Until December, I had been, for nearly ten years, the mother of two boys. Anatomically, at least. As strongly as Jessie was drawn to dolls, wigs, dresses and make-up, Harrison had been all about the toy trucks, Legos, cowboy suits and building (and destroying) of things. Both had been wonderful babies, horrible toddlers and impossible to put to bed at night. With seven years between them, they seldom had anything to fight over other than attention. Their squabbles were not the kind I remember my brothers’ having where the boys became entangled in one another with whomever wound up on top invariably meting out some sort of physical aggression upon the other. Perhaps Harrison was being more gentle because of the age difference or perhaps he held his hand because he somehow knew.
Let there be no misunderstanding…George (n.c.i.) was never one to back away from a tussle and was, more often than not, the aggressor (and irritant) in any battles that ensued. Perhaps it was all part of his (g.c.i.) internal struggle and desire (for lack of a better word) to be who he innately (oh, the irony) knew he was “supposed” to be. I do not know, but I do know that now that George is Jessie…that ain’t happening anymore.
Lest you think I am living in June Cleaver land, let me aasure you that there are still arguments and words exchanged, but they have taken on a different air since Jessie’s social transition. I would not go so far as to say that Harrison is treating her (g.c.i.) like a girl, but (and perhaps this speaks more to Harrison’s very nature than anything else) I can guarantee you, the days of Harrison shoving or slugging his brother are, for now, anyway, over. It has happened subtly, and I am sure unconsciously on his part, but I do see Harrison emerging as a protective big brother to his littler sister who happens to have a penis.
While the dynamic has changed some, the fact remains that the days of having a little (annoying) brother are gone and have been replaced with a new role: big brother to little (still annoying, but a little less so) sister. Because I am the youngest in my family (and was, without equivocation, my father’s favorite) I know nothing about being the older, sager child. I am unfamiliar with the nuances of teasing, yet ultimately protecting, your younger sibling which my brother Robbie had down to a science. I know nothing of the “breaking in” of the parents for younger siblings that David, the older (and, despite what Robbie might say to the contrary) better looking brother did without my even being aware. Those are roles that Harrison, by virtue of being the oldest, was born into. Talk about having to change course!
I suppose what amazes and fills me with pride is how beautifully Harrison has handled it. (Warning: kvellling ahead!) Stop for a minute and put yourself in Harrison’s position. Now remember, you are seventeen, a junior in high school and have already spent much of the past ten years witnessing, hearing about, worrying about and ruminating about the behavior (even the good stuff) of your little brother. Your surname has been a dead giveaway that you are related to that wild little boy (g.c.i.) who no one ever forgets, mostly because of the huge drum he is carrying which is being beaten off key. You have been the older brother of a little boy who only wanted to play with dolls and wear wigs. You have heard your peers wonder aloud about your brother and his different way of viewing and approaching the world. Yet you have never been anything but supportive. I cannot help but be impressed. I know there are adults out there who will not be able to handle it with such aplomb. For that, I would say, Harrison is the man.
If we could only get him to empty the dishwasher, do his laundry and take out the garbage without being asked…
This picture was taken over the summer, pre-announcement. Already it looks somehow strange to be so see Jessie as George, but will remain a favorite always: