She came and went like a breeze, it seemed to teenage me. Sometimes she sat quietly in places where you’d expect her to talk, such as our living room.

Or she sat and read when she and I were in her living room and my brother was at work and their baby was sleeping.

She knew I was queer when I thought that the word, applied to people, meant only something beyond strange, although I didn’t know what. “I’d be careful how I use that word if I were you,” she said in our living room, on an occasion when she hadn’t said much else.

In a Safeway in Paradise, California, I pointed out a clerk and said I liked his shadow beard. She agreed.

I couldn’t have said why I was so fascinated by her. She was intellectual, and thought before she spoke, and pronounced her words with a precision that made me want to listen? She was, for me, a key to religious freedom? A Christian more interested in other faiths than our own?

After midnight one New Year’s, my brother and she took me to Pasadena to camp out and wait for the Rose Parade. Weak young me was sick for the next three days.

I’m struck by the fact that I never fail to think of her when Todd and I decorate the Christmas tree. I seem to get a whiff of her aura. Why?

Because, I believe, as my brother and she came and went from our childhood home on those festive, chilly Southern California nights, for the brief periods that she sat in our living room it became a place where what happened was less predictable. Bringing that to a room is a gift. In my mind, it became a Christmas gift, re-given every year.

(Gif above from 

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