Tiny Love Stories: ‘Also, He’s a Magician’


Trading poodle skirts and blouses for trucker hats and flannels, decades before the term “gender nonconforming” entered the mainstream, Aunt Barbara stopped trying to fit into her Missouri farm town. I innocently called her “Uncle Barbara” as a toddler. She always laughed. For all of her standing out, for the acceptance that she demanded and received, Barb’s inner life is unknowable. Long gone from cancer, she left me two important gifts: a record of her courageous clothing preferences — deeply provocative in her time — captured in family photos, and a blazed path for her family to accept me, her gay nephew. — Dylan Connell

I was 27 and single when my real estate colleague offered me the file of a potential client, a handsome man seeking a larger home. “You take it, he’s single and cute,” she said. “Also, he’s a magician.” Laughing, I took it, swearing I’d never end up as a magician’s assistant. Several months later, he offered to buy any dress I liked as long as I wore it in his show just once. That dress must have been enchanted, because I’m still regularly cut in half, vanishing and reappearing onstage, 25 years later. — Susan Wilcox

At my great-grandmother’s 100th birthday party, the D.J. played classic Mexican folk music, and my great-grandma looked sweet wearing a pink crown, a corsage on her delicate wrist and a “Birthday Girl” pin. She held a microphone as her favorite song began to play: “Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores.” Though the lyrics of the song say to sing and not to cry, we all cried tears of happiness as we celebrated a century of life. In awe, we witnessed her legacy — six generations of relatives all standing together in one place. — Ashley Espinoza


“I’ll be fine,” I told my father when he insisted on driving me to court. I was dreading hashing out the details of an unexpected divorce. For months he had felt helpless. Yet, during predawn heartbreak-sobs and panicked late night calls, he promised I’d be OK. Showing up has always been his superpower — for little things like my high school basketball games and big things like my daughter’s year in the hospital. Running late that morning, I spied my father under an umbrella outside, ready to protect me from the rain. But really, shielding me from life’s unexpected events. — Amy McHugh



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