Is There One in Your Family?

I woke up thinking about two photographs of my Aunt Stella, one of my grandfather's sisters. I don't know a lot about her. Stella lived in New York City, where she taught dance. One of her students was her nephew. His name was Ron Field. He became a choreographer and director who won awards for his choreography (Cabaret) and direction (Applause). He took Stella as his date to the Tony Awards one year.

I woke up thinking about those two photographs of I'd found of Stella after I came out. She's sitting with a womb. And when I looked at those photographs--I knew.

Stella had been married very briefly and it ended very mysteriously. Looking at those photographs, well, I thought I might be able to guess at a part of the story.

I think I woke up thinking about two photographs of my Aunt Stella because last night I finished reading a debut novel by my friend Shelley Ettinger, called Vera's Will. I read some pages from it when Shelley and I were fellows in the fiction workshop of the first Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers' Retreat, but I was unprepared for the scope of the finished work: three generations, historical events, cultural references. But what I loved about Vera's Will was that it was a great story, with wonderful characters that I cared about, and beautifully written. I'm a simple reader in that way.

In Vera's Will, there is a character in each generation who lesbian. Which made me think, this morning about my own family. On my Dad's side, Stella, her nephews Ron and Sheldon, my cousin Marcy. On my Mom's side, my cousin Mark.

I don't know what, if anything, the family said about Stella, but Ron was "in the theater" and Sheldon was "sensitive." And I have no idea what people say about Mark, Marcy and me.

Then, as I was making my tea, I thought of someone else. He's not gay though. Here's what the family has to say about my cousin Mitchell: "He's a socialist, you know." Shelley, that one's for you.