There is a perfectly lovely woman at a local shop who always greets me warmly, and makes genuine, caring conversation with my husband and I when she sees us. She is a homeschooler and so that, I feel, is why she reaches out to connect. But she is a very different type of homeschooler than we: she uses a strict curriculum (for her several children), and the family is an evangelical Christian. Today I got to have that conversation I’ve had so many times in the last few years:
Her: “‘Boys’? I thought you had a boy and a girl?”
Me, smiling: “We thought so too! But we were wrong.”
I wait a beat. It takes most people a second to process what I might be saying.
Me: “Phoenix transitioned this last year.”
Her smile remains, but who knows. It’s funny as in these transactoins I feel a tightness in my chest, a tiny pulse of trepidation. I have become more sensitive to just how fragile community living is. Each person has their own thoughtlife, their own heartaches. People are far more tolerant and loving than they might sometimes appear; I have no idea how this woman feels about a trans child and I won’t ask her, either. I simply smile and hold my head up and radiate the warmth and affection I feel toward her and hope her heart is soft, too.
Later my youngest son climbs into bed with me and puts his arms around me and gives me a kiss and then says (unnecessarily), “I smell like soy sauce.” They boys are growing fast. One of my pleasures in life is watching them emerging from the bathroom after a shower, dressed in clean clothes and scrubbed up, the bathroom somehow laden with warm, soapy water and steam, soaking wet towels and clothes tousled on the floor. I have somehow always associated the proper care of children with relentless cleanliness and of course fresh, delicious foods; much of my last two decades has been spent cleaning and cooking and mending, or fretting over my partner to do some of the same.
So when the boys come in the house or when I come upstairs to check on them their voices and in amiable chatter and they are both so deep. It’s getting difficult sometimes for me to tell their talk from their father’s. My two teens are somehow also so much rougher, even as gentle and kind and joyful as they are, they are a real powerful presence. In the kitchen my son puts his hands on my shoulder and I am looking up into his face; but in my mind when we walk side-by-side his head rests in the crook of my underarm; this was just last week? This just happened? I am increasingly out of the loop, untethered, although I remain calm and minister to their needs and carefully act as if nothing is out of place.
We’re due for a small vacation trip soon and I still have to make sure we’ve flip flop sandals, and the right kinds of sunblock, and swimming trunks, and I don’t have quite enough time to get to it all so the trick is not how will I manage it, but how will I be prepared to transition from the family rush into some kind of tranquility at lakeside.