You Boot She’s Cool Enough

Lucchese boots: starting price, mid $300s. Not your garden variety boots. No, these are special. (If you are just now learning of them, please do not hold any future purchases against me.) These are the boots that you hem and haw over and finally plop down your credit card, hand a bit wobbly. It is the kind of purchase that you enter into knowing that you are either going to wear them into the ground (money well spent) or buy them and wind up never finding just the right outfit, or socks or occasion to wear them, thus relegating them to the back of your closet to collect dust and guilt.

Fortunately for my old (nah, too easy) friend Ellen, this particular pair of boots fell comfortably into the former category until, that is, they didn’t. She bought and loved them. Cherished, even. And then it happened. Her aging arches fell, her feet flattened and the Luccheses were suddenly obsolete, leaving Ellen crushed, defeated and a little bitter. She tried to power through the pain of wearing them “just once more” before giving into the pressure and retiring them to a spot in her closet which was close enough that she could visit with them, but far enough so that they could not mock her. In her mind she knew that there was someone out there who would, one day, be deserving of assuming ownership. As the mother of one high school aged son and the wife of one middle aged husband, her options were limited. What to do?

I know Ellen from my pre-parenting days. (You know, back when we didn’t know it, but life was about as easy as it was going to get) We were on the same gym schedule for years and became fast friends. (After a while we even figured out that she and my oldest brother, David, had gone to camp together…that is known as Jewish geography.  I am a big fan.) We share a similar view of the world and have always been each other’s best audience with the ability to crack one another up with ease.

It has been a long time since I have seen her in person, but we’ve been in touch thanks to the miracle of Facebook.  Harrison (whose first word happened to be “shoe”) was just a little kid when we bumped into one another at one of those horrible spots that are supposed to be a blast for the kids but, (and this part they leave out of the literature) hell on earth for the parents. Her son is a full two years younger than Harrison but she already knew that these excursions were not meant for the likes of her. (Or, for that matter, me.) We spotted one another across the room and picked up just where we had left off. She is that kind of friend.

Periodically one of us will see that the other is online and start chatting. Recently she caught me just coming off the high of shopping with Jessie who has, bless her little heart, discovered the joy of shoe shopping. I had just been victorious in getting her to try on (and, like a typical ‘tween girl, begrudgingly admit to loving) a pair of boots which I really kinda wanted for myself, but could not justify: not due to price (they were $35)(and probably made of paper) but more that if I were to come home with yet another pair of boots I might also be served divorce papers. (And yes, I know, that encouraging this love of shoes is going to come back to haunt me, but allow me to indulge here and there.) I was lamenting that, while it was a fun exercise, I was a little bummed to discover that Jessie has inherited my feet and is, at the tender age of ten, already wearing a size seven. That is the moment when Ellen’s loss would become Jessie’s gain.

After having slept on it, Ellen popped back into my chat stream the next day wanting to be absolutely sure that Jessie is a size seven. I confirmed and quickly received an email with the subject line: Is Jessie cool enough for these? The entire content of the email :

Indeed she is, I replied. And then I got this:

She may be the only girl in the world I could stand to give them to.
They should only go to a girl with nuts.

It made me, Rich and everyone I shared it with laugh out loud. It also made me happy. Jessie is always going to be different from the other girls. Her feet will be bigger than most, but so are mine. Her history will not be like the other girls. And I’m willing to bet that she will be the only one among her friends who got her first pair of kick-ass boots when she was ten. Rock on, Jessie, rock on.

p.s. Here’s a link you know you want to use right about now:

http://www.zappos.com

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Adoption

“Did you adopt a little girl?” That was a message I got from a very peripheral person in my life (okay, she is a former girlfriend of Rich’s) in my Facebook inbox this morning. I have seen this woman enough over the years that she knew that we had two boys, Harrison and George but, upon searching for, and finding me on Facebook, she was confused by the array of pictures of a (really) cute little girl. I know what you are thinking…poke around my (very public) profile and you will find all sorts of references and well, announcements, about our little transgender princess. Not hard to find. But, for reasons known only to her, she opted to ask me about it instead. I am fine with inquiries about just about anything, so it was not the question that threw me. No, what rattled me was her use of the word “adopt”. I had never thought of it in those terms, but, in effect, I sort of did adopt a little girl.

Adopt, by definition is to choose to take something on as your own which is, actually, precisely what I have done. In fairness, I didn’t really choose to hop aboard this yacht (note: I have decided that my daughter should be at the helm of a yacht as opposed to a ship. It sounds so much cooler. Allow me my thrills, please) but I am now getting comfortable in the stateroom and each day find myself a little less nauseas and a little more comfortable with my sea legs.

I imagine that is kind of the way it feels when one adopts a child from Russia, or China or Nebraska. One day you are (happily enough) living your life one way, and the next day, you get “the call” and voila, you are parenting a person you have never met, without the benefit of real preparation like, oh, I don’t know, having been pregnant for 40 (or, in my case 41.5) weeks. That’s where I found myself. On Sunday (December 11, 2012, to be exact) I was the mother of two boys. On Monday, December 12, 2012, I was suddenly the mother of a boy and a girl. Um, say what?

All of my friends who have girls have had years of preparation for living with, shopping for, relating to and learning how to manage their little female darlings. Not me. One day I was folding piles of boxer shorts( the owners of which was only discernable if I checked the size) and the next, my laundry was overflowing with pinks and purples and other bright, girly colored clothes. Suddenly I had to adopt new laundry practices and start separating colors. The pile of sneakers in the kitchen morphed into stylin’ boots and shoes that were not mine. Hair that had formerly been buzzed off once it got too long to manage was now in need of styling. The closest t-shirts and jeans could no longer be pulled on in haste before heading out the door – now we were creating outfits at 6:30 in the morning. Every “mom of boys” practice that I had finally mastered (yeah, keep telling myself that) was now null and void and all new practices had to be adopted.

Many (well, some) have easily (well, fairly easily) fallen into place. I have learned to build in extra time in the morning to fix the hair, approve the outfit (foreshadow: if her preferred style of dress is any indication of what lies ahead in the teenage years, I am screwed) and help choose the right shoes and earrings. We are still getting into our shopping groove and I am desperately trying to set reasonable precedents in her buying habits, but (okay, total honesty ahead) it is so much more fun shopping with a girl for a girl than with a boy for a boy (don’t judge me) so the adoption of those skills may be a little harder to master. I have faith, however, that with perseverance and practice, we will get the shopping down to a science.

Phenomenons

Jessie and her journey, for which I am just along for the ride, amazes me in different ways and for different reasons every day. And, based upon the reaction from the community, it clearly amazes others, too. I have spent a fair amount of time pondering this and have come up with a few possible explanations:

1. The “what would I do if it were my kid” phenomenon

I have said this before, and will say it again…every person that I know personally (or, I am willing to bet, have one to two degrees of separation from me…however, anyone beyond two I am not prepared for vouch for) would do the exact same thing Rich and I are doing. Perhaps not step by step, but I can assure you, as a loving person (remember, I only let those people in my life) not only would you do it, but you would do it with grace, class and, if you are wise, a sense of humor.

2. The “thank G-d it isn’t my kid” phenomenon

I get this. Trust me. I would like to think that I would save any criticisms, judgments or opinions were I not living this out myself, but, in the interest of honesty, I would have some concerns and would probably wonder if these people (in this case, the Rosses) had lost their minds in allowing a ten-year old to steer such a huge ship. (Aside: she is not in full control of the wheel, we have, like in cars used for driver’s ed, our own special brake pedal). Seriously. To prove it, I will admit that when Harrison was about four I knew a woman who had two sons – one was Harrison’s age and the other was around two. The two year old regularly wore glitterly flip flops and pink polish on both his fingers and his toes. I (and I am not proud of this, just keepin’ it real) recall commenting to another mother that I found that odd and not necessarily a great parenting move. There, I said, it. But here’s the thing…I did think that. I might even have thought it again as recently as six months ago yet I am not homophobic or transphobic (I might have just made up that word)…it just wasn’t on my radar. And that is okay.

3. The “this is juicy shit, makes me feel better about my own stuff” phenomenon

Again, this is fair. This is human nature. I will, again, share my own guilt in subscribing to this thinking. This past weekend there was a big drinking party in my neighborhood which, surprise, surprise, got out of hand and broke up upon arrival of ten police cars at the house. With my nose in the air, I am happy to say that Harrison was not there, but boy, was this a good story. Many of the kids that were there I have known since they were in elementary school. They are, at the core, good kids. Their parents, I am quite sure, were less than pleased and wished like hell that they didn’t have to deal with this whole thing, right down to the “embarrassment” and ramblings among the community. Man, do I get that. Granted, making a bad choice in attending an unchaperoned party is a veritable rite of passage for teenagers and transgenderism is a little (okay, a lot) less expected, but the response is not all that different, really. I own it: I was a little glad to see other people have to deal with stuff that was scary, unpleasant and worthy of being judged by others.

4. The “I always knew something was different with that kid” phenomenon

Anyone who has ever, under any circumstance, met George (n.c.i.) remembers George. This has been corroborated and documented time and again not only by me, but by others (including Harrison) as well. It is at once a beautiful and “sonofabitch” thing. Many people are immediately smitten with her (g.c.i.) opinions (many) thoughts (many) and suggestions (even many-ier). Some are wooed by her charm. Others have described her as disarming, interesting and/or peculiar. But no one ever forgets her. Among the ever-growing list of subscribers to this blog are five of her preschool teachers and several of the administrators and teachers she has had at her current elementary school. One of my favorite comments came from a preschool teacher who said, “Even as a 5-year-old, I knew I had a lot to learn from Jessie!”

5. The “I like the way Julie writes” phenomenon

Well, thanks, if that is why you are interested. I was asked the other day how I came up with stuff to write about so often. My response, which bears repeating, was: trust me, there is no dearth of material.

So, whatever your particular reason is for being interested in this story, I thank you for allowing me to share with you.

Battle of the Exes

Expression. Exclusion. Exercise. Experience. Exposure.

This whole journey began in earnest when George (n.c.i.) came out and expressed his (g.c.i.) need to express himself as a girl. A dramatic moment, years in the making, ultimately culminated by way of a complete social transition. In a matter of days, all signs of boy clothing were gone, hair was growing (but not quickly enough) and the second ear was pierced. Finally able to express herself (n.c.i.) Jessie was, in so many ways, freed. While not gone, the internal struggle took a leave of absence and the outward anxiety was less about fear of repercussion and more about looking pretty, being well dressed and, well, expressing her true self.

In tandem with Jessie’s freedom, Rich and I faced (but mostly feared) the exclusion we were sure to encounter. Already feeling socially, emotionally and financially marginalized as a result of the years of angst we’d lived through, we both knew that we had just wholeheartedly supported our child diving into a half full pool. Comfortable in our decision, we were not so naive as to not feel a deep, aching concern that Jessie was going to take a dive, hit the bottom and crack her neck all in the name of self-expression. We prepared ourselves for haters, naysayers and critics…none of whom we have encountered. Yet.

Our child’s needs, our rights, our minds and our bodies ached for exercise. Jessie, in a manner only a kid could pull off, boldly walked into a teacher’s classroom and spilled the beans one Monday morning. She exercised her option to change her name, her appearance and her place at school with an air of confidence that would bring most adults to their knees. Quickly summoned into the school to elaborate, Rich and I knew enough about our rights as a family to face the issue head on and establish, from moment one, a partnership with the school administration which has, as of this writing, been an incredible (in every conceivable meaning of the word) experience. As the frenzied days slowed to a new normal, our minds and bodies risked becoming, in short order, overwrought, depleted and flabby. We bought up every book we could find on the subject (a particularly good one, considered “the bible” on this subject, is “The Transgender Child a Handbook for Families and Professionals” by Stephanie Brill & Rachel Pepper), tore up the internet with searches ranging from “transgender” to “is my kid transgender” to “how do we know if George is really a girl and needs to follow this feeling or is it something else, or a phase or oh my God, what do we do now?”. Some felt like exercises in little other than futility, while others proved a bit more helpful. So, when our minds were fried, off we went to the gym. Rich would run for miles on a treadmill and I (with lingering and infuriating remnants of the back that betrayed me) would walk in circles at the track for seventy-five minute stretches (the symbolism of each of us going like hell yet getting nowhere was not lost on us)in a somewhat vain attempt to clear our heads. Some days were decidedly more effective than others, yet we carried on.

The experience has been, well, an experience. At the beginning of all of this, a friend commented to me that this was going to be a journey as opposed to an event. Knowing full well what she meant, and agreeing with the basic sentiment, I broke it down a bit more in my mind as not only a journey, but a whole huge series of events and experiences…each completed unchartered. Oh, they have been chartered by some, but not by anyone I ever knew personally and only publicly (and eerily recently) by Chaz Bono who, by dint of being born to celebrities, in his early 40’s and having grown up on “The Sonny and Cher Show” had experienced things differently than we were going to. Nevertheless, his experience became a bit of a starting point for me and, I admit, I did read “Transition” until I couldn’t tolerate it any more — about halfway through. My reason for intolerance was twofold: it somehow bored me (perhaps that was because he was talking about things I had lived through already?) and, it felt like too much exposure.

And that is where I am now. Fearing being exposed. Ironic given my prolific writing on this subject (and trust me, a topic of great discussion with my therapist. Whom I love, by the way), right? The dictionary definition of exposed is “left or being without shelter or protection” which is, actually, not how I feel. To the contrary, I feel tremendous support from friends, acquaintances and strangers (granted, the “strangers” are all no more than two degrees of separation from folks squarely in my safety net) yet what if I have shared my candor, my fears and my journey and it all blows up in my, or worse, Jessie’s, face? What if, what if, what if. Is this all a dream – I mean, really, how crazyass is this whole thing? Is that which seems to appeal to people (my being so out there) in fact an error in judgement? Is there something to be said for going underground with this expression, this exclusion, this exercise, this experience? Or am I achieving what I aim for — doing right by my kid?

Post II for today — this one written by Harrison. (I even left in his spelling mistakes)

I have come to the conclusion that I should put in my own two cents. I don’t think this will serve anyone but myself; but I feel as though I may as well put my thoughts out there. I should also add that I have written this without being permitted by my mother to put this on this page. I plan on writing this, passing it to her and requesting with an oh so charming smile to share this with the (curious) world. Sadly, I have found my writing to be less clever than my mother’s, but I will try regardless.
People always wonder about unfamiliar things. As my mom can vouch for, I am the first person to bombard another with questions. So it would be expected that people would have questions for me about my sister’s transformation and my journey along her side. I have found the question I am asked the most, is a simple one at first glance, “How are you doing with all of this.” All of this is a very broad subject, am I wrong? School is fine, it sucks, but it’s fine. I’m not happy with the weather, but I guess it’s not snowing. I have an amazing girlfriend, she supports all of that. Wait, what’s this… you were referring to my transgender sister (sorry, still haven’t mastered the terminology)… I guess that’s the “this”. I never know how to answer; I don’t think I ever will. Even once the subject in question is narrowed in upon, it’s still so broad. It’s so strange, once I got over the new name and gender pronouns, I felt like I mastered the change. I don’t see all of this anymore. It used to be George (n.c.i) would be having a meltdown about getting a wig… and now… it’s… a… meltdown about getting… a wig. Ok, problem solved, we’re done here.
Not quite.
There are still hurdles, as I can recall, my mom has mentioned in her previous posts about George (n.c.i) and the persona that certainly proceeds him (g.c.i). EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, knows George (n.c.i). Even the Comella’s girl. This is certainly the challenge that is most prominent. I will be walking to class and a friend of mine that is not yet ‘in the loop’ will ask about “George”. In the interest of time, I will give a quick “good” and “keep calm and carry on” as those mugs say. I truthfully feel like I’m lying, and I know it’s only doing a disservice to my family, but I don’t ever get a chance in my day to address everyone. I have no issue with telling people, not at all. Their reaction to it doesn’t affect me. I welcome people to think what they want, that’s up to them. I just don’t like the fact that I haven’t found my way of telling the people in my circle.
As previously stated, I don’t have a goal for this piece, nor a closure. It’s only my two cents. (My English teachers would also be taking off from my grade right about now for a “lack of a “SO WHAT”, but hell, I can do what I want, right? I don’t have a so what; nor do I need one. These are the thoughts bouncing around up there and they need to get out. I appreciate your time in reading this sporadic piece.

As a side note:
Jessie, I love you, but I am bigger. I get to sit in the front.

Oh, brother…where art thou?

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:

And here is a gratuitous shot of Jessie:

CVS Moments

For some reason, I am in CVS every day. Have been for years. Over the past few months, as the George/Jessie transition has ramped up (at warp speed), I have walked through those automatic doors with more than a twinge of anxiety and dread. Who would I bump into? And what would they have heard, or not heard, or want to know, or want to ask? All fair and all categories that I am always more than happy to address, but being presented with that challenge every time I left the house became burdensome. And while I refer to them as CVS moments, that “CVS” has grown to include: the market, the school, Starbucks, the gym, the mall (any mall), the bank, McDonald’s (don’t judge) and any other place that wasn’t my living room. But now that anyone who is anyone seems to know (which is all good) my CVS moments have shifted from the incidental meetings to the blossoming relationships.

Designing has long been an interest (and talent) of Jessie’s. Back in September, prior to any sort of announcement of being transgender, we enrolled her in a sewing class. She and fourteen other girls met for two and a half hours every Saturday morning and created amazing things. She went into the first class (the only boy) without hesitation. She continued to go for weeks and weeks as a boy, even after sharing her story with us. And then, on the first Saturday after her tenth birthday (which is the day, literally, that she fully embraced her true self) she was ready to go to the class as Jessie – right down to the pink jeans and sparkly sweatshirt. In the car ride over, Rich asked if I had “warned” the teachers. I snapped back, “why do I have to tell them…why can’t you?!” (gimme a break – I had been keeping this stuff under wraps and wasn’t at my most patient). To his credit, he agreed, accompanied Jessie to the door and very matter of factly told the teacher that George was now Jessie. Perhaps it was due to her having been spending all these weeks sewing with and getting to know George or just a sign of a different generation, but she was totally unfazed. In fact, I believe her response was, with a flip of the hand, “oh, no worries, I went to Sarah Lawrence”. And that was that. Easy. Especially for me since Rich took it for the team.

And now, we have another hurdle: Jessie has been having a blast at her gymnastics class. She and another little girl have become fast friends and are hatching plans beyond simple playdates (which, incidentally, are not so simple anymore. Oh wait, many of the things that were once done by nature are now more, shall we say…complicated.) but have gone so far as to decide that they want to attend camp at the gymnastics studio together this summer.

The parent 1.0 part of me is thrilled. A new friend who happens to be a sweet kid and, phew, has a cool mother. If only it were so easy. Parent 2.0 (I didn’t know I needed an upgrade, but clearly I did) cannot help feeling as though I have somehow duped this family, although it was never done intentionally. I was fully forthcoming with the issue when I signed her up for the class and the instructor tells me every week that it has never been an issue in any way. The two kids really enjoy one another and seem to connect on a level that is unlike connections in Jessie’s earlier social life. So now I am faced with a new CVS moment of sorts, I am left with the task of finding the right time, place and language to share with this mom that the little girl her daughter has been enjoying for the past several weeks has a penis. Oh my.

In this particular instance, I have no concerns about how the mother will react. (Famous last words) By a strange and beautiful coincidence, this new-to-me mom was, about twenty years ago, neighbors with my brother and sister-in-law so I already have, by association, some degree of credibility with regard to my decency. However, I still have to be proactive and allow her the opportunity to hear, take in and then disseminate to her daughter the information. I suspect it will not change the way the kids feel about one another. File under: unless you have had a transgender child, I am willing to bet that this issue has not arisen for you.

Things like this happen every day now. The original CVS moments have all but gone away now that we have gone wide, but every day has challenges of varying degrees and meaningfulness. Some are just silly, like the other day when we went to Chipotle for burritos and Jessie kept asking for more beans. The guy (at least I think it was a guy…I don’t take anything for granted anymore) gave us a look as if to say, “any more beans and you will explode” but I, in my infinite wisdom, said, “he likes beans”. Good job, Julie…outed your own kid. Some are more disconcerting. I am quite sure,for example, that I referred to Jessie as “he” more than once during my first meeting with the gymnastics mom. (Maybe that was actually brilliant. I subconsciously set her up for the information I am going to share with her. Soon. Really.) And some are downright funny. Here is an exchange that I can pretty much guarantee has never happened in a house without a transkid:

Jessie, while climbing over the sofa: “owwww, my nuts!”
Me in a vain attempt to breed some more femininity: “Jessie, little girls don’t talk about their nuts”
Jessie: “Mom, little girls don’t have nuts”.

And there you have it.

Defining Moments

Note: My father, one half of the intended recipients of this letter, passed away in January, 2006. He adored all of his grandchildren and loved George (who, as it happened, was named for his father) in part, because he knew that George was true to himself, even at a young age, and had the same mischevious streak my father was famous for.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you. You did something right. I know because I (with Rich solidly by my side) have been able to co-navigate (Jessie is at the helm) this latest unexpected voyage.

Dad, you used to wax philosophic about “defining moments” as a parent. I remember one in particular that was clearly of great meaning to you because if you told me about it once, you told me about it 1,500 times. David was at college in Philadelphia and had written & directed a play which was going on stage one weekend. The four of us who were still living at home (you two, Robbie and me) got in the car and drove the many, many, many (many)hours to see the show. (Sorry, David, but if you put a gun to my head I could not tell you what it was about or, for that matter, what it was called. I do recall the opening scene involving you in boxer shorts on a bed. Creepy.) Following the performance several carloads of kids (to me they were old, remember, I am the youngest – and best looking – of the kids) headed to a local all night eatery and pigged out as only college kids can at one in the morning. There were probably a dozen to fifteen people all on a post performance (and sugar) high. When it was time to leave, everyone just got up and started heading toward the cars. Except you, dad. You stayed behind and paid the bill. Right then and there you commented on how it felt to suddenly realize that you were the parent, the adult and the one who was there to take care of the rest of us.

Fast forward to a few years after dad died and Harrison needed an emergency, middle of the night appendectomy (why are they always emergency and middle of the night?). Mom, you were fairly recently widowed and still getting used to living alone for the first time in your life. I called you and said I needed help with George (n.c.i.) and you were at my house in about half the time it should have taken you to arrive. You didn’t hesitate, hem and haw or, I think, brush your hair. It was a “just what you do for your children” moment. Interestingly, that night, right after being told by the surgeon that Harrison needed to be in the operating room right away I had my first “defining moment” (Rich agreed it was, too): we were the adults, the parents, the people who were going to do everything in their power to make sure our kid was okay.

Over these past several weeks as the news about Jessie has emerged, I’ve heard over and over again from people that they are so impressed with how we are handling this and what wonderful parents we are. It has made me uncomfortable (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I hate to have the bar set so high!) but I wasn’t really sure why. I suppose I knew intellectually that there are many parents and families out there that would not be accepting and supportive of the decision of a ten year old to socially transition from male to female (aside: you don’t want to know the statistics regarding suicide rates among the transgender community) but I simply don’t know any of those people. And I know why.

I learned from you, my parents, that in this short life we need to surround ourselves with wonderful, loving and accepting people. We need to be supportive of one another and not judge. We need to look at those D.M.s as a sign of sorts that “we’ve got this” and then dig in and find the energy and courage to face it head on.

Jessie and Harrison might not yet really understand that Rich and I are people and not just parents, but I hope that when they are my age and are faced with the kinds of challenges that they have brought to us (yeah, thanks fo that guys), they will have surrounded themselves with wonderful, loving, accepting people…just like their parents taught them.

Love.Love.Love

p.s. I cherish this picture. I wish I had one with you in it, too, mom…