Bonjour! I am writing this post far from home, nibbling a baguette and sipping un café, and pinching myself to make sure I am really here… in France!
My mother turns 70 in a few weeks, and we decided to splurge on a tour of French vineyards to celebrate. I haven’t written much about my family in this blog, and I think that oversight has given the false impression that I’m doing all this on my own. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents (along with the rest of my extended family) have been unwaveringly supportive since I first started telling them that my son wanted to be a girl. I remember my mom smiling and winking at me, saying, “You know I always wanted a granddaughter!” (My sister has two boys, and we assumed M. was grandson number three.)
Nothing really changed: Mom had been doting on my child from the beginning, and that’s what she kept on doing. And while I continued to worry and doubt and resist the idea of having a transgender child, Mom went ahead and bought M. the princess dolls and pretty dresses she had been longing for. Maybe she worried less because she was the grandmother, not the mother. Or maybe it’s that she’d already raised three kids of her own and knew how little say we have, in the end, in determining who our children will turn out to be. “M. will be just fine, sweetie,” she’d say.
Not surprisingly, Mom and M. are tight. They’re a lot alike, actually: Petite and passionate and industrious, the two of them are in constant motion, planting flowers in the garden, baking cookies, filling our trees with bird feeders. Mom has taught M. so many important things, including:
- How to soak the soil and loosen the roots when you plant a flower
- How fun it can be to “window shop” even when you don’t have money to buy anything
- How, instead of getting upset at something (or someone), you can just say, “For Pete’s sake!” and have a good laugh at how silly life can be
I am convinced that Mom’s early and easy-going embrace of my child’s gender switch (“What’s the fuss about? She’s still my grandchild!”) has profoundly impacted my daughter’s self-image and, therefore, her entire future life. Grandma accepts and adores her, just as she is; that fact is going to make all the difference one day, when someone decides to be cruel.
We are in the city of Reims now, in the heart of Champagne country. We’re spending our days sampling bubbly wine and pastries and strolling arm-in-arm through the fashionable cobbled streets, giggling and giddy to just to be here together, just the two of us, mother and daughter. This morning, on a walking tour of the town, we learned that the French word for “window shopping” is “faire du leche-vitrines,” literally, “to lick the windows.” When Mom heard this, it stopped her in her tracks. She grabbed my arm: “Oh! We have to tell M. about that!”
“Definitely!” I said.
“But then she’ll probably want to actually lick the windows!” Mom laughed so hard she had to cross her legs.
I shook my head, seeing just how it will happen: M. will do it just to entertain her grandmother, and Mom will stand there egging her on with her laughter and mock disapproval, the two of them in cahoots as usual.
Mom gasped and pointed down the street. “That looks like a children’s clothing store! Let’s see if they have any pretty French dresses for M.”
I watched her hustle off down the block, and wondered: Will M. ever comprehend even a fraction of how much she is loved?