“Momma! Let’s go ride in the Mule!” Izzy shouted.
I smiled in spite of the fact that I was tired. He was so excited.
“Okay! Go get Sissy.”
He bounded up the steps to her attic room to pound on the door like he did so often at 5 and 6 years old. Almost immediately, I heard the rattling of the stairs as they made their decent. I grabbed my jacket as Izzy handed me his scarf. I tied it carefully around his short hair so that it flowed down the side of his head.
“It’s getting cool. Do you want to put on your soft pants?”
“No, I’m hot,” came back his sassy voice.
“Okay, I’ll get a blanket, just in case.”
The leaves had turned, and the afternoons were growing ever cooler. He was in the habit of wearing just his sister’s t-shirts and his underwear with bare feet at home. I knew he would be cold once we were out in the wind.
Since Sissy was 10 years older, her shirt hems came down to almost his knees and the neck lines were loose. He loved that because they looked pretty and simulated the feel of a dress.
As a teenager, she became fed up with him claiming her t-shirts some of which had pretty patterns she loved. One day we went through her drawers and pulled out t-shirts she felt she could part with to give to her brother, or ones she didn’t wear anymore. He was elated. I couldn’t afford to buy clothes that wouldn’t double as school clothes and I was happy too as he was bound and determined to wear those t-shirts. Some he wore over and over. One was black with green trim and said Bad Witch across the front in spooky letters. Another was a bright blue v-neck with psychedelic colors and swirls.
Today, he had on his most favorite, one that was brown and had a picture of a smiling slice of cheese. The yellow words, Grilled Cheese were printed in all caps across the back. He loved that shirt! He wore it until it had holes in it. I finally hid it and told him I lost it. I didn’t tell him at that time, but I kept it safe in his keep sake box for him. I’ll give it to him one day when he is ready to cherish his childhood memories.
Outside the afternoon was turning gold. Izzy hurriedly worked to unlock the combination to our little garage. Finally, the lock popped after a couple of tries. I pulled back the door and propped it open with a 2 X 4.
Since the spiders were spinning their webs, the kids waited as I cranked up our Kawasaki Mule and backed it out of the garage. I had to knock off one spider before my two passengers hopped in beside me on the front bench. I spread the fuzzy blanket over Izzy’s exposed knees.
They yelled, “Let’s go!”
I peeled off the driveway and headed up the hill towards the north field. In a moment we were headed through the little wood that formed a twisting tunnel between our house and the field. The magic of falling leaves was all around us.
“Look!” I pointed.
Mushrooms from the recent rain popped up here and there along the much-worn trail. One in particular, a rare sight, had the classic red and white dome shape for its top.
We burst through the end of the tree tunnel to witness the long rays of the sun highlighting the tall golden-brown grass ready any day to be leveled in preparation for baling. The deep blue sky welcomed us and sent to our hearts a feeling of freedom. Seeds from the grass pelted our faces as I streaked across the field. Izzy screamed in exhilaration, his scarf rippling in the wind behind him mimicking the long hair he wished for.
As I approached the downward side of the field, I cut the engine to the Mule and shifted into neutral. From there forward, the momentum would carry us some 100 yards to the bottom of the hill to land just in front of the creek. The first few yards took us through a patch of woods down the trail, then we burst once again into the lower golden field–grass seeds pelting us. We stood up to avoid the seeds, most of which hit the hood.
“Whooo hoooooo,” we shouted.
We would try to “set the record” on how far the momentum would carry us. It was a good day. I made a sharp turn as we came to the bottom of the hill and we all sat down with the force of it. We coasted parallel to the running water as we willed the mule to keep going. We made it passed our previous mark! As we slowed to a stop, high fives were given all around.
“That was a good one,” I proclaimed.
“Yeah!” my companions cheered.
I restarted the engine and we continued perpendicular down to the creek bed and across the slow shallow water, scents of Earth and rocks mixed with water reached our noses. Traveling east now, we rode beside the creek observing the various little water falls and the last dragon and lightening bugs of the year.
We drove on in silence and soaked up the out of doors.
Those were such special times! Years later with my oldest moved out and married, Izzy a teenager and many changes on the horizon, I hug that memory to my heart!
Although I didn’t make exactly the right connection back then, I think of how Izzy was using his sister’s t-shirts for dresses and the scarfs to simulate long hair to express how he needed to dress like he felt inside. More correctly, she used her sister’s clothes because her mother wasn’t ready to see her as a girl or present her in that way to the public.
I wish I had of been as it would have saved years of heart ache. I think of how much easier it would be for a child like Rose if only I could have told her, “You’re gender dysphoric. That’s normal. Let’s get you the care you need.” No shame attached. I wish for that world to become a reality. I feel it is becoming a reality as more and more families speak out. That is my mission.