Queen of the North, is just one of the titles that she has been given, She/He is a son, a friend, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, and a grandson too.
She is known as Brooklyn Hytes, a drag queen, and happens to be my cousin Brock, who was my perfect little ring bearer in my wedding almost 28 years ago. I still remember exactly, his black velvet pantaloons, crisp white cotton button down blouse, and satin bow tie… His little shoes were black, and he was utter perfection, standing still stoically, taking in all the details, and the pomp and circumstance of his surroundings of the celebration.
His Mum tells me that he was so fascinated by it all, from my wedding gown, to what the bridesmaids were wearing, to the floral arrangements that adorned the church. Even at 3 years old he was all about the details, such a creative, and interested child. There could not have been a better pick to be my ring bearer. He carried his little white satin pillow, adorned with lace, and two wedding bands, like they were the Crown Jewels, and he was their sole protector.
He is the forth child in his family, a male, with a brother, and two older sisters. His Dad, and my Dad were brothers, and our families spent numerous times together over Christmas, and on special occasions. His parents’ cottage, and my parents’ cottage were side by side up on Lake Joseph, in the Muskokas, in Northern Ontario.
We spent many summers, floating by each other docks, or swimming, water skiing, and more than occasionally, tipping each other’s respective canoes, and enjoying being out on the lake. It was carefree, and easy… kick the can( a form of hide in seek,) was played in the dark, hiding amongst the junipers, and getting eaten by mosquitoes. We were not concerned then about the West Nile virus, or other creatures lurking in the underbrush.
A few years back, I was up at the cottage with my two sons, and daughter, and Brock came over for a visit. He was staying up the bay at another friends’ cottage, since their cottage had been sold.
I always loved to see him because he has a great sense of humor, is humble and kind, and exceedingly creative. I will never forget this moment …at this time. We were up at the cottage and I had gone into the bedroom to check on my daughter Bianca, and Brock asked if he could come in for a visit. I said yes of course.
I had set up an air mattress, and created a little make shift bed on the carpet at the foot of the pine double bed. There was a window just above her, which let in the light, and the cool breeze, and it opened to the scent of summer air floating in. The smell of pine trees filled the space. Bianca was laying there watching her DVD cartoons, and giggling, as she often did. She was maybe 14, or 15 years old, at the time. She was content, even though she was completely dependent on those that cared for her, for her every need. She had complete trust in our love for her.
Brock had not seen her in years. I was used to the way Bianca was, and so in many ways, I can’t know how it would have felt for him to see his cousin, after that many years, and the way that she was.
He sat right down on the floor, and leaned his tall frame up against the wooden dresser. I sat down beside Bianca, and our eyes met. I could see that tears were filling in his eyes as we sat there quiet for a moment. I don’t recall exactly what was said, except I knew in that moment that there was a quiet understanding, acceptance, and compassion for both me, and my girl. I could see in his face that there was shock…and …pain… respect… and love and empathy.
I will never forget that connection. It was as if he was entering into where I was, and he could see the raw organ of my heart, attempting to keep on beating, but at the same time, I was so tired from the sorrow of ultimately seeing my daughter in her plight.
He just sat with me, acknowledged where I was, and I knew what an incredibly special individual that he was. It was a priceless treasured moment in time.
I don’t pretend to understand his journey, and all the places that he has been to get to his destination of the other night. He would end up as the second runner up , in “Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” and I know that his heart is big, and his talent is great.
From what I observe, life has been anything but breezy easy for this person. He has danced in places I can’t even begin to enter into. The continual quality that I see is that he/she appears to be fearless. If there is fear, then it is carefully concealed behind make up, and professional showmanship, and artistic poise and talent. I am inspired by him….
I had the unique opportunity this past week to accompany Brock’s Mum, my Aunt Joan, to watch the season finale of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Show at a Gay bar in town.
I knew that Joan wanted to go to watch and support Brock, and so it very organically worked out for us to go together. What an opportunity…
We shared a scrumptious grilled salmon, and vegetable dinner, with a tossed fresh Caesar salad, and warm triangle rolls dipped in olive oil, cracked pepper and rosemary, and an excellent time of sharing.
From the moment my Aunt arrived our conversation flowed like melted butter, and was so fluid, transparent and open. She shared much about her life, challenges, and hurts, and I considered it such a privilege to learn from her, more skills about being a completely loving, accepting, and graceful Mother.
We talked of raising children, and the challenging aspects of fostering the notion that you “ can be anything that you want to be.” We spoke of the importance of following your dreams, and how important it is for our kids to know how much we believe in them and accept them . The courage to impart to our children that “ you are enough.”
Just by being in the family you are means that you are unconditionally loved….period…Your value is without end… it is eternal.
What stands out in neon lights about my Aunt is her ability to love unconditionally, without prejudice, or expectation, but she exhibits a continual embrace of support in whatever arena where her children choose to soar.
This is an incredible example to me of loving people where they are, accepting them, and perhaps more importantly, accepting yourself, wherever you find yourself.
When I think of Joan, I see the fruits of the spirit from Galations , in the Bible, so clearly demonstrated..
“love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control…”
I asked her if I could write about my experience with her, and she gave her permission, and then I asked if Brock would mind if I shared my thoughts, and she said that he wouldn’t mind. I hope that this is true Brock, because I wouldn’t want to hurt you in any way.
As we sat in this place waiting for the performance to start, several fans spoke to Joan, because they recognized her from her interview that was featured on the show, and the words she used to describe her relationship with her son.
I have watched the clip numerous times now, and each time, it brings tears rolling down my cheeks. This is the altruistic kind of love that this Mother has for her child.. She shows ultimately love and compassion, and acceptance that declares true worth in every sense of the word.
Words from St. Augustine…
” compassion needs to be watered.”
I love this… from the Dali Lama..
”Love and compassion are not luxuries, they are necessities.”
Love and compassion… “the greatest of these is love.”
My mind was rocked, and my brain expanded this week in ways that were exciting. Reconnecting with my aunt, and sharing these moments together, seeing how fully she loves and accepts her kids, how she is breaking out of who she used to be and is fearlessly walking towards the woman she is becoming.
As Joan and I were driving back home after the show, Brock/Brooklyn Hytes did not end up winning, but would come in second. We talked of the fact that he may not have been the winner of this competition, but he was a winner in our eyes.
Joan made a call to her sister Sue, who was not able to get the show on tv, so Joan gave her the results of Ru Paul’s decision to make another the Drag Queen winner. While she was talking to her sister, a call came in from Brock.
This really struck me, the close connection that they had. How immediately he wanted to speak with his Mum right after the competition.
Joan called him back, and had the speaker on so I could hear too.
It was so sweet.. she congratulated him, and I yelled “ team Brooklyn Hytes…you were robbed!”
He laughed, and said, “ thank you.”
I was in a state of awe, as I listened to Joan and Brock’s conversation. This is the good stuff.
To re-emphasize that I’m inspired by the love and bravery in which she Mothers’ seems so lacking. I wish I had better words to express just how compelling to me her example had been to me this week.
This was no accident. This was a divine intervention, and teaching.. Brock is instructing me how to love better, and to love life fully.
It was incredible to me when he shared the song,
“it is well with my soul…” This has always been one of my favorites..
Ultimately what I see in my Aunt is a Mother’s unconditional love for her child, and this is one of the best examples I have ever seen.
Aunt Joan… it is my extreme pleasure to be your niece, and friend. Thank you for your understanding, openness, and your willingness to share in your experiences with an open and redemptive heart.