own money”.

Didn’t we all buy our snacks with our own money? I didn’t think anybody was using the church funds for candy. I guess she probably meant that she bought them with the money she got from her job or allowance. I still didn’t really think it made that much of a difference.

            Sitting again on the hard wooden bench, farther away from the three girls, I tried to think of what I did wrong. Mariyah and Madelyn didn’t ask her if they could have some. Or did they? No, I’m sure they didn’t say anything before they took their candy from Kaitlyn’s hands. What did I miss? What makes me different enough to need to ask when they didn’t? I guess it’s probably because I’m not friends with them. I started to feel tears form in my eyes. Why did that hurt? I didn’t think that they were my friends before all this M&M weirdness happened.

I stopped my racing thoughts and tuned back into the conversation happening next to me. They were casually discussing what they liked and didn’t like about the caramel insides of the classic M&M’s. I squeezed the small plastic red bag in my hands, unable to bring myself to try one.

June 2015

“Alright girls, before we get started, I want to go over the basics. We encourage everyone to either use red lights or no flashlights at all” Brother Rogers loudly explained to the group of twenty girls, “The moon is really bright tonight and your eyes will adjust to the darkness over time.” Before I was twelve, I thought that young women’s activities would only have women in them. Later, I found out that there was some church rule that there needed to be a certain number of priesthood holders present. I knew that the priesthood was supposed to give you extra prayer power with God or something like that. But only men could hold the priesthood, so it felt like a way to enforce the idea that women aren’t capable enough to be on their own.

 I was glad that my friend’s ward was put in the same group with me. Even though she lived ten minutes away from my house, the boundaries that the church decided on meant that we went to different buildings every Sunday. We started walking on the path outlined by LED tealights. I heard the dirt, leaves, and sticks crunch underneath our shoes. The air was cooler, which made the outdoors much more bearable than in the daytime. I turned to Harmony, “I’m so happy that I actually have someone to talk to on this hike.” I watched her short dark brown hair sway back and forth as she responded to me. As we continued walking, Harmony and I talked nonstop. I was worried that because we went to different middle schools for seventh grade, we wouldn’t be as close as we were in elementary school. Despite my fears, we ended up hanging out every moment we had free time during camp. We continued to catch up and as I was fully absorbed in our conversation, the rest of the girls around us seemed like they weren’t there.

Harmony and I got on the topic of Dance Academy, an Australian TV show on Netflix. I watched the entire series over the summer by turning it on at one in the morning, after the rest of my family had fallen asleep. At first, I was just curious about the show and there was no real reason to hide it. But after the show explored the topics of eating disorders, relationships, and had a character come out as gay, I knew that my mom wouldn’t want me watching it. After trying to watch other TV shows that had more adult topics in them with my mom, I knew that watching this show would either result in a lecture, banning the show, or both. Normally it was both.

“Do you remember the episode where Tara practice kissed Phillip,” I nodded my head, “I always wanted to practice kiss someone. I wonder if Sam would practice kiss me”

“I think she would. I mean I would practice kiss you”. Obviously, I didn’t say that because I was gay. We just both need experience kissing someone before we actually kiss someone. This didn’t make us gay. Of course not.

Since I was at camp and away from my family, I felt like I already had a little bit more freedom than usual. The way that the girls in my addie treated me made me feel isolated from them. But being around Harmony made me feel more authentic than I could have felt in any other situation. I think that this is what allowed me to say exactly how I was feeling without worrying about everyone else. After this experience, I was always searching for more moments filled with freedom and absent of fear.

June 2020

BAM. I hear my sister slam the bathroom door shut. Shortly after, the sound of the shower running follows. My mom walks out of her room, “She’s just showering to avoid me. That’s fine”. Her voice sounds frustrated and slightly frantic.

“What’s she so upset about?” I ask, ready to hear what petty argument is happening between them.

“I gotta get ready for my doctor’s appointment but I’ll tell you what’s going on”. I start to follow my mom to her room as she explains how Laura wouldn’t show my mom her phone screen. “And I told her, ‘You wouldn’t be hiding something from me if it wasn’t bad’. Then I took the phone out of her hands”. The situation she’s explaining sounds very familiar. My mom starts applying mascara as she continues, “I knew that she was reading romantic stories”. By “romantic stories” I knew she meant fanfiction because I had seen Laura reading it too. “I think that’s natural to want to explore when you’re thirteen. But…” I was already afraid of what my mom was going to say next because I knew that fanfiction was not going to have mom-approved content in it. And I was surprised that she was already aware that Laura was reading it and didn’t look deeper into it. Whenever I would start watching a new show, reading a new book, or go on a new website, she would ask me about it and evaluate if it was suitable content for me. “But the cover had two boys kissing on it”

 My heart dropped.

I listen in terrified silence as I follow her to the other side of the house. “I truly think that it’s a mental disability,” Her words feel like an arrow, piercing my chest and leaving an open wound. “It’s just the most unnatural thing that a human being can do.” More arrows. “And I think that men are more sexual, so they’re more susceptible to do that type of thing. That’s part of the reason that I don’t want your brother to have sleepovers.”

I feel my throat closing up and my breathing quickening. I expect my mom to see right through my expression and figure things out right then and there. My mom walks past me and luckily, she doesn’t turn to look at me. I felt like I had dodged an attack from my mom, whose quiver was still loaded.

 “I really have to get to my appointment now. I just don’t know what to do with Laura. Bye. Love you”. I took a deep breath, then I picked up my phone.

I tried to type out “I really need to talk” and “I feel terrible” but my fingers wouldn’t move. Instead, I typed out a more casual message.

Me: Do you want to go to Dutch

Sam: yes

Sam: but I have to be somewhere at 5 so idk if we’ll have a lot of time

Me: thats ok

Me: I think I’ll be able to drive over at 3

I didn’t know how to process everything that just happened, but I knew that being with Sam would help me process things. It didn’t matter that we were only going to have about an hour to see each other. What I needed was support.

Soon enough, my mom gets back home. I casually say, “Do you think I could use the car to go to Dutch Bros with Sam?” I’m worried she’ll see through me again. In my head, I hear her say ‘oh so now you’re trying to get away from me. I know exactly what this is about’. I see her aiming her bow at me and my world falling apart. Instead, she says “Sure,” and gives me the keys. I get into our blocky 2014 Ford Flex, connect my phone to the bluetooth, and I start the six minute drive to Sam’s house. As my “best of the best” playlist begins, I put my effort into focusing on the music and not everything that just happened.

Sam walks out of her house, looking excited to get coffee. But when she gets into the car she says, “Hey, what’s going on?” sounding concerned. I can’t hide my emotions from her. After being best friends for five years, the level of understanding between us is deeper than the connection I have with anyone else. We can tell by each other’s tone of voice, body language, and choice of words how the other is feeling. Sometimes, it feels like we can read each other’s minds.

I start to drive and explain everything my mom just said to me. “I just don’t understand how she can say those types of things. If she just sat down and talked to a gay person for twenty minutes, I don’t think she would say the same things.” Sam agrees. “I know my parents are worried about me too. Every time there’s a school dance, she tries to convince me to go.”

“I mean we could find guys for you to go on fake dates with if you think that will help”. I hate that both of our first reactions are to hide. My eyes start to well up with tears. “Hey, it’s gonna be ok” I realize that I can’t see the road and pull over. “Yeah, you can do that if you need to. It’s ok” With the car stopped and my story finished, I felt like everything was finally stopping and my emotions could resume. I start sobbing. I don’t want to hide things from my mom. I want to be able to be honest with her. Now that I know how she really feels about gay people I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be honest with her. All these thoughts feel like more arrows to my heart.

I catch my breath and I turn to Sam, “it just hurts. It just hurts so bad.”

June 2022

            Me, Sam, and Sophie walked into a coffee shop with a stripped, industrial style to it. Right in front of the door there was a wicker basket filled with pride stickers. After shuffling through them, Sophie grabbed one and stuck it on my shirt. A feeling of comfort filled my body. The three of us sat down on metal barstools and I sipped on my coffee that tasted vaguely like playdough. I looked around and admired the sticky notes, artwork, and wooden accents. Sophie took out her phone and the three of us smiled and posed for a series of silly pictures.

As we started to walk out, I looked down at the small rainbow sticker on my shirt. I can only imagine getting home and how my mom would react. I take the plastic circle off of my soft, black shirt. “Better do this before I forget”.

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