31 August 2008

Coming Together at the End of Summer

Just got back from a barbecue with Millie and John. It's great to have such good friends living right across the street from me!

I met Millie the day I moved to this block. Two weeks ago--the 17th--marked the sixth anniversary of that move and meeting.

That day seemed like the hottest in the history of the planet, and that summer still seems like the hottest I can remember. I came to this block with two cats: Charlie I (I now have another cat named Charlie.) and Candice. Since I moved them into the apartment before I brought in any of my belongings (Contrary to the delusion they believe, humans belong to their cats!), the first thing Millie saw when I moved in was me with my cat totes in my hands. I think that she decided right then and there she liked me.

That day, I had no idea that one day--not so far into the future, as it turned out--I would spend afternoons, evenings and days in her house, sharing barbecues, holiday dinners, my birthday and cups of coffee--and, after I made the switch, tea. Or that I would baby sit, however briefly, her grandchildren. Or that her any of her friends--like Catherine, whom she's known since they were children, and who shared chicken, ribs, corn-on-the-cob and lots of other foods with us today--would become a part of my life.

And I don't think that Millie or anyone else on this block knew what I would soon undertake. I am talking, of course, about my gender transition. That guy who moved onto the block is turning into a girl! Oh my!

But, as it turned out, I could hardly have met anyone more generous or loving than Millie or John. We always need people like them, but I don't think there was ever a time when I needed people like them more than at the time when I met them.

Some might say that they are like parents or an aunt and uncle for me. I wouldn't argue that. For one thing, they're only a few years younger than Mom and Dad. And Millie, in some ways, reminds me of my mother. She can seem fierce because she's often loud and strident. But her way is really a reflection of her passion and compassion. Also, she,like my mother, doesn't suffer fools well but also doesn't abandon people. And she and my mother are both Italian American. Even the foods they cook, and the ways they cook them, have their similarities--although there's still nothing like my mother's lasagna, chicken or eggplant parmagiana, or cheesecake.

But maybe the most important trait they share is this: Once they accept a person, they will accept just about anything about that person, for better or worse. Of course, I've known that about Mom for a long time, so while I didn't quite know how my gender transition would affect my relationship with her, I didn't expect her to banish me from the family. But I didn't understand that quality in Millie until she learned that I was indeed undergoing my changes.

And now, a couple of weeks after a nice visit with Mom and Dad, I am ending--at least unofficially--my "last" summer with Millie and John. It seems fitting somehow.

This is a disconcerting yet exhiliariting time of my life, one in which I feel both anxiety and joy, like the strangest yet most beautiful dream I've ever had. This is a time I never could have envisioned when I first moved to this block, or before that, because I can envision myself as the person I've always wanted to be. I'm drawing closer to her, to being her.

My mother and I were talking about it this morning. I now have a job that I long wanted, although I had given up hope of getting it. And, at the same time, I can look forward--not too far forward now!--to something I've wanted for as long as I can remember.

All right. I'll admit it now. I'm happy to be teaching full time and hearing people refer to me as "Professor." Yes, the education system can be a cesspool sometimes, and education administrators can be petty and arrogant. But that doesn't matter when I am in the classroom because it doesn't matter to my students. All they know is that I'm teaching them. And if they learn from me and like it, we're both doing our jobs.

Funny how, faced with having a full-time college faculty position for the first time, I fell back into denying that I wanted it, or that it is a good thing for me or anyone else. Instead of seeing myself as someone who can share my love of reading and writing, I saw myself as someone who'd become "the enemy."

In other words, I was denying an aspect of who I am. After forty-five years of negating (or trying to negate) my essential nature, I should know better, shouldn't I?

All right. I won't self-flagellate. (That's as bad as self-medicating. Trust me, I know.) I'll go with the opportunity to be who I am. Mom and Millie--who have never met, or spoken to, each other--both said the same thing: "Your life is coming together now."

My life coming together: That's what I wanted six years ago. Actually, that's what I've always wanted, and what I would guess everyone wants. Maybe it's happening in ways, and with people, I never anticipated. Then again, I never claimed to have any great powers of prognostication, and no one's demanding them of me now.

Coming together as my last summer ends. All right: Before I drag this blog into a probably-futile search for symbolism or other "deeper" meanings in that statement, I'm going to stop for tonight.

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