Making Points

What seems, at this point, like an eon ago, each day as her Facebook status, my friend Karen posted a cryptic number.  Being as clever as I am, I soon realized that the numbers were in descending order as the days progressed yet I did not know why.  Finally, in a fit of frustration over my inability to determine what exactly the numbers represented, I finally inquired and was told that it was her countdown until school started.  What?!  It was the beginning of August.  Here in the Northeast school is a September through June kind of deal…what is up with those Nebraskans?

From the moment she shared her good fortune with me I have been envious.  There, I said it.  She has already settled comfortably into the school routine and has, in all likelihood, been availed of the opportunity to catch her breath and (at least attempt to) regain her sanity.  No fair.  I am still nearly a full week away and am riddled with  (a healthy dose of ?) anxiety leading into the start of fifth grade, not to mention Harrison’s college applications and senior grades which need to be kept up to (or beyond?) standard fare.  Oh, dear Lord.

As if this summer has not been Herculean enough in its challenges, now I have to manage not only the wait for the start of school but the actual transition itself.  Damn.  While I am counting down, I might just as well count up, too.

 

For example, the fabulous fifth grade team at school was considerate in sending out their supply list on the early side this year (right around the time Karen’s kids were getting on the school bus) and I, in a moment of clarity and thoughtfulness, managed to get to Target before it was overtaken by mob scenes and empty shelves and successfully check off everything on the list.  That’s one point for me.

Jessie’s shoes all fit.  The volume of clothing she owns would put a Kardashian to shame.  Her hair could use a trim, but it is nothing that a well placed headband or hair clip won’t rectify.  However, in a show of pure girl, she is chomping at the bit for a few new outfits for the start of school.  Of course she is.  I still have close to a week in which to find some time to do a little shopping, so no points earned yet.

Harrison is well in control of his college application process having just this morning completed the common application (friends with like age children relax: we’ve not hit the submit button…) and is beginning to get mentally prepared for the start of his senior year of high school with an eye on the prize of acceptances at any of a number of schools that would be a good fit for him.  I get one point if for no other reason than having had the wherewithal to hire a college coach to help us.

I’ve put money in both kids’ lunch accounts (yep, I have been known to add to one but not the other…oops), gotten Jessie a new (pink) snack bag with the threat that, should she lose it, she is shit outta luck as I am not buying another one, ever.  I have begun the task of getting everyone to at least consider going to bed before midnight in a (perhaps vain) attempt to make mornings go smoothly.  I have even begun hoarding snack sized snacks to drop in backpacks in the morning.  I will take that as four points.  I need ‘em where I can get ‘em.  That brings me to six which is a stupid number – it isn’t five but it isn’t ten, either.  Where to scrounge up another four points?  Let me see…

Medical and dental check-ups have either been had or are scheduled.  If I were greedy (and desperate) I would could that as two points, but will settle for one.  I’ve thought about disassembling the drying rack from the tub which has served as a bathing suit hanger for the summer.  I have gone as far as to consider where it will be stored during the non-water based season.  In my world, that is worthy of a point.  Two more, two more.  I can do this.  Oh, I know!  I have not done it yet, but I am planning to input into my phone/calendar all the important dates of the coming school year (read: the early release and no school days) so I am not caught unaware…not that that has ever happened to me.  And the final point will be earned when I get a chance to unload on my therapist who has been on a much deserved vacation which will, in turn, relieve both me and my family of the walking ball of stress/anxiety/short temperedness that I have become over these few short summer months which everyone else in the world other than me, hates to see end.

I anxiously await the moment when I can point and shoot the “first day of fifth grade” picture and throw it up on Facebook for all to “like”.  I also have high hopes for reaping the benefits of being in a routine and, if nothing else, having six whole hours to myself during which I will be looking for a job.  (Note: anyone with projects or gigs that you need someone like me to fill, I can be your girl!)  With ten points in my pocket I am well on my way to successfully embarking on another adventure: the school year.  To all of you with kids on the same September – June schedule as I:  Good luck as your children go back to school in the next few days.  For those of you who are already well entrenched in the rhythm of the school year: Time to start counting points again!

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Stop & Shop. But First, Stop and Take a Deep Breath

I don’t mind food shopping.   In fact, I would go so far as to say that I actually kind of like it.  In the face of the chaos of these past several months, I find myself almost craving the repetitious, rhythmic calm of walking through the aisles plucking the same items from the same shelves week after week.  When I enter the market I find a cart with a cup holder; not for a cup or to hold a scanner, but to loop my reusable bags to avoid their wasting precious cart space.  I then pull a Purell wipe from the dispenser (when it isn’t empty) and rub it along the handle in a (vain?) attempt to de-germ it and proceed towards the produce.  It is an easy, predictable, mindless routine.  But, this is my blog and therefore, you know that something is going to happen, right?

Well, it all started off normally which, in hindsight, should have been a warning to me given the way things tend to go down when I am around.  I wiped the handle of the cup holder-less cart (was that an omen of some sort?), grabbed some bananas, baby carrots and fresh rolls and, after having pulled my number for the deli, took my position in the group of people awaiting fresh turkey and mortadella.  Today was going to be easy – they were a scant three away from my number and it appeared that the deli was well staffed which is not something that one can assume at this particular store.  Feeling the calm already.

I completed my order (turkey, maple honey ham, sharp cheddar, American, roast beef and, as a special treat this week, liverwurst.  I know – gross.  I have never actually tasted it, but Rich and Harrison are fans…) and began my departure out of the first section and rounded the corner to (what I expected to be) the “Sale Aisle” the items of which I am always a sucker for.  Imagine my surprise when I was greeted instead by the organic/gluten-free/fancy stuff which, I know from years of experience, are supposed to reside in the very last aisle of the store. As I continued on what was supposed to be my weekly Zen experience, I will admit  to darting my head around in the air (for what, I do not know) wondering if this was a joke, a hidden camera prank or, perhaps worst of all, a sign of things to come.  Sonofabitch, it was.

From there on out the entirety of this enormous store had been completely revamped representing not a shadow of its former self.  I felt perspiration erupting on my upper lip and on the back of my neck in recognition of my increasing understanding that my world was about to be turned upside down.  Again.  Is nothing sacred?  Seriously…it is one thing to have your male born child come to you professing his need to be a girl, but taking the rug that is the supermarket experience right out from under a (increasingly fragile) woman’s feet is quite another.  I took a deep breath and continued to make my way through the aisle, cursing the management that thought this was a good idea.

I will admit that I did start to think that I was crazy and that my reaction was unfounded but took great comfort each time I made eye contact with another customer who was equally exacerbated by the experience.  It almost felt like more than I could bear which I know sounds unreasonable, but my beaten up (down?) psyche could not control how it felt.

The metaphor is so strong as to be funny.  First, my family structure and everything that I had come to know as a mother for the first ten years of George/Jessie’s life was tossed in the air and has been in something of a free fall ever since.  And now, the placement of my Cheerios and Spaghettios (don’t judge – my mother let me eat them and look how I turned out) in the market I have been patronizing for as many years is in a free fall of its own.  Is this some form of collusion?  What’s next…are they going to rearrange everything from the shelves at CVS, too?  (Actually, now that I think of it they did that a couple of years back.  Perhaps that is when it started in earnest; the plot to mess with my head to the point of no return.)

I am happy to report that I made it through my shopping and only had to loop back ten or eleven aisles to find something I had missed the first time.  It wasn’t my fault…if they hadn’t moved it everything would be okay.  Or would it?

Where’ve I Been?

This week I did something that I seldom do: I went underground.  Since last I blogged, it has been a shitty week and I have “opted” to (and by “opted” I mean unable to do otherwise) shut down.  Phone calls were unanswered and text messages, if responded to at all, were done so with as much brevity as possible.  It was just that kind of heartbreaking week.

Without getting into much (read: any) detail, camp was not the success we had all hoped for.  While Jessie did spend a few days experiencing all that they had to offer, it was simply not the right fit for her.  Not surprisingly, this was a blow to her, the family and the camp administrators who (in contrast to the camp earlier in the season) did everything in their power to make things work.  It just didn’t.  And that is okay…but hard to take.

In keeping with my being shutdown I am going to leave it at that.  I appreciate all the well wishes and I know that you were all right there with my in crossing your fingers and toes for a great experience.  I feel like I owe it all to you who have been so lovingly following our story, to let you in on my unexplained silence all week.

With love and appreciation for all the support,

jr

And The Beat Goes On

This morning, as I lay awake in the wee hours of the morning, I was thinking back on yesterday: the drop off at Jessie’s weeklong overnight camp.  We have all been looking forward to this since back in January when I learned that a wonderful camp exists which is exactly like any other camp with the exception of the fact that all the kids in attendance define themselves as either transgender or gender variant.  There was something magical and surreal about stepping onto those grounds.  A place that, a mere year ago, never would have been on my radar, was suddenly in my nav.

Early in the afternoon Jessie, Harrison, Rich and I piled into the car to head to camp located just over two hours away.  Speaking for myself (which is all I can ever really do, although I have been criticized for being “me” focused) I will cop to an underlying anxiety over what lay ahead.  I had very little idea what to expect and tried to imagine how it felt for Jessie to be heading away for a week with all new people who were, in a profound way, very much like her.  Just as I was driving into a world I can never completely understand, she was leaving a world that doesn’t quite understand her and heading into one in which they do.  That is something that you and I have the luxury of living in every day.  Stop and think about that for a moment.

When we pulled onto the grounds we were greeted by a team of friendly faces welcoming us to camp and directing us where to pull the car for unloading.  As we parked, another car came in directly next to us and out stepped a beautiful teenage girl and her father.  We parents exchanged immediate “hellos” as did Jessie and the other girl.  It took me a beat to realize that she was the camper.  Had I been in any other locale I would never have thought twice about her gender. Seeing (and not taking a second look at) this tall, beautiful long-haired teenage girl who, I belatedly realized, was a biological boy, was a brief and powerful moment for me.  That could well be Jessie in a few short years.

From there we (and by “we” I mean Rich and Harrison) pulled Jessie’s luggage from the trunk (including a huge, fluffy, bright pink pillow) and worked our way over to the welcome table.  I admit that in my head I was silently trying to determine who was transgender and who was not.  It was not that it mattered as much as it was a peek into the future and an attempt to de-emotionalize the experience and see if I could even tell.  Wanna know something: had I not known that we were at a camp for transgender and gender variant kids, I would never have guessed it.  We were at a rustic (read: RUSTIC) camp, with a volleyball net set up in the middle, kids running to embrace friends from last summer, counselors trying to learn who was who and parents hastily throwing sheets over half-inch thick mattresses.  Sounds like any other camp to me.

There were, however, a few telltale signs that this was a special place. For starters, despite my having made Rich stop at McDonald’s for a Diet Coke on the way up (and having used the bathroom while I was there – which I am telling you for a reason…) upon arrival I had to go to the bathroom (see Diet Coke comment).  I asked a nice young man (hmmm) where the bathrooms were and he pointed to a shack a few hundred feet away.  Out of habit, before entering I took a look to see if it said “girls’” or “boys’” but instead was greeted with a sign that said “everyone’s”.  It was a small, but meaningful sign that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  (Aside: Having been in that bathroom I think it is safe to say that Jessie is going to be longing for her bathroom at home.  She is my kid, after all.)

We proceeded to her bunk where we were greeted by two counselors who, upon learning her name, handed Jessie a sheet of construction paper which had been adorned with her name and allowed her to choose her bed for the week.  After having discussed it in the car, she (in opposition to my suggestion) opted to take the top bunk, with a window at her head.  (I understand the allure, I just never liked being on the top bunk in anticipation of night-time bathroom needs.  I never said I wasn’t neurotic.)  We put together her bed, turned around and noticed that she was gone.  I went to the door of the bunk and found her, along with a girl from her cabin, wandering across the central lawn to explore the camp.  As she did that first day of school as Jessie, she never looked back.  I took that private moment to inquire as to the make up of the bunk and was told that it was made up of all MTF (Male to Female) children, ages 9-11.  Just a beat off of your kids’ bunk assignments, right?

Rich, Harrison and I then began to wander around ourselves checking out the waterfront, the dining hall and the expanse of the grounds.  Set on a lake on a picture perfect afternoon it felt serene and surreal all at once.  At one point while we were strolling I asked Harrison if this all felt “strange” to him.  Without skipping a beat he responded that, “it would be strange if it didn’t feel strange.”  Amen.

With Jessie nowhere in sight, we hung out chatting with some parents that we have met over the past year as well as meeting new ones.  We are parents with a unique bond, coming from varying walks of life, parts of the country and stages of the process.  About 45 minutes after arriving we attended a parent support meeting for all of us to unload and feel the love of the others who are trying to navigate the same waters.  Some of the stories are strikingly familiar (Barbie dolls!), and others (almost exclusively of people other than the parents) would break your heart in a nanosecond.  Harrison attended the meeting as well and was given the opportunity to share his unique insight with the parents as to how their other children may be feeling.  His comment that “more upsetting than his brother becoming his sister is the fact that she can be irritating” garnered laughter and nods of agreement all around.  (Go, Harrison!)

At the assigned end time of the meeting the powers that be told the families that it was time to go.  I spotted Jessie in the middle of the volleyball court among scads of other kids.  I grappled with getting her attention so I could give her one last squeeze before we left but it was clear that she was comfortable and engaged.  We had said our goodbyes earlier and she was officially at camp.

As we were heading to the car, Rich began a conversation with a gentleman with the name tag “Wayne” (oh, by the way, we were all wearing name tags).  We chatted for a few moments when I realized that this was Wayne Maines who (see if you can follow this…): is the father of the twins who were the focus of the article in The Boston Globe which I was reading on George’s tenth birthday which resulted in his (gender and name choice intended) responding with, “you mean I’m not the only one?” and from which this whole adventure was unleashed.  (Insert exhale here).  I introduced myself and, having read some of my writings, he knew just who I was.  Again: unique bond.  I told him that Jessie will be ecstatic to learn that his daughter is there and that we are grateful to him and his family for their willingness to put themselves out there to make things that much less difficult (I won’t say “easy”) for the rest of us.  It seemed an apropos note on which to take our leave.

In the car heading home, the three of us decided that we would take a detour and enjoy a nice dinner just the three of us – something we seldom get an opportunity to do.  We stopped in Newport, Rhode Island and gorged ourselves on fried clams with ice cream chasers while sitting on a deck overlooking the yachts and energy of the pier.  I found myself looking at people wondering if perhaps they were transgender since I had a new understanding that you really cannot tell…more than you might expect.

As I toyed with getting out of bed this morning (no one needed me to wake them up or make them lunch!)  I reflected on the notion that when camp ended for most kids it was just the moment it started for mine.  I think that pretty well sums up a lot of how things go for this kid (and her mom): being just a beat off.  I wondered if she slept all night in that (icky) cabin and if she will manage to brush her teeth even once in the trough that camps consider a sink.  I hoped that her social connections would come more easily given the fact that every girl in her bunk has a penis and shares many of the same thoughts, concerns and issues that she has.  But mostly, I lay in bed hoping that Jessie is having the time of her life.

p.s. I wish I had a picture to show you but, out of respect for the families and the kids who are stealth in their gender identity, no cameras are allowed at camp.  Again, just a beat off.

Hi Ho Hi Ho It’s Off to Camp We Go…

At precisely the time that all of my friends who have been free of children all summer are welcoming their progeny home, I am preparing – both mentally and physically (as in packing…well, thinking about packing) – for Jessie’s departure tomorrow for one week of overnight camp.  I have reviewed the supply list and believe that just about everything on it is in our possession.  That said, no actual packing has occurred.

I will admit that I have been looking (perhaps even more) forward (than Jessie) to this upcoming week for the entirety of the summer.  I am thrilled at the thought of her being with a group of transgender kids in a setting which is the exact same as the camps that your children have enjoyed with the added bonus that she is among people who (in theory, anyway) are just like her.  The potential for growth, understanding and clarity is mind-boggling.

I will also admit that I am (more than) a little bit anxious about it.  “Why?”, you ask?  Well, for a few reasons:

  1. After the debacle of the camp last week, I have a heightened fear over how she is going to do.  I say that with the clear understanding that she did nothing egregious or particularly out of the ordinary which would have precipitated her untimely dismissal.  However, the fact that Camp #1 was so quick to determine their inability to cope has left me squeamish about all camps moving forward.  The longer I think about what went down there, the more of a “what the fuck” response I have.  Granted, Camp #2 is far better equipped and in tune to the nuances inherent in a child who has identified as transgender, but I contend that, in light of our most recent experience, my angst is appropriate.
  2. Aside from the occasional sleepover at Nanny’s or Uncle Robbie’s, Jessie has never been away from home for longer than one night.  This is a far cry from Harrison who got on a bus the summer after third grade not knowing a soul leaving for overnight camp where he stayed for the following five summers without ever looking back.  File under: how can two kids be born from the same parents and be so wildly different?
  3. I hate packing be it for me or for the kids: I famously either over- or under-pack which winds up sucking for someone.  As such, I have officially relegated this task to Rich as it simply feels too big for me to tackle.  One stinking week away and armed with a detailed list of what will be needed, yet I am somehow paralyzed at the thought.  Methinks that indicates something bigger than folding and placing clothing in a duffel bag, but whatever.
  4. It is going to be very strange to not have her around.  To know Jessie is to (eventually) love her, but she is definitely larger than life and has a way of creating and perpetuating a (ridiculously) high energy level.  I am curious (and by curious I mean anxious) as to how it will feel to have her gone.

We have been thinking, talking and healthily worrying about this week ever since the start of the year when we signed her up and sent in our check.  Now it is here.  Today’s plan is to run around and pick up a few of the items that she is missing (like, for example, rain boots which, if I will venture to guess, will never be worn either at camp or ever) and finalize the mental preparations for Jessie’s week at camp.

I have my fingers crossed that it will be nothing but a wonderful experience and that she will sail through socially, emotionally and physically.  Feel free to cross your fingers, too.

A Little Slice of Heaven

Jessie has boldly, and without wavering, long declared a dislike for the beach.  Even when she was a little kid (when, I might note,  we were fortunate enough to have the luxury of a family house literally on the beach) “George” would be good for about twenty minutes and then be done, preferring, instead, to hang out on the porch or in the yard.  I never minded, really, because, truth be told, I am not a huge fan, either.  But let me explain: I love the sound and smell of the ocean, I even like walking on the beach.  It is the sand that I hate.  It is the lousy gift that keeps on giving – mostly taking up residence under my fingernails mocking me for days on end.  My disdain for sand was so well-known that the other families that shared our “private” beach area used to tease me when I would arrive by snarkily (yet lovingly) reminding me that there was still sand on our little stretch of beach so I had might want to think of finding another spot.  As such, my wanting to just see the ocean coupled with both Jessie’s and my dislike of sand resulted in not making our way to the shoreline all summer.  Until today.

After lamenting in my last post over missing just a quick siting of the ocean,  I decided that today was the day that I was going to get Jessie into the car, destination unknown (to her, that is) and road trip.  That house which Rich’s family owned for better than forty years (until selling it about five years ago), is a mere 45 minute drive from my house and the beach with which I am the most familiar so  Jessie and I hopped in the car, opened the sunroof, turned on a mutually agreeable radio station and hit the road.  As she continued to inquire (relentlessly) as to where we were headed I continued to ignore her query.  All I wanted to do was to see the ocean. Hearing it would be a bonus.  It wasn’t until she began to recognize some of the landmarks along the way (which surprised me) that I had to fess up.  My admission was, not surprisingly, met with displeasure.  Argh.

Once we turned the corner and saw the water which was filled with people who were more than waist deep, her attitude began to change.  She had spent enough time there as a little kid to know that the days that the water is warm enough to go in without turning blue were few and far between and the vision of more than a few people in past their ankles confirmed that today was one of those days.  She turned to me for confirmation that I had thrown a bathing suit in the car which, of course, I had not.  (Remember: she hates the beach…and my only goal was to see it!) As I continued driving past the public beach (after having been going there for 25+ years there was no way I was paying to park there…) and heading back towards where “our” house was, she grew increasingly excited and insistent that I turn the car around, go home and get a bathing suit.  Resolute in my decision to just look at the water, I reluctantly parked (illegally) in front of the old house and followed Jessie down to the beach.  When I saw, there on the private beach where the swimmers having a higher metric by which they judge the acceptability of the water temperature, a far greater than normal number of people actually frolicking in the waves, I agreed to see if we could buy a bathing suit in town…but only if I could find a spot directly in front of the store.

Being blessed with exceptional parking karma has its downside: I indeed found a spot directly across from a cute little store that I believe is new to the area since I have no recollection of ever having seen it before.  We went in, found a suit that fit her perfectly, added a cute pair of gym shorts with the beach name emblazoned across the butt (remember…we have to conceal that which indicates to the world that she has parts other than one might expect) and headed back to the water.

When we pulled back onto the street, I noticed that an additional car was in the driveway of “our” house that had not been there fifteen minutes earlier. It made me think (I am so clever) that someone had just gotten home.  So, (and anyone who knows me in real life will not be surprised by this), I knocked on the door, introduced myself and asked if they minded if I parked in front of the house.  (Since this is the private beach for residents only, the town police are very quick to tag cars that don’t seem to belong.  I really did not want to get a ticket.)  And, (again, IRL people will not be surprised to hear…) since I was halfway in the door already, I asked if I could see what she had done with the house.   She could not have been more gracious and proceeded to give me a top to bottom tour – the highlights of which included a fabulous kitchen, a new master suite, two additional full bathrooms and a sun shower in the back.  In short, she did everything that we all used to sit around and fantasize about, but, with a desire to remain true to its beach house status (and, frankly, not spend the crazy amount of money that it would require) never did.  The house looked amazing and different enough from the house we spent so many years in that melancholy did not set it.  A little bit of envy, maybe, but not melancholy.

Fresh off our tour, Jessie and I headed to the beach where she was, within about fifteen seconds, in the water (in her new suit) working her way into the crowd of a dozen or so tweens and teens who were all valiantly trying to boogie board on what looked to be several copies of the same yellow boogie board.  As I was in shorts and a tank, I lingered by the water’s edge, trying to determine what was being said and to assess how she was doing.  When I noticed some kids rolling their eyes and shrugging their shoulders, I grew concerned and summoned her back to shore which, not surprisingly, she ignored.  I did wonder to myself if she had “shared” (as she did for no apparent reason at the pool earlier this season) but because she couldn’t hear me over the surf (or something like that) I could not tell for sure.  When she did come out, just a few moments later, she assured me (before I even had the opportunity to ask) that she had not “told them my secret.”  We then walked for a few moments, gathering the best of the shells and rocks until she announced that she was done.  See?  Twenty minutes were all she needed.  Man, would I have been pissed if I had lotioned, blanketed and suited up for that.

By this point I was starving and suggested that our next stop be a celebrity hamburger joint one town over.  She, of course, balked and said she didn’t want to go.  Firm in my resolve to have a day trip adventure, I denied her any choice and headed to my next destination.  Once again, my parking karma was exceptional and we got a space directly in front of the entrance.  We walked in and were escorted to a table by a hostess whom I would soon learn, was named Alyssa.  She was adorable and Jessie was quick to engage her in conversation.  In the time it took me to excuse myself to the restroom to wash my hands, they discussed the gems on the nape of Alyssa’s neck (which, we learned, can only be surgically removed), her many tattoos, her insanely bright blue eyes as well as Jessie’s artistic abilities, love of “Project Runway”, desire to matriculate at Parsons School of Design and her support of “non-visible when clothed” tats.  We indulged in delicious burgers and sweet potato tater tots (which, incidentally, are out of this world) and continued to banter with Alyssa.  The meal ended with a hug between new friends and a promise from Alyssa that if the next time we come there is a line to make eye contact and she would hook us up.

Still in need of more summer experiences, I hoped to myself that the Dairy Queen which I recalled being on the way home was still there.  Guess what?!?!  It was!  We pulled into the parking lot with Jessie declaring that she was stuffed and my (being the great mother than I am) telling her that one could and, more importantly,  should, always make room for ice cream.  She very quickly agreed and we opted to split an Oreo Blizzard.  Yes, they are as good as you recall.  Armed with two spoons, we went back to the car and watched a babysitter try to wrestle her four charges into the car and off for their own adventure as we inhaled our frozen confection.   From there we headed in the direction of home.  As we were driving we both settled into our own food comas and I commented that I could not believe what we just ate.  Jessie’s response: “that, mom, was being in heaven.”

And, for the first time in a very long time, I would say that indeed, she and I were in heaven today.  We both got just enough of the beach, a delicious lunch complete with a new friend, delectable dessert and smooth waters all around.  I don’t think I even have any sand under my nails.

When we arrived back home I asked if she wanted to head to the pool.  “No, mom.  Today was already perfect.  Let’s not mess with it.”

Cry, Baby

UPDATE RE HARRISON: This is my blog, so I get to share whatever I choose.  Harrison, his best friend Alex (of an earlier post) and Alex’s gf Alize just came back from a trip to Best Buy.  They entered the house telling me that a little old lady had fallen breaking her hip while walking into the store and Harrison, using his life saving training, was the first responder while others stood around watching.  He comforted and stabilized her until the arrival of the EMTs.  Alex and Alize told me they were kind of amazed at how professional and helpful Harrison was.  That might just make me cry tears of happiness…

Upon reading this, I see that it might appear to be a plea for sympathy.  Not really…just keeping it real.  xo

I have been on the verge of tears for days now.  (If we are being honest, it is more like weeks, but it seems more profound over the past few days.)  I cannot quite discern why I feel this way, although I can think of a lot of things that are going on which would make many people shed a tear.  None seems to come to the surface as the reason, though, which is actually irritating me to no end.  More irritating is that the tears seem to be unable to break through and let loose…they are stuck.

It has certainly been a tumultuous year.  This whole parenting a child who has identified as transgender can wear on anyone, but add it to all the regular stuff that life throws (hurls is a more appropriate word) at you and it can make you just want to sit down and weep (rocking and thumb-sucking are optional).

I am not much of a crier.  As a kid I cried all the time and had a penchant for slamming doors in the middle of said break down just for good measure.  (My biggest disappointment when we moved to our new house when I was eleven was that my room had a sliding door which was nearly impossible to slam without taking a few fingers out in the process which served as a real impediment to my drama queendom).  As an adult, I tend not to resort to tears in part because when I do, I am loath to make them stop since I know that they have arrived out of pure frustration after having been unconsciously held in for long stretches.  All fits of crying are invariably followed by red, puffy, swollen and painful eyes which endures for a good twenty-four hours.  (I have been known to use Preparation H on them to reduce the swelling.  And, yes, it works) No matter what I do, I am assured that the entire day following a crying jag is going to be unpleasant, uncomfortable and undesirable.  (Someone once told me that it is because my eyes are blue that they react that way…I think it is just a little “fuck you” thrown in for good measure; as if it wasn’t bad enough to live through heaving, shaking crying, I had to be served with a reminder of it for hours to come.  Whatever.)

I never cry when I am scared or sad.  I know that to be true because I did not cry when I was told that I had breast cancer or when I held my father’s hand as they disconnected the life support which was keeping him alive.  I didn’t cry when George became Jessie overnight…not right away, anyway.  And I didn’t cry when Harrison had to have a middle of the night emergency appendectomy.  No, those are normal times to cry.  Those are also the times that I am the person you want in the room, the person who will manage the situation and find something funny about it.  Instead, I wait to cry when I feel as though my innards are going to literally splatter all over the wall if I don’t somehow, someway, let them adjust to the latest issue, no matter how major or minor it might be.

Admittedly, there is a lot going on for me and my family right now.  The summer has been speckled with traumas;  some minor (like seeing, due to an ill-fitting bathing suit, an old man’s junk at the pool…only to later learn that it was a friend’s father)  to more significant (like Harrison’s unfortunate incident involving a sharp stick and his bare heel or Jessie’s greatly abbreviated camp experience or my run-in with first an x-ray machine on my face and then a heavy toy on the top of my foot) but all, in their own special ways, traumatic.  And I haven’t really cried yet.

We are all healthy.  We are all safe, well fed (I am a bit too well fed, actually) and have a comfortable (read: air-conditioned) home.  But, the truth is, the summer has sucked.  I’ve not seen the ocean once which, for a New Englander is akin to death.  I had one lobster but it was at a friend’s house and there was no accompanying smell of salt water and sand.  (There were, however, good adult beverages.)  The daily threats of afternoon thunderstorms have weighed me down with laziness against going to the pool only to have to pack up and run out through the clouds at the first clap of thunder.  Lethargy has set in and tears have eluded me.  And, frankly, that worries me.

The start of school is just around the corner and never an easy time for Jessie (or her mother).  Harrison is starting his senior year of high school and will be even more bogged down with essays and studying than he has been this summer.*  And here I am , trying to find a good time and place to bawl my eyes out so that I am in the best shape possible to get them through.  I can do this.  I can do this.  I can do this…I might have to go chop an onion to get the ball rolling, though…dammit!

Oh, and a word of caution; if you are with me and I do start to cry you may want to beat a hasty retreat to somewhere other than with me since when it happens, it is ugly.  I won’t be offended.

*Please indulge me and allow me to give a shout out to Harrison for how incredibly hard he has been working all summer: saving lives by day (theoretically, anyway) and banging out his college essays and studying for another round of ACTs  by night.  It is not the way any almost 18-year-old wants to spend the summer, but he has and I am crazy proud of him….really.

Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes. Just Not These.

Who doesn’t like new shoes?  I know I love them and have been known to fashion an outfit around a new pair just for an excuse to wear them.  This, however, is not exactly what I had in mind:

As if the start of the week wasn’t traumatic and upsetting enough, yesterday I managed to drop this on my foot:

Which resulted in this:

And required a visit here:

Which garnered a recommendation of these:

Which just sucks all around.

The End.

Not So Smooth Sailing

Remember the smooth sailing I was reveling in just yesterday?  Well, yeah, that was just a joke apparently; one which I did not happen to be in on, however, which makes it just that much less funny.

The morning at camp got off to a good start.  Jessie was energized.  The camp counselors and administrators were prepared and welcoming.  I was confident even enough to write a wildly optimistic (not to mention off the mark) blog post about it.  And then, unbeknownst to me, at about 9:15 a.m., it all started going south.  Fast.  Although I did not receive a midday call (talk about being lulled into a false sense of security) I did have one “live” and two phone conversations with the director by the time 6:30 p.m. rolled around.    By the end of the second call it was agreed upon that Jessie was done with camp.  Yep.  Done.

The specifics are not important (but I will say that she did nothing egregious, dangerous or horrendous) but the fact remains: it was a fail from which we are all reeling.  What could go so terribly wrong in those seven hours as to leave me in a heap and Jessie feeling like shit?  While there are a lot of potential schools of thought, after having (sort of) slept on it as well as putting in an emergency call to her therapist (who is away on vacation for the entire month…oy),  it seems to boil down to something equal parts crazy simple and ridiculously complicated.

Since having identified as transgender, Jessie, while socially presenting as a ten-year old girl, is still, in many ways emotionally, socially and physically a boy.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  Despite all our rah-rah talk of acceptance and allowing our children to be whomever they are, Jessie walked into that camp (or any other situation) with a deep desire to fit in and an even deeper knowledge that she is neither like the girls nor the boys.  As a result, she simply does not know how to traverse the relationships necessary for success.

But everything at school went so smoothly and without incident…what’s with the tidal wave and the resultant massive departure from smooth sailing?  Again, simple yet complicated: at school she was closely watched, protected and already (at least somewhat) understood among her teachers and peers.  Everyone knew George and, as a result, were well equipped to understand Jessie when she came on the scene.  Arrival at camp, with an entirely new crop of kids and administrators, reminded us all of just how much gender plays a role in everyday life.  She passes easily for a girl yet there is something that one cannot quite put their finger on that is “different” about her and regardless of how accepting an environment is, different is tough.

So here we were faced with a situation in which the kids (including counselors which are mostly kids themselves) didn’t quite know what to make of this larger than life child nor did she know how to infiltrate the social stratum which, I see clearly, equals disaster.  It also equals several more weeks of Camp Julie.  Oh dear G-d.

Today has worked out okay for both of us.  We are working with one another to try to assure that we both have at least one of our daily needs met and that neither one of us loses our minds in the process.  Hopefully we can move up to two or three needs per day as time goes on.  Until then, taking it one day at a time…

 

p.s. I really appreciate all the shows of support on FB earlier today.  Makes me feel a little less like a sinking ship.