Chapter Five – The Difference Between Romantic and Brotherly Love

Dad led our family conversations at the dinner table that evening. He asked all three of my sisters in order of age what happened at school. He then asked what they had learned in Primary. Finally, being the youngest, he asked me if anything interesting happened during the day.

“Colin got in trouble in Primary,” Stephanie said.

I began to push my green peas around the plate with my fork so I didn’t have to look my dad in the eyes.

“Is that true?” he asked.

I nodded and put a scoop of vegetables in my mouth.

“What happened?”

I shoved some tuna casserole into my mouth. If I kept it full, maybe I wouldn’t have to answer.

“He and Danny were kissing during singing time,” Stephanie explained. “And it made the chorus leader mad.”

Dad coughed up a little bit of the milk he was drinking. He wiped liquid off his chin and shirt and looked at each one of his children sitting at the dinner table. His eyes looked sad, and I focused my eyes more on the mess of vegetables and casserole on my plate.

“What ha–,” Dad began to ask, but something in his throat stopped him from finishing the question.

He looked at me again, but I wouldn’t lift my eyes up from my plate. His eyes moved across the table and until they met my mother. They looked at each other, and I thought I could see my father struggling to hold back some tears. My mom gave him a small smile, winked, and nodded her head.

“Let’s talk after dinner, Colin,” Dad finally said. He placed his folded napkin onto his empty plate. “But help your mother clean the table first.”

 

 

Dad was reading a book when I entered his bedroom. I couldn’t read the title, but it was very thick, and I could see that he had written some notes into a notebook he had placed on the small table next to him. He pulled the additional chair he had brought into the room in front of him so that we could have a face-to-face conversation.

“You and Danny are pretty good friends, aren’t you,” he said as I sat in my chair.

I nodded.

“Peter, too,” I said.

“Peter, too,” he repeated. “It’s nice to have such good friends, isn’t it.”

I nodded again.

“I understand that Danny was kissing you and telling you that he loves you today.”

I smiled and laughed a little. It was good to know that somebody loved me. It made me feel happy. I looked at my father and he seemed upset. Why?

“Boys don’t do that with other boys,” my dad said. There was a tightness in his voice.

“Why?” I asked. “We talk about love a lot in Primary.”

My dad placed his elbows on the small table, clasped his hands together, and rested his forehead between his thumbs and index fingers. It looked to me like he was saying a silent prayer. After a couple of minutes, he lifted his head and was ready to speak again.

“You see, there are different kinds of love. There’s a romantic kind of love—the kind of love your mother and I have for each other. That is a strong love that leads to marriage and starting a family.”

“Peter, Danny, and I want to get married when we are older,” I said.

“When you get older and meet a girl that you feel that romantic love for, then you can get married,” my father replied. Dad knew I meant something else, but he wasn’t about to let that ruin the great lesson he had planned.

“You and your friends share a different kind of love—a brotherly love.”

“Ya,” I said.

“That sort of love isn’t expressed through kissing and hugging. Boys shake hands or pat each other on the back, but they don’t kiss. Do you understand?”

I wasn’t sure what was wrong with boys kissing each other, but I shook my head in agreement. If my dad said it, it must be true.

We sat quietly for a couple of minutes when my father finally pulled a brochure from the back cover of the book he was reading. He opened it and scanned the page until he found the information he wanted.

“I think it’s time we get you started in some sports,” he said.

“Okay.”

“They are signing boys up for the city basketball league right now, and the games are every Saturday at the junior high school. The same times your sisters have dance classes. This should be fun for you.”

I wasn’t even sure what basketball was, but I was excited to go with my sisters when they have their dance classes. They seemed to have a lot of fun doing that.

Chapter Four – I Love Him

We started Kindergarten that fall, and our schedules separated the threesome for most of the day. Danny was assigned to a morning class, and Peter and I attended in the afternoon. Thankfully, we still had time to be with each other during our Wednesday afternoon Primary sessions.

As the children entered the chapel on the first Wednesday after school started, Danny greeted me with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I smiled and blushed as we found some empty seats on the third row.

“I miss you,” he whispered.

Our leaders welcomed us, a girl prayed, and then singing time started. First, we sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” At the conclusion of the song, Danny gave me another quick kiss on the cheek. Somebody behind us laughed. The next song was “Do As I’m Doing,” and we all followed the movements of the leader in the front of the room. Danny kissed my cheek again, but this one lasted a little longer.

“We should do something about that,” a woman whispered.

“They’re just kids,” another woman responded, “it doesn’t mean anything.”

We started another song, “Little Purple Pansies,” and I tried to sing the best I could in between giggles. Before the song ended, Danny turned, puckered his lips, and gave me the wettest, loudest kiss I had ever experience up to that point in my life. The singing stopped.

“Do we need to separate you two boys?” the woman leading the music asked.

Both of us giggled some more, and other children in the room joined us.

“Nick,” the woman said. “I need you to trade places with Colin.”

Nick stood up, and I slid into the spot where he was sitting.

“And you, young man,” the chorus leader said to Danny. “I don’t want to see you kissing any more boys.”

“I’m sorry,” Danny replied. “But I love that boy. I just love him!”

Most of the children in the room laughed.

“That’s fine,” the chorus leader said. “But boys don’t express their love by kissing each other. A firm handshake will do.”

She concluded the singing time, and we were dismissed to go to our different classes. Some of the older kids pointed and laughed as Danny and I walked out of the room.

“Can you believe those two?” I heard one of the Primary teachers whisper. “Their behavior is absolutely unacceptable.”

“You worry too much,” another woman replied. “They are just kids. Besides, I think it’s adorable to see a boy so open about his feelings for his friend.”

Chapter Three – Boys Being Boys

Danny, Peter, and I got into a lot of trouble together the next eighteen months. One of our favorite activities was to play in the creek at the edge of the neighborhood. There we would search for frogs, snakes, or other wild creatures we could bring home as new pets. Our mothers didn’t like it when we brought home the animals, and we would be sent back to the creek to release them back into the wild.

That summer was a special one. It was the year that our nation was celebrating the Bicentennial. We had large parades and amazing fireworks displays in the park. We learned about the Revolutionary war and patriotism. We were told how much of a privilege it was to live in a country with so much freedom.

We also loved participating in the huge neighborhood games such as capture the flag, flag football, or baseball that would fill two or three front lawns with children playing together. When it got hot outside our games would turn into massive water fights—and nobody was safe from those battles.

A cool summer morning about a dozen boys had already gathered at my house to decide what we were going to play for the day. We argued for a while, but finally Peter’s older brother, Rick, suggested we play a new game that he learned about in school.

“Let’s play Smear the Queer,” he said.

The older kids all agreed, but Peter, Danny, and I had never heard of the game. It sounded a little dangerous.

“What we do,” Rob said, “is throw around the ball. If the ball is thrown to you, you have to catch it. If you drop it, you are queer, and we tackle you.”

“But if you are holding the ball, you are queer, too,” he added. “You have to pass the ball to somebody else before you get tackled.”

We threw the ball around for about thirty minutes. I would immediately pass the ball to somebody else before I got called a queer and tackled. The older boys enjoyed beating each other up and laughing about them being queer. It was sort of fun, as long as I wasn’t the one being beaten in the game.

The week before we all started Kindergarten, we decided that we wanted to build a clubhouse where the three of us could just get away. Danny said he had the perfect place behind his house, and so we gathered our tools and trekked to his place.

“Here’s where it will be,” he said as we looked over a big patch of dirt behind his garage.

“There aren’t any trees,” I said. “I want a tree house.”

“I have a better idea,” Danny said. “We can live underground. We can dig tunnels.”

That sounded like a great idea. We found what we could to start digging—one shovel, a hoe, and a rake. The ground was especially hard, and we weren’t making very much progress.

“We need a jackhammer,” Peter said.

“I have an idea,” Danny said.

He left and returned with a garden hose that was spraying water. The ground was getting softer as the dirt turned into mud. Our digging became more productive as our holes filled with water and became larger.

“We should all live here together when we are old,” Danny said.

“That would be so neat,” Peter agreed.

We decided we could make three big underground bedrooms connected by tunnels. It would be so great to live together forever with my best friends, but I thought there could be a problem.

“What happens when we get married?” I asked.

“I’m never going to marry a stupid girl,” Danny said. “I want to marry a boy. Boys are more fun.”

“Me, too,” Peter agreed.

That idea seemed a little strange to me at the time. After all, all of the married couples I knew about consisted of a man and a woman. My mom and dad. My grandparents. My aunts and uncles. Even my cousin who just got married.

“Can two boys get married?” I asked.

“Why not?” Peter said. “If they like each other, they should.”

“Yeah,” Danny added. “It’s a free country, isn’t it?”

Chapter Two – Primary Colors

The three of us became instant friends after our colorful, playful brawl in primary. Sister Jensen dutifully escorted us each to our homes to explain the situation the “Rainbow Boys” had created on their first day as Sunbeams.

“It was all very playful,” she told Danny’s mother. “In fact, the three boys hit it off quite well. I think they may become very good friends.”

Danny’s mother carefully lifted his arms to inspect the mess of colors and shook her head.

“I’ll try to wash the paint out of these clothes,” she said and sighed. “As for you, young man, it’s off to a long, soapy bath.” She swatted Danny’s behind, and he giggled as he ran from the kitchen.

“Don’t worry too much,” Sister Jensen said. “The shirts are meant to use as paint frocks. It’s time I put all of Kirk’s shirts to good use.”

Danny’s mother tilted her head and nodded. Her eyes looked a little bit sad. The two remained silent for a couple of minutes.

“Oh, I should take Colin home now,” my new primary teacher said.

My mother was very apologetic when Sister Jensen told her what happened. She offered to buy new paints, new shirts, more art supplies, and come help with the children next week. Sister Jensen said it wasn’t necessary, but she would like to invite me over to play with Peter. She even offered to teach me how to paint, and I begged my mom to agree.

“I just finished turning Kirk’s home office into an art studio,” she said. “And I need a few guinea pigs to see if I have what it takes to teach private art lessons.”

“I can pay for the lessons,” Mom replied.

“No, I want to do this for the boys. Colin, Danny, and Peter. Just once a week. How does Thursday at noon sound? I will make them lunch, and they can play together after the art lesson.”

“I guess that would be okay,” Mom said. “But if you ever need more supplies, just let me know.”

Peter’s house didn’t have a basement like mine, and he shared a large bedroom with his two older brothers. He slept in the top of a bunk bed, while the oldest brother had a single bed against the opposite wall. Their mother had the smaller bedroom that was just on the other side of a shared bathroom. Just outside the bedrooms was a big room that served as living room, kitchen, and dining room, and on the other end of the house was a door that led to Sister Jensen’s art studio.

“I have painting shirt for each of you,” Sister Jensen said as we entered the room. “You can keep them here so that they will always be available for our painting lessons.”

She handed each of the three boys a different colored shirt. Peter was given a red shirt, Danny a blue one, and received a yellow one. Sister Jensen said we each had a different color so that we would always know which one belonged to whom.

“The colors you are wearing are called the primary colors,” she said. “They are the special colors because with them you can make any color imaginable.”

She handed each of us a bottle of paint that matched the colors of our shirts. She then gave us each a paint brush and showed our painting easels that had large pieces of paper attached at the top.

“I want you to each dip your paint brush into your bottle and then paint a shape on your paper.”

We each did what our teacher said. Since my color was yellow, I painted big circular sun in the top right corner of my paper. We were then directed to paint the same thing on the other two boys’ papers.

“Those are nice pictures, boys,” Sister Jensen said. “You all have the primary colors—red, yellow, and blue—on your paper now. Now we get to learn how these colors can make other colors.”

She placed three paper cups on a work table and asked us to bring our bottles of paint over. She helped us carefully pour a little bit of two different colors of paint into each cup and then mixed them together with some old Popsicle sticks. I was amazed when I saw the colors turn into green, orange, and purple.

“See how magical that is,” Sister Jensen said. “With these three colors that you are wearing, we can make all of the many beautiful colors we see in this world.”

We then used the other colors to finish painting our first art projects in the class. Being the curious boys that we were, we decided to see what we could do if we mixed even more of the colors together. It was exciting to think we were the first to discover how to make brown and laughed at the color we called poopy green. Finally, after mixing all colors together, we were content to have almost mixed a dark shade of black.

At the end of the lesson, Sister Jensen said she had some sandwiches and chips for us. We needed to clean up, however, before we could eat. Sister Jensen showed us some special pegs where we could hang up our paint shirts until our next lesson and then guided us to a big sink to wash up.

“Look at all of those pretty colors swirling in the water,” she said. “They are so beautiful.”

“That color’s yucky,” I said, pointing to the poopy green splotch on my elbow.

“Oh, no,” Sister Jensen said. “I think all colors are beautiful. We just need to figure out where that color belongs, and then you will see how pretty it is.”

Chapter One – A Sunbeam

We met in our Primary Sunbeam class—Danny, Peter, and I. At least that’s what our parents told us. Our Salt Lake Valley ward was full of children and had an active primary program. I was excited to finally join my older sisters in their Wednesday afternoon activities, but when I arrived at the church building, I became a little bit nervous. The women leaders divided us into age groups row by row in the chapel. My two older sisters joined the boys and girls in their assigned groups and pushed me to the front row where I was supposed to sit.

While all of the other rows had a mix of boys and girls sitting together, the row where I was assigned to go consisted of just boys. There were seventeen of us total—seventeen three-year-old boys and one primary teacher. After a prayer, some singing, and a short talk, Sister Jensen guided her troop of young boys to our classroom for an activity. She had us hold hands as we walked the long hallway to our destination. I was the last boy in the chain.

Sister Jensen was an accomplished artist, and she apparently hoped to transfer that talent to her small army of boys. Our classroom had a large, black tarp on the floor. The edges were lined with pieces of construction paper, and the center contained bowls of thick, brightly-colored paint.

“We are going to have fun today, boys,” Sister Jensen smiled. “We are going to be artists.”

I started jumping up and down with excitement, and one of the other boys laughed.

“I don’t want to get your mothers angry at me, so we need to protect your clothes from all of this paint,” our teacher said. “Before we all start painting, we all need to wear one of these.”

She held up a stack of neatly-folded shirts. I was given a large men’s dress shirt. The long sleeves dangled from my short arms, but Sister Jensen helped me roll up the sleeves until by small hands appeared out the end. The other boys were working to put on their large T-shirts with short sleeves, while a few of us struggled with the buttons on our used dress shirts.

“These are my dad’s shirts,” a boy named Peter said. “He was a football player.”

“Yes, he was,” Sister Jensen said. Her mouth was smiling, but her eyes looked sad.

One of the boys, Danny, let the sleeves of long shirt hang beyond his arms. He started to swing hi shoulders and watched the sleeves swirl in the air. Sister Jensen was busy helping other boys get their painting shirts on, and before we knew it, Danny and I were whipping each other with our extra-long sleeves. Peter thought it looked like fun, but he was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt, so he tackled us. The three of us laughed as we wrestled and rolled on the floor.

Sister Jensen got to us a little too late to avert a disaster. The three wrestling buddies had made it to the center of their ring. Peter stood up, but suddenly, Danny knocked him over into the bowl of green paint. They rolled and knocked me into the bowls of thick red finger paint. Within seconds we were covered in splotches of red, yellow, blue, green, and orange.

Sister Jensen somehow managed to put an end to the adventure and avoid any more boys getting involved. She carefully inspected each of the three boys as she moved us just far enough from each other to avoid another duel.

“Well, boys,” Sister Jensen said in a voice that was halfway between laughing and crying. “I was going to have you paint pictures of what it means to be a Sunbeam, but these three boys beat us all to the paint.”

She held up Peter’s arms to inspect the new color pattern on his shirt.

“These colors almost make a rainbow,” she said.

“Rainbows,” she repeated softer. “What do rainbows mean?”

Danny giggled as he pressed his hand to my right cheek and left a blue hand print there.

“Okay, class,” our teacher said. “We are all Sunbeams, and do you know what happens when a sunbeam shines through a rainstorm?”

We were silent.

“When a sunbeam goes through a raindrop, or when it shines through a heavy rainstorm, we get a rainbow.”

We remained silent.

“Does anyone know what the bible tells us about rainbows?”

Nobody answered.

“Rainbows are a promise,” Sister Jensen explained. “They are a promise that even in the darkest and hardest of times, Heavenly Father wants us to know that everything is going to be all right.”

The boys looked at each other. Danny looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

Sister Jensen closed her eyes and whispered once more, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Introduction

Sunday was one of those days that faithful Latter-day Saint families look forward to. Brother, sisters, aunts, and uncles gathered from across the state to hear one of their loved ones bear testimony of his faith prior to leaving all to serve as a missionary for two years.

I traveled the two hours with my brother and his young family to honor my nephew. I enjoyed spending time on the road with the family—especially as my youngest nephew showed unconditional love to his uncle. The three-year-old enthusiastically pointed out everything he saw from his car window and told me several times how happy he was to have me travel with them.

As we pulled into the church parking lot, my brother asked me to go ahead and save some seats for his family. They stayed behind to change a wet diaper and take care of other young-family situations. I found a half-empty row and sat next to a family I did not know. As the time the meeting to start drew closer, I became more anxious—my brother and his family still had not come in. The chapel slowly filled up with young families and couples taking the seats around me. Finally, a young couple sat in the seats I was hoping to save for my own family.

I sat alone as we sang the hymns and prayed. I watched the families around me as my nephew shared his stories about preparing to be a missionary. Couples held hands, rubbed each others’ shoulders, and cradled young children in their arms. I felt so alone, and I couldn’t help but wonder is this the cross I am called to bear for the rest of my life?

On the road trip back, I felt something tugging at my heart to share my stories. I am not sure if anything I will have to share will help others, but I have learned through past experiences that I need to follow these promptings. So, here I will start with my earliest memories of the loneliness many within the church feel when they have a secret they have tried to hide for most of their life.

I am changing names because I think over the span of my lifetime I believe many attitudes have changed. I don’t want to accuse people in the past who may have made mistakes of being horrible people. Hopefully, most will have learned and had a change of heart, and I don’t want to blame anyone for they way I or anyone else has turned out. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own happiness in life. These are my stories, and I hope to help others—as well as myself—find peace through sharing them.