I Am the Parent of a Non-Binary Child

The essay I have been looking for either hasn’t been written, hasn’t been published, or is hidden beyond my search engine’s reach. I have been composing it in my head for months, but now I can write the first draft, because Friday my child came out to the world. image-they

The essay I’m not done writing is about becoming the parent of a queer, non-binary, young adult child. I say becoming because until my eldest came out, I told myself I had a daughter. Now I am getting used to the idea of having a non-binary child. And while that distinction may seem merely a clumsy trick of the English language, the implications run deep. More on that another time.

My husband and I are experiencing something that is both utterly unique and increasingly common. Here’s a peek into the types of conversations I’ve had during the last year with well-meaning relatives and friends. Continue reading

Mixed Berry Pie

Yesterday I attended the most beautiful funeral. My cousin Minda died Saturday, and the rest of this week has been a blur.

Did I mention that we’re celebrating her niece’s bat mitzvah this weekend, and that there will be 70 people at my house Saturday night in her honor? The occasion was moved to a synagogue here in Detroit from Southern California a few months ago because Marcia, the bat mitzvah’s mom, knew her sister would likely be too ill to travel, and might even die. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolution

Let’s not pretend any of this has been easy.

I am not going to write the “This is not normal” blog or the “What the hell is happening to our country?” blog or the “Let’s band together against tyranny” blog. I am only going to say this: Other than escaping from burning buildings, nothing good ever happens when we act out of fear.

I have told my children that many times. And I am afraid. Very afraid. Am I as afraid as those workers who don’t have the luxury of worrying about my reproductive rights because they’re too busy figuring out how to feed their children? Am I as afraid as the people who thought they lived in a Christian country? I can’t be sure. I only know I Related imagehave never felt this scared to be an American. Continue reading

The Great Hamantaschen/Latke Debate Comes to Detroit

Instead of a sermon, we made the congregation laugh.

Last Shabbat morning, I participated in a mock debate on the relative merits of latkes versus hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen Recipe
I skip the prune filling. The notes reflect many years of experimentation.

I proudly defended the cookie, while our rabbi argued in favor of potato pancakes. In our small congregation, the debate was well-received – a dose of fun at the end of a long week.

If you’re wondering who won… Of course it was the hamantaschen. I mean, is there even any real contest?

Want to see what we both had to say?  Here is the text of the debate.

Chag Sameach!

New Year’s Eve

The boys in the basement woke up with their own alarm. Sammy and his friends had plans to see “The Hobbit” at 12:15, and despite getting to bed excruciatingly late, they didn’t want to miss the movie.

Six teenagers ate a quick breakfast and got out the door the morning after our almost-annual New Year’s Eve party.

new-years-eve-times-square When the kids were much younger, we staged elaborate early ball drops.

Around 9 p.m. we told them it was already midnight on some obscure island in the Atlantic Ocean, then counted down like Dick Clark in Times Square. Dinner happened in shifts: kids ate early, followed by games, crafts and confetti. After the early Happy New Year they changed into pj’s and settled in for a movie while the adults ate a leisurely meal.

This year was much more laid back. Our potluck featured three types of pasta, but no one complained. Adults took their time with dinner; the last thing our kids needed or wanted was our attention.

Before the guests arrived, Sammy had one important question: “What about the ice cream sundae bar?”

Continue reading

The Mug

My daughter set the mug on the counter and reached for the kettle. The mug is wide and sturdy and glazed a drippy brownish-green, the kind of cup that makes you want to hold your coffee in two hands.

“Sorry, Sweetie, I’m using that,” I said, before she could pour the water for her tea.

In truth, I was on my way out for an early meeting. I planned to take my coffee in a travel mug with a lid, not the hippie/handmade one from the Purple Fiddle cafe.

There is very little a mother keeps for herself. The mug is a souvenir from a week in West Virginia’s Caanan Valley with dear family friends. I’ve never said so outright, but I don’t share it.

If I were a child, it would be the action figure I keep by my bedside, my favorite strawberry lipgloss worn to a nub, the best pencil for math homework.

That night at the Purple Fiddle, we ate ice cream and drank beer while our children played board games and snapped photos outside on the sidewalk. A blues duo sang for the regulars and visitors to this tiny mountain town. Or maybe the kids played cards and the music was bluegrass. I can’t be sure, but the details are beside the point.

My friend Amy has a shirt from the same evening. We talk hands-free on the way to pick up our children from school – Amy in New Jersey and me in Michigan. We have until 3:30, when we scramble to wrap up our conversation and emerge from our vans, moms on active duty.

Sometimes I’m careless and put the mug in the dishwasher. One day it might chip. Someday I might even share it.

But not yet.

Orchard Lake Middle School

One peek into the cafeteria was all it took.

I could see us – five or six eighth grade girls huddled around a lunch table, frantically finishing our algebra homework for Mr. Robinson’s class. His system wasn’t fair – we were graded on correct answers, not effort – so every equation had to be solved perfectly.

Marge, the lunch lady, is yelling at someone, calling her “Ladybug,” or some other odd endearment. Rochelle is generously sharing her homework while simultaneously combining lunch leftovers into some vile new concoction. Continue reading