Jake and I started the week by talking with our rabbi’s social justice class at a local college about what it’s like to be a transgender sixteen-year-old. I talked about what it’s like to be the mother of a transgender kid.
I told the class that one thing I learned from being Jake’s — and his non-binary twin’s — mom is that if you approach the world with love, you will create possibilities. If you approach it with fear — and I’ve done that, too — you find closed doors.
My kid and I ended the week with a visit to the Sidney J. Borum Health Center in Boston to meet with the medical director as a step in his transgender journey. The visit with the medical director was calm and routine compared to the rest of the trip.
First, the GPS avoided useful landmarks in its verbal directions and seemed oblivious to the fact that we were traveling below ground and not on the surface streets . So, when we should have headed toward South Station, we took a wrong turn. Then we drove in circles for 10 minutes while following the GPS directions. My kid’s iPhone got us on the right path, but our 15 minutes early turned into 10 minutes late.
I was too focused on being late to figure out how to get to the parking garage, and I should have known that the parking spot in front of the building was too good to be true. But I jiggled our minivan into it anyhow, and we ran into the building.
I filled out paperwork, got my kid started with the appointment, and ran out, and put $1.25 in the meter. An hour would be plenty of time, but why was the top of the meter red? I took off my glasses to peer closely at the meter for an explanation. That must have looked funny.
Upstairs in the waiting room, my kid asked if I had moved the car, then went with the medical staff. I didn’t think about his question.
When we came out more than an hour later, the car, which I had parked at around 3:40, wasn’t there. Neither were any of the other cars. After considering the options, I went back into the building and told the security guard my car was missing. He confirmed my suspicion that the car had been towed. The meter’s red top meant no parking between 4 PM and 6 PM. Too bad that explanation wasn’t on the meter where I could see it.
I was oddly calm. That’s not right. For a second, I was alarmed and afraid, maybe every negative emotion you can imagine. Now what do I do? Almost, what an idiot I am. Maybe I took a breath. Then I was calm.
Self-discipline is a wonderful thing. I chose to be who I would enjoy remembering myself to have been. And then everything became an adventure.
I simultaneously asked the security guard how to get a cab, reached for my car keys, and silently laughed at myself.
As we walked to the curb, my kid noticed my timid attitude and said, “Don’t you know how to get a cab?” I quickly walked to the corner, lifted my hand in the air before he could take charge , and said that I had never waved down a cab before in my entire life. Grinning, I flagged down the second cab we saw with just a dignified, raised arm.
We arrived at the Department of Transportation lot, and I handed the cab driver a $20 and asked for change. He muttered that someone took all his change earlier but looked. The fare was $9.40, and he gave me two fives. And because he told the truth, I gave him a five. I could have paid with a card and not given him much of a tip.
The signs on the building were cryptic. I still wonder why the first line of the sign on the back of the building said to go to the back of the building to pay. Weren’t we already at the back of the building? I checked Google Maps. We were definitely at the back of the building.
Inside, the cashier had to search for the paperwork. I was grateful that the fee was less than $100.
Outside, we walked up to a gate with a doorbell. Jake pressed the button, but the guard reading some papers didn’t look up. We waited until Jake figured out that he hadn’t pressed the button hard enough. The car was in row K back by the fence.
Jake got to the car first. He was eager to get home, pick up some friends, and go to the fall musical for his theater arts class assignment. Getting home would take a little while longer.
When I started the car and drove forward, we heard a scraping sound. I drove slowly toward the guard, who heard us coming and watched. I rolled down the window and asked him what to do. He told me to drive through the lot exit, go back into the building, and ask for help. I drove slowly around — what was that scraping sound — parked the car, and went in.
This time, several people were in line. I waited. The cashier told me to take a seat. Someone would be out to help. I was tired by this point and happy to sit for a few minutes. For a second, I wondered if I was about to be scammed. I practiced mindfulness.
Back at the car with help, I didn’t see Jake in the passenger seat. I experienced a fear that only an anxiety-prone mother with a kid recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital could feel. I opened the car door and wildly looked around. He was crouched on the second row of seats wolfing down the food he had irritably rejected earlier because of his Raw-Till-Four diet. He saw how alarmed I was and sheepishly said that he was very hungry. I laughed.
The woman looked under the car near the tires but didn’t see anything. I had done that and didn’t see anything. I backed up the car so she could hear the scraping sound. She got a flashlight, looked under the middle front of the car, and said she would call someone. There was a lot of waiting between the flashlight and the call for help.
The rain had stopped earlier. The moon was up. It was a nice night.
A flat-bed tow truck arrived, and a very tall, very black man wearing a jacket and knit cap got out. I backed the car up so he could hear the scrape. He asked me to turn off the car, and I felt foolish that I hadn’t thought of that myself. He slid under the front and looked around for a while. He slid back out and said something about plastic hanging, tow trucks, a screwdriver, and a screw. He slid back under the car and did some stuff that looked challenging. Eventually he slid out and stood up, successful.
I looked at him, smiled, and said thank you. Then I took off my glove and reached out my hand to shake his. “My hands are dirty,” he said, “from under the car.”
“I don’t care,” I replied. We shook, and he gently squeezed my fingers. His hands were gigantic and gentle and warm and human. Men with lesser hands use that firm handshake that causes pain they don’t notice.
One part of myself spoke to another saying that he could have been released from prison last week after serving time for manslaughter or some other crime. And another part said what does it matter? He just helped me, and I’m grateful.
I thought about being a white, sixty-year-old woman from the suburbs, wearing an expensive coat bought in better times and at a steep discount from Rue La La. I thought about Trayvon Martin and Ferguson, Missouri. I thought about my transgender son and what might happen to him out in the world.
It costs nothing to act from a place of love. It costs nothing to love your kids, regardless of whether their gender is what you think it should be. What costs is not loving.
Photo credit: Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons