Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Voice Male

As many of you know, my daughter Gabi is now my son Tyler...and I am working on a collection based on my experience with this transition...here is a piece I'm working on...

I don’t recognize her voice on the other end of the phone anymore. And I can’t even talk about it without dissolving into a blubbering mess. I know it’s because it isn’t her voice anymore. My little Gabi-roo isn’t on the other side of the conversation. It’s Tyler’s voice. I have a voicemail from the day she got her T prescription and I swear I’m never getting rid of it. It is a last token of the daughter who is no more.

I was sharing this at a recent girls’ night out and before I could really drive home my pain and disillusionment at this new development, I was interrupted.

“If it makes you feel any better, my son’s voice is completely different too,” my friend Jana shared. “And,” she added with a little laugh, “I won’t let him change the message on his voicemail because it’s still his little-boy voice.”

It had never before occurred to me that moms of sons always go through this. This shedding of the childhood skin as they grow into the armor of adulthood. There is something comforting in that, and something that makes me irritated that I have no exclusive or even unique claim on this little bit of transition trauma.

For all intents and purposes this phenomenon is absolutely, 100% normal. All little boys’ voices give way to manly baritones and you don’t see mothers donning black veils and wailing at the cruel injustice that has erased the last vestiges of the child they’ve known for so many years.
Somehow, I thought my sorrow was something new. I claimed it as evidence – tangible proof – of how hard this whole thing really is. But Jana’s innocent comment, sharing the same experience with her own child, completely deflated my case.

I felt a little bit better when I discovered I wasn’t alone in my difficult adjustment to Gabi’s (I mean Tyler’s) new voice. Apparently when my grandma saw Tyler for the first time after starting T, both she and my mom started crying and just couldn’t stop. Which isn’t really front-page news for those two but, nonetheless, when Tyler told me about it I was completely dumbfounded – and he was annoyed.

And then I started thinking about my grandmother. She has probably seen more drastic changes in the world around her than I could ever imagine seeing. In her lifetime men have walked on the moon, television went from black-and-white to color to 3-fricking-D, and everyone started carrying around tiny computers in their pockets. And, for an 80-something lady (even though she insists she’s only 25), she rolls with the punches like a pro. I had to explain to Gabi that Grandma’s crying wasn’t a judgment, a dismissal or a sign of non-acceptance. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite.

Not only is this a lady who was born before the Great Depression, but the obvious changes from nearly six months on T were a visual – and auditory – shock. I’m not even sure the whole thing really made any sense to her until she saw and heard Gabi looking and sounding like Tyler. Thank God I’ve been able to watch it happen. I’ve had the advantage of being shocked in regular doses as my daughter becomes my son. But I still get choked up every time that unfamiliar voice greets me on the other end of the phone.

How in the hell have mothers dealt with this dramatic change for, basically, ever? How come no one has started a support group? Where are the guides for how to deal with your child’s changing voice? There should be some kind of 30-day chip, or (even better!) a nice bottle of wine for those of us who’ve faced this trial and come out the other side, if not unscathed, then a little bit wiser and whole lot less blubbery. Obviously, according to my friend, the process is jarring whether you were expecting it or not – so how come no one else is boo-hooing about the loss of their baby’s pure, innocent, original voice?

Then it dawned on me. Compared to every other mother out there I’m a giant pussy.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Nostalgia Is for Suckers! (or how I became that creepy person staring at your kids)

I've noticed a weird phenomenon lately.

I'm obsessed with young families.

Like, REALLY obsessed.

Last nite I was at an outdoor concert and the early summer night was perfect. The crowd was cool and totally manageable (I'm SO old!). There were beer and wine for sale. Granted, the wine came from a (Franzia) box, but $4 is the best deal you're going to get in Utah for a pour of vino, so I politely looked the other way.

Yet in the midst of all the awesome people-watching, cheap wine sipping, and amazing music, I found myself greedily staring at all the people with young children in tow. I couldn't take my eyes off them.

Savannah pictures a utopian city where there are no children. A city where, like a bar anywhere in America, you must be 21 to enter.

This is her version of paradise.

"But you'd miss out on so much joy," I said.

Her solution was some kind of day-pass to a city that allows children where you could go to a park or other public venue to get your kid fix (if you're into that sort of thing).

There are things kids bring to the party that even the world's most amazing party planner could never replicate.

They bring fresh eyes.

They take everything literally. (Literally.)

They bring silly mistakes, goofy faces, unbridled laughter, heartbreaking tears.

Children bring joy.

As I watched hippie parents with tattooed calves and flowing dresses dance with their exuberant offspring I thought, "That is something I'll never have again."

Realizing that something so beautiful, so full of hope and potential - and so grounded in the present moment - was no longer in my purview, hit me like a punch straight to the gut. 

It's no secret that I've fallen hopelessly in love with my newest niece. To an extent that my kids joke about her being my first grandchild. But I just realized I'm also in love with the newness of my brother's family.

It's perfect.

And by perfect, I mean complete.

The pastor at my former church once preached a sermon about the word "perfect." One of the things I loved about him was his geeky, scholarly nature. Along with a sermon you often got the bonus of an intricate history or language lesson.

"Perfect doesn't mean without flaw," he said. "It means the thing is complete."

For some reason that's always stuck with me. I love the idea of perfection as completion. As something becoming the most it can be. Its best self.

That's how I feel about these young, beautiful families. From my perspective they are complete.

And I miss that feeling you only have when your children are young. It's amazing how relaxing it can be to have no idea what's coming next - but that anything is possible. And even though you may have a faint inkling that this moment is somehow exceptional, you'll never know its perfection until you view it from a distance.

Some may say I'm in the throes of empty nest syndrome, and maybe they're right. But I feel like it's more a case of my eyes, heart, soul, and mind being truly open.

My new neighbors recently had a baby. A baby they were not, in fact, expecting. And the news filled me with joy. A situation that - if it happened to me - would be entirely devastating, seemed like the most awesome thing ever.

Of course I always wonder how you can be growing that new life - that veritable parasite - within your body and not realize it's there. My kids both kicked my ass pretty much from the moment they were conceived, so I can't imagine what it's like to have no idea they've taken up residence in your womb.

As soon as I heard the news all I wanted to do was meet the little bugger. I went out and bought a baby gift - for people I don't even know. But I couldn't help myself. I was excited. When I delivered the gift (which was actually my first meeting with the baby momma) I profusely offered myself as a source of help and comfort. I probably freaked her out. If she's ever watched a Lifetime movie, she's most likely already called the cops to lay the foundation for her accusation against me when her bonus bundle of joy goes missing.

My overwhelming reaction seemed a bit much - even to me.

Then I found myself playing the part of creepy park stalker last night at the concert. As I gazed enviously at the families around me, I so easily slipped back in time to when I brought my own children to community events like this.

And I realized that even though my present experience was fantastic, there was something about sharing live music in an open-air venue with your bright-eyed bambinos that made it magical.

Children are like magic.

Because everything is new to them, everything is born anew for us - through their wide eyes and utterly amazed expressions. They are the world's most amazing illusionists.

I remember when Savannah was three years old. It was the fucking dead of winter, but the sun was shining and the sky had never been more blue. My enthusiastic toddler - who is a sun-worshiper to this day - was so excited to see the sun that she bolted full-throttle out the front door in nothing but her bare feet and an old t-shirt of mine she was wearing as a nightgown.

Before I even had time to react, she stopped dead on the sidewalk with the biggest look of disbelief and betrayal on her face.

"Has this ever happened before?"

She had never known that the sun could be shining as brightly as 10 shiny things and it could still be as cold as hell outside.

That's what I love about siphoning off a little bit of the world view from a first-timer.

And I guess that's what I must need right now. When I was pregnant with Savannah I craved red meat for the first time in my life. It turned out I was anemic. I needed what that iron-rich slab of flesh could deliver.

Now I need whatever nutrient it is that my niece, my neighbors' surprise baby, and the random, dancing families in the park produce.

If I were a vampire, I think I'd subsist off the innocence of youth - with all of its clean slates and first chances.