In Praise of TransParency

Gwyn’s frolicking in the neighborhood splash pad with a kindergarten buddy and a new friend, all three wearing pigtails and an obnoxious amount of pink. I sit on the bench with their mothers chatting about teachers which for some reason requires my offhand explanation, “Gwyn has two moms.” My new acquaintance nods. “Chrissy is transgender,” she shares, nodding toward her five-year-old who is now being towed around on a noodle. The conversation careens forward.

What?!

Later, we’ve patted the girls dry and they’re out piling playground sand over their legs. We mothers occupy yet another bench. Because I’ve never known an out transgendered preschooler, I ask, “What’s Chrissy’s story?” And then this extraordinary mother tells me how her little boy always loved girlish things, how all the ECFE mothers wondered about his identity, and then one day when he was four he climbed into her lap and asked, “Mommy, why did God make a mistake?”

God didn’t make a mistake, Chrissy’s mother insisted. The next day she took him to Target to buy a new set of clothes. Chrissy danced through the racks announcing to strangers, “I get to buy dresses! I get to wear skirts!” Chrissy goes to kindergarten next year and already her mother has done a presentation on gender inclusivity for the elementary faculty. Chrissy will enter school as a girl.

I am awed, humbled, and suddenly, fiercely, in love with this mother-daughter pair—because this child knows herself, because her mother listens to her and accepts her, because they’re both flexible enough to revise their ideas about their identities, because they’re fearlessly honest as they enter the ever-widening circles of childhood… I love this mother’s transparency. I love the possibilities for Chrissy’s life in spite of the many hardships I’m sure she’ll endure. I love that Chrissy will know her mother’s love regardless of what else happens.

Who knows why our bodies are the way they are, fleshy and fit, broken and breaking out, male and female and the spectrum between? Who understands the indomitable nature of our souls? Creation unfurls immeasurable variety, and all of it can be transparent to this unexpected, revising love.

–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

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A friend of mine recommended this amazing blog, Transparenthood, in case you’d like to learn more.

Just in case anyone wants to sign up at the eleventh hour, there are still two spaces left in my retreat from June 15-19, 2015:  Alone Together:  Write That Book at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.

And if you’d like to explore revision within your writing, pencil in September 12-16, 2016, for a retreat at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.  More to come!

Paper Doll Spirituality

IMG_2210Recently Gwyn’s kindergarten celebrated the 100th day of school with an assignment to bring a hundred things to class. We suggested Gwyn put one hundred beads on a string. No interest. We suggested she count out a hundred elbow noodles. No go. On a whim I said, “I bet if you gathered up all the paper dolls you’ve made, you’d have a hundred.”

Gwyn has been making paper dolls obsessively for over a year. She has Emily or I draw an outline of a body, then she colors the skin, face, and hair and creates a wardrobe—with flaps. For Christmas her great aunt gave her paper doll stencils which occasionally now take the pressure off us. When Gwyn read about how Betsy and Tacy cut their paper dolls from magazines, she added that variation. Her favorite paper dolls she makes in sets—the Christmas set with Mr. and Mrs. Santa and some elves; the Frozen set with Anna and Elsa’s complete wardrobes; the “Mama, Imma, and Gwyn go to Hawaii” set, with hula skirts and lava-proof suits. I particularly love the set of God paper dolls. They have enormous heads, small bodies, and they’re related: grandfather and grandmother God, the parent Gods, the kid Gods with curly hair, the toddler Gods. “All the world’s a family,” Gwyn likes to say. I’m glad that’s how she thinks of God. (more…)

Imprinting Fall

small_5236103680As I write, my computer screen reflects the view out the window behind me: a maple tree, yellow, glowing from within, against a brilliant blue sky. Here in Minnesota we’re experiencing one of the longest and most spectacular autumns I can remember. When I’m outdoors raking the sidewalk under this tree or biking Gwyn to school down a street lined with exuberance, I do what every sane Minnesotan does. I memorize it. I store away all that color and warmth the same way we can the fat red heirloom tomatoes from the garden and preserve our abundance of raspberries. We need to be imprinted by a day like this to make it through the winter. We need to saturate our minds with golds and reds and clear blue; we need to soak our skin with the sun’s heat; we need to store up the free feeling of walking without a heavy coat. (more…)