The Folke home, Lyons, New York...
The girl sat in the old easy chair in the corner of her bedroom. A remnant from her recent past, its golden brown velour was rubbed raw from nearly constant use over a decade. The cushions seemed to barely support even her slight weight while threatening to almost swallow her small frame, but it was still comfortable.
The phone rang. She sighed and reluctantly extricated herself from the pit of the chair and walked down the hall. She had wanted some time before the meeting that evening, but Cathy was insistent and seemed to need a lot of attention.
“Yeah, hi…no…that’ll be okay…oh…” She paused and her face began to redden.
“Yes, I …I guess. Okay…see you in a bit.” She put the receiver back on the cradle and went to walk back to the bedroom.
“Jay?” Her father spoke from the kitchen. She turned to see a very concerned look on his face. He knew her ‘like a book,’ as the old saying goes. She sighed but otherwise kept silent.
“Still worried?” He shook his head slightly, not to deny her obvious fear, but to affirm how much he knew that she didn’t want to go to the meeting that night.
“Wouldn’t you be? Oh wait…you’ve never had to deal with this?” She regretted her words as soon as they left her mouth. His eyes almost seemed to twinkle as he smiled, since he did know her like a book.
“It’s hard, but I know you can do this.” He paused and his eyes widened along with his smile; his eyebrows arched unequally, revealing a scar over his right eye.
“After all…it’s what you need to do.” Another broad grin. Anyone who didn’t know him might suppose he was teasing, but his smile was welcoming and kind; she didn’t need as in ‘required’ or ‘should,’ but instead needed to do it for the very sake of her own soul.
“Who are you, Jay? Tell me again.”
She frowned and tilted her head sideways a bit; looking like a child asked to sing a song for her favorite Aunt and Uncle at Christmas. She began speaking in an almost monotone; the litany nearly rote.
“Hi, My name is Janice. I’m a transgendered teen and just moved here from Pittsfield.” Her drone elicited one of the very few frowns she would get on occasion from her father.
“Definitions, honey, definitions!” He laughed softly.
“Dad…I don’t know what else to say. How do I explain who I am?” She breathed out a frustrated sigh.
“Well, for one, you don’t begin by telling everyone what you are. First, what you are is no one’s business but your own and your doctor, right?” She looked at him as if to say, ‘and you and me and Mommy.’ He nodded and grinned.
“And second? You’re a human being like everyone else; you breathe the same air, you eat most of the same foods, and you probably have most of the same songs on your I-Pod, right?” She looked at him in puzzlement, as if he had left something out.
“Jay? We are WHO we are, right? What did your Mom tell you just last night?” He arched just one eyebrow then for effect.
“I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. But what does that mean, Dad? Fearfully?”
“Back and forth, century-wise, words can sometimes get annoying. Fear like in absolute awe and almost speechless… like ‘wow!’ He laughed softly; his warmth seemed to wrap her up in safety.
“And God knew you before you were even conceived.” He smiled again, but the word ‘knew’ seemed to poke her sharply.
“Then why did he make me this way?” She looked down at herself; her clothes seemed to disappear before her eyes and she shook her head. Her eyes began to tear up; the disappointment was almost impossible to hide since she was almost never able to hide her feelings. Some might say ‘hey, none of that,’ in a way to encourage or strengthen, but her father just smiled again.
“One of the best answers I ever heard for that question, Jay?” She looked up eagerly awaiting the wisdom that would give her relief from her doubts, but he smiled yet again and spoke with conviction.
“Beats the hell out of me!” The ‘haich-ee-double hockey sticks’ rarely came from out of his mouth, and the softness of his voice, coupled with the mild expletive made her laugh nervously even as the frustration seemed to grow.
“It may seem sometimes that he’s just fooling with us when we get no concrete answers to important questions, but it’s in the void where we get our hope.” She tilted her head once again, puzzled.
“He loves you, right?” She nodded slowly, waiting almost for a let down.
“And he knows you, right?” She nodded once again, blinking out some tears.
“Look at yourself again, Jay? Do you see what I see?” She complied, as if his request was something to avoid. But that’s the way she felt.
“I see my child. You’re fourteen and you’re the same person your Mom gave birth to. You’re exactly the same person I held in my arms the day you were born, right?” She pursed her lips and folded her arms in a self-hug, fearing her own answer. Shaking her head, she looked down once again and spoke.
“No…” Almost a question.
“You’re not exactly what you were when you were born, Jay. But you’re exactly who God made you to be. He had and still has plans for your life…plans with hope and a future. Not for what you were or are now or even what you might become, even if that’s included. His plans are for who you are, Jay.” She looked into his eyes and the warmth she had always known seemed to intensify; the acceptance grew, if that was even possible, and she felt loved all over again. The rehearsal of life seemed to go on between the two of them on a nearly daily basis.
“Never mind what the world says about what you are, okay? Keep in mind and in your heart what God and your Mom and I feel about you. You’re our daughter now, but you’ve been our child always. You’ve always been and always will be defined by who you are.” He held out his arms and she stood still, as she always did, testing him; assaying his commitment by simple gestures. He never minded, since he loved her, after all. He stepped closer and pulled her into a hug. She dissolved in tears; a ritual that really wasn’t bad at all because her tears were good and whole and cleansing once again.
Lyons United Methodist Church...later that evening...
“Hey… Brian? C’mere.” Cathy waved at the tall boy setting up chairs. He finished unfolding a chair and placed it in the row before walking over.
“Brian…this is Janice… she just moved here…her Mom is the new pastor.”
“Hey…you’ve got a lot to live up to. A PK? That must be hard.” Pastor’s kids always seem to be either under much more scrutiny than anyone else or under the radar and even anonymous. Janice shook the boy’s hand. She looked down at her own hand and the doubts seemed to rise up in her throat like bile. Did she shake ‘too’ firmly? Was she too much ‘like her self?’
“I….” She hesitated. Old fears seemed to close in on her like a vise, but she looked over the boy’s shoulder and saw a gentle face smiling at her in welcome. She took a deep breath and spoke.
“I guess… My mom is pretty easy to live with, you know. She’s the best. I think she and I are going to like living here.” She smiled at the boy, enjoying the new attention, but her eyes darted back to the man in the corner; her expression seemed to ask, ‘How am I doing?’ His smile gave her all the answer she needed. She shook the boy’s hand and smiled before giving her attention once again to Cathy as Brian turned to set up the chairs.
“I…I’m really glad you called me. I wasn’t going to come.” Her voice seemed to break at the nervous moment as the girl rubbed her arm softly.
“I’m really glad I called.” Cathy smiled with more reserve but much more warmth; her face duplicating the emotion of the moment as she began to blush. Janice grabbed the girl’s hand softly and smiled a smile she’d never smiled before. She looked over at the man in the corner once again; his face beamed approval. She blinked out a few tears.
“Oh shit…” Cathy blurted out. Her face darkened even more; Janice felt the heat of her cheeks as she wiped away the girl’s tears.
“Oh…no….not that. I was just thinking of my Dad.”
“Oh….” The girl did a nearly acceptable job of composing herself before she changed her own subject to match Janice’ words.
“Will he be working at the church as well?”
“Oh….no…” Janice sighed and half smiled.
“My Dad’s an engineer….you know…rocket science?” She laughed softly and blinked back a few tears before continuing.
“He died a couple of years ago. I miss him so much.” She looked over Cathy’s shoulder at the empty corner of the room.
“I’m…I’m so sorry.” Cathy stammered as her face grew red once again, feeling unimportant and not at all helpful.
“That’s okay. You didn’t know. I’m just glad that I can still hear his voice, you know?” She smiled and her own warmth seemed to cool the girl’s embarrassment.
“Oh…me too. I lost my Dad last year….he was a corpsman over in the war.” Cathy started to cry.
“I’m so sorry…I didn’t know it would still do that.” She looked at herself in apology.
“I ….it…why the fuck would God do that….why did he let my Daddy die?” The words seemed almost sacrilegious in the midst of a somewhat holy place. Janice pulled the girl close to her and held her tight; confidence and compassion seemed to burst out of the girl like a flower blooming in the sun.
“I know…I know.” She kissed the girl’s cheek, tasting the salt of her tears. A beginning for both of them that would span decades, but at that moment it was all about definition.
“It…” She hesitated, beginning to explain away the pain. A calm presence came up to the two of them from behind and her mind paused as her heart took over. She leaned closer again and kissed the girl on the ear and whispered.
“A very wise man told me once, Cath….’Beats the hell out of me.”
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