Happy Birthday, Teddy Carruthers!

Happy Birthday, Teddy Carruthers!

No amount of radioactive insects or clouds or nuclear-enhanced drugs could have made more of a difference than what Teddy Caruthers had already been born with. You know how they say that with much power comes much responsibility? Well, with new and wondrous and exciting power comes way too much responsibility for a seventeen year old, and it wasn’t like he couldn’t handle it. Maybe fate picked him and his forbears just for the reason that he was raised to be responsible and kind and sweet.

The Carruthers home...Pleasantville, New Jersey...

“Teddy…can you come here for a moment? We need to talk to you about your birthday next week.” Jeannie Callahan called from the kitchen. Being the only child in a two-parent family can be a blessing, even if your parents are both moms….maybe especially if your parents are both moms.

“Sure thing Mom,” Teddy dropped the tape and the scissors on the bed and stepped through the maze of boxes on the floor. As he walked toward the kitchen he noticed the growing mountain of cartons and suitcases lining the hallway.

The word “CALIFORNIA” was either written on the boxes or written on tape in marker. Several boxes at the end of the hall read, “GoodWill,” or “Salvation Army.” More and more the last few days, he had developed almost a dread about the move. He was already upset about leaving his friends behind, and moving clear across the country wasn’t appealing either. Well, at least they had sun and fun, like the brochure said.

“Honey, sit down for a sec, okay?” Jeannie pointed to the open chair at the table next to her partner Nina. He kissed Jeannie and Nina before sitting down. Jeannie handed him a mug of coffee and sat down.

“Now, I know this move has been hard on you….on all of us.” She looked over at Nina and frowned. Nina half-smiled with a ‘It’s okay,’ look and patted her on the hand.

“With our jobs, we’re sorta mobile, so it doesn’t affect us as much as you.” The look on her face was almost pained, as things were going to get worse.

“You turn eighteen next week, and we wanted to do something special for you.” At the word “special,” Nina shrugged slightly and patted the boy on the arm, but it seemed almost like a consolation than a celebratory gesture.

“There’s something special about being in this family….” She smiled warmly at Nina who smiled as her left eyebrow lifted slightly.

“Special?” Teddy wondered about how special; enough that she had repeated it to him.

“Your Mommy and I have been together since we were in highschool. I was about your age when we….ah…” Her face grew red. While they had several talks with him about being safe, this talk was more personal, and Jeannie struggled with the words. Nina patted her partner on the arm and turned to face their son.

“You have to understand, honey, that we’re a very unique couple.”

“Come on, Mommy…this is 2017…” He smiled at both of them at his observation.

“Oh…you mean about her and me? Well, I like to think that our love is unique,” she said as she beamed at Jeannie.

“But this is about something else…something about what happened to Jeannie before you were born.” At the word “born,” Teddy scrunched his eyebrows and tilted his head. Of course it would have been before he was born, but being adopted…why would that matter?

“Your Mom and I were an item in high school. After graduation we had all these plans about touring Europe for a year…you know…buy cheap motorcycles and go all over? Well, Mother Nature… God… whatever…someone had a different plan in mind. She looked at him and smiled; almost Cheshire Cat-like.

“What?” The thought scared him…if what she was saying was what he thought it was.

“I got pregnant.” No sooner than the words were spoken, and Teddy stood up suddenly.

“I’m…I thought I was adopted. You’re my mother?” The thought of her as his mother wasn’t so bad as much as the thought of someone out there being his father…when his other Mom sat across from him.

“What did you do…?” He looked at Nina and then at Jeannie as if she was an injured party.

“Did someone…”

“Oh…no, honey…everything is okay…let me explain, please.” Nina reached over and grabbed his hand. He sat down, shaking his head.

“You want to know who your father is, right?” She asked it as if he were wondering what they were serving for dinner. Jeannie smiled at her and spoke.

“Nina got pregnant, and we knew we were going to be blessed. We just didn’t know how things were going to work out. As it turned out, things worked out wonderfully.”

“So let me get this straight,” Teddy said, looking at both of them as he grew angry.

“You and she have the romance of the century, and then somehow some guy comes along and you hop in bed. Then nine months later I come along and everybody’s okay with that?” He looked at Jeannie and stared, waiting for an answer. And answer him she did.

“Honey…please….listen, okay. It’ll all make sense, I promise.” Jeannie put her hand on Nina’s. Tears were forming in both of their eyes, nearly matching the angry tears of their boy.

“I know this is hard to hear, but like Mommy just said, it does make sense.” It almost sounded like Jeannie was trying to convince herself.

“It was the romance…is the romance of the century. Nothing is wrong…nothing has ever been wrong between us.” Jeannie paused and sighed in frustration. Nina spoke.

“I know this is going to be hard to hear, honey, but you need to hear it because it’s the truth and it’s a good thing, even if it seems crazy, okay?”

“Crazy…come on, Mommy…what the…crazy?” Tears were streaming down his face; confusion, anger, and sadness mixed together.

“Teddy…there’s no other way to put this…I’m your father.” Jeannie said. Teddy winced, as if the word ‘father’ were a curse. He shook his head almost violently and shouted.

“What the fuck, Mom…no…what the fuck are you saying?”

“After high school, we did go to Europe. I got pregnant we think one night at a hostel in Amsterdam. I didn’t know it at the time, and we didn’t really figure it out until we got back to Boston. You were so beautiful when you were born…” Nina sighed and began to cry.

“She’s right about how beautiful you were. When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like looking at heaven.” Jeannie shrugged her shoulders and breathed out a relieved sigh.

“I still don’t get it…what the fuck, ‘DAD?’” He said it with an angry frown.

“Are you…” His eyes darted between them and himself, almost as an inventory.

“Transsexual? Sort of.”

“Sort of? What…you…you’re still?”

“No, honey…your Mom is all girl…just like me…you see….” Nina looked at Teddy and her smile was warm and welcoming, as if she had the best news in the world. Teddy tilted his head and shook it once again.

“I never knew…my Mom…Grandma C? She died when I was little; she meant to tell me before she died. I never knew my father.” Jeannie shook her head. The only parents I ever had were her and your Aunt Lucy.” She paused and looked away, as if to seek courage. Teddy stared, wondering where this was all leading.

“Aunt Lucy passed before my Mom, so I never knew…I just figured it out for myself. I had a lot of evidence given to me, in a way, on my eighteenth birthday.” Her shoulders rose slightly as she spoke.

“It was the best day of my life, I thought, and then it happened and it became the worst day of my life…” Her voice trailed off as if she was reliving something; her eyes closed and she blinked out some tears and continued.

“You’ll be turning eighteen next week, and you will have the benefit of knowing what I had to find out first hand with no one but Nina to turn to. You will find that you have a very great deal in common with your Aunt Lucy and me, and it’s going to scare the hell out of you.” She looked down at herself and smiled with a little laugh.

“What’s so funny…let me in on your little joke,” Teddy snapped at her. He was tapping his foot nervously and he had pursed his lips. Tears were running down his face.

“Nothing is funny, sweetie…it’s all good, but it’s so crazy that it’s going to feel wrong right from the get go, and I want to help you…we want to help you prepare for it.” Jeannie shook her head and turned her head down and away slightly. For good news, the two certainly seemed oddly upset. The news would be upsetting, but it was really the difficulty of trying to explain it that was hard and painful, since it was going to shock the hell out of their son. Nina shook her head

“Honey…this is getting nowhere…tell him…go ahead!”

“I’m your father and my Aunt Lucy…was your grandfather. Apparently…according to your Aunt Cecile, all the men in the Carruthers family have…are pre-disposed to…we…” Nina shook her head at Jeannie and interupted, mercifully bringing her partner’s struggle to a conclusion.

“All the men in the Carruthers family become women on their eighteenth birthday.” She laughed nervously and Teddy took it the wrong way.

“Oh…I get it…this is a joke…you’re kidding me. I’m about to lose my fucking life and move all the way to West Whatever, California and you’re joking…well isn’t that funny.” He slammed his fist on his thigh in anger and began to cry.

“No…no, honey…no…it’s not a joke…it’s real,” as if learning that they weren’t kidding about him losing his gender were somehow a good thing, at least from where he sat.”

“Fuck…this is stupid…stop it…it’s not fucking funny…you’ve got to be kidding me, right? You adopted me and you’re both my moms and that’s that…right?” He looked back and forth and their faces didn’t change; both were crying softly as they held hands and their eyes focused on their very angry, frightened son.

“We can’t show you any proof, but you’ll find out in four days, sweetie. I’m sorry, but it is what it is, and nothing can change it…” Nina smiled a half-smile and patted his hand softly.

“But…” Jeannie looked at Nina and raised her eyebrows. Nina continued.

“But there’s more? Oh fuck!” Teddy had put his head down. He was hitting his thigh again with his fist, trying to wake himself from the nightmare.

“Honey…Look at me, please?” Jeannie leaned across the table. Teddy lifted his head slightly.

“You…you’re special, Teddy…very special…” The words weren’t comforting at all…that word ‘special’ especially seemed ominous as she said it in the same tone that Nina had used only minutes before.

“Special? What…because my life is over? Because I get to lose everything I ever cared about? Special? What the fuck is so special about that, DAD?”

“You’re going to change…”

“You already said that…if you really are telling the truth. What could be worse than turning into a fucking girl, Mommy? You are my Mommy, right? Or are you my fucking Uncle or Cousin?” Teddy was nearly hysterical. Nina touched his hand and he pulled away slightly. She grabbed his hand and pulled it hard.

“Stop it! Now!” Nina said angrily.

“I’m sorry that you’re hurt and angry, but there’s nothing to be done, but make the best of it…and you’re going to find, if you give it a chance, that it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to you…now…calm down and listen…okay?” Her voice dropped an octave and her tone softened.

“Okay?” She touched his face with her hand, brushing aside some stray hairs as she kissed his temple.

“Okay?” He looked at her and nodded. The anger had subsided somewhat, but he still looked very sad.

“Okay,” he said, almost in resignation.

“We don’t know what happens…it just does. You know the reports about a girl who saved a man by lifting the car off of him? And that story they had on the news a couple of weeks ago…the girl in Scotland…and just yesterday…you asked me if I read about the girl in Texas?” She looked at him and watched as the words began to sink in.

“You’ve got cousins all over the country…New England…Europe…the Southwest, Teddy…you understand what I’m saying?” She looked at Nina for help.

“And remember last year when the paper here talked about some woman who helped stop a robbery at a convenience store…the clerk said she stepped in front of him just as the guy pulled out a gun?” Nina smiled that Cheshire Cat smile of hers and looked at her partner. Teddy looked back and forth between the two, finally focusing on Jeannie with his mouth agape.


“All Carruthers…all girls. Three of them were girls to start, but your cousin in Alberta and your distant cousin in Scotland started out…”

“No! Now I know you’re joking. See this face…Do I look like I think this is fucking funny?”

“We’re not joking honey. Now just take a deep breath and think. Okay?” Nina patted his wrist and he pulled it all the way away from her.

“Teddy…” The voice…Teddy looked up at Jeannie and saw that she was smiling, so the serious tone had to be…what?”

“Teddy…Look at me, okay?”

He lifted his head enough to make eye contact. She smiled at him; the same warm welcoming smile that soothed his hurt after a loss in Little League. The same smile that showed pride in him when he won the Spelling Award in Third Grade. He looked over at Nina and she wore a similar expression. The loving smile that consoled him when he wasn’t picked for kickball in First Grade. The same warm expression that greeted him, win or lose, when he started playing Ice Hockey in High School. The two looked at him and all of his doubt and fear and anger seemed to dissipate, leaving only sadness as the reality of their words finally rang true. He put his head down on the table and began to sob.

“I know it’s hard, honey.” Jeannie said. Knowing what he knew now made her words strong and safe even as the moment became all too real and frightening.

“It took me a while…both of us. We had you to raise; and our relationship changed in the turn of the calendar. But Nina loved me…Me…and that made it easier to accept…for both of us.” You understand?

“Yes….” He said even as his head remain on the table. Nina stroked his hair.

“I…I don’t want to be a girl…I don’t…it’s not fair….what did I do to …what…” He sobbed.

“Teddy…you didn’t do a thing…no one did except maybe the one who created you. Like I said, honey, you’re special…but not because of what you do or what clothes you wear….or what body you’re in?” Nina said it and it began to soothe his heart.

“We love you, honey, and nothing is going to change that. And you’ll find that in time, you’ll learn to love yourself.”

“I don’t want to love myself…I want to be me.” He cried.

“You’ll always be you, honey…always. Just a bit different on the outside.”

“But…what about…” He lifted his head and his face had the saddest, most frightened look of his life.

“I don’t want to…I still…Do I have to…oh God…” He started to sob so hard that his shoulders convulsed and he began to hyperventilate. Nina stood up and rubbed his shoulders. He began to calm down and he looked up at her, almost as if he was pleading for his life, which he was in a way.

“In time, honey…you’ll find out in time…” Jeannie said; the voice of experience once again.

“Nothing is ever ‘have to’s’ or ‘musts’ or ‘shoulds...I know that from experience.’” Jeannie didn’t have to hear the rest of Teddy’s questions to know what he feared. She had gone through the same thing herself. Her cousin Ian and her second cousin Dale as well.

“You’ll like who you like and you’ll find the one you want to love…what you want, no matter what happens from now on.” At the word ‘love,’ Jeannie grabbed Nina’s hand and squeezed. The love that Nina had for her had sustained them through the turmoil and upheaval that had come.

“That’s why we’re moving, isn’t it?” Teddy’s sobs had subsided, but his voice was still sad.

“Yes…what we did when David…when Jeannie made her first appearance. We were used to moving around anyway, and we knew that even though this place was home…someday things would change.” Nina looked at Teddy and repeated,

“Things, honey…circumstances…situations…you’re going to change outwardly, but everything that is Teddy Carruthers …the child we know and love? The same as always. We’ll be with you all the way…”

“But what about the other stuff…what about the…what do I have to do?”

“You don’t HAVE to do anything. I know you like I know my own heart, baby…you’ll do whatever is in you…you’ll find out what you can do, and you’ll end up doing what your heart leads you to do.” Jeannie got up from the table and walked around to where Nina stood over their son….their child.

“I’m so proud of you already…there isn’t a single thing you could do to add to the pride have for you right now…because I love you.” She leaned closer and grabbed both of his hands, gently lifting him to his feet.

“Mom…Mommy…” Teddy looked at his parents and began to sob once again.

“I’m so scared…I don’t know what to do…what I’m supposed to do.”

“Honey…It’s okay….don’t worry…We’re here for you, baby…don’t worry.” Nina kissed him.

“I don’t know how to be a hero…I can’t…”

“Teddy...?” Jeannie stepped back slightly and held her son at arms’ length.

“Don’t worry, honey. Mommy and I love you so much, and we already know that you’ll be okay… because you’re already a hero to us,” Jeannie said. Nina nodded at her wife and they hugged their child once again.

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