I am in favor of gender-neutral baby clothes. Babies really don’t have a gender, so why force it on them? My pet peeve is T-shirts for boys that say “Future Dallas Cowboys Quarterback” or the like. And those elastic headbands they put on bald baby girls to make them look more feminine. Ouch.
This week’s chapter is short, but (I hope) sweet.
23: Thou Hovering Angel
Jennet held her new granddaughter, Caroline Eve Cantor-Thorne, in her arms, as Kyle sat beside her and Joel took pictures. They’d driven down from New York so Jennet could see her, since she wasn’t due to remove her ankle brace until the following week. Caro was a sweet, small baby, still only eight pounds, with a fuzz of fine blond hair on her head. Jennet inhaled the smell of baby skin, and it took her back twenty-three years, to the days when she had delighted in bathing and dressing Kyle in his tiny outfits. Her favorite was a pair of powder blue overalls with Tweety Bird on the bib— an item that she still kept folded away in a box with his baby shoes, first drawings, and report cards. She examined Caro’s tiny, perfect fingernails as the infant looked up at her, blue eyes unfocused, with an air of supreme content.
“She likes you, Mom!” said Kyle. “She cried off and on all the way here in her car seat, but now she’s much more relaxed.”
Caro was wearing green striped footed pajamas with an elephant on the front. Kyle and Joel didn’t want to force a gender identity on her too soon, so all the clothing and accessories they had purchased were green, yellow, or red. They were already beginning to complain about the way everyone from checkout clerks to nurses insisted on knowing whether she was a boy or girl. “It’s as though they can’t even interact with a baby until they classify it as HE or SHE in their minds. I’ve told people Caro was a boy a couple of times, and the way they react is completely different. We want to keep everything gender-neutral as long as possible.”
Jennet laughed. “Don’t be surprised if she starts deciding for herself what she wants to wear. By the time you were seven months, you refused to be seen in purple.”
“Already demonstrating his superior taste in matters sartorial,” commented Joel.
“Though lavender is permissible on special occasions,” said Kyle, smiling.
Caro wiggled a little, settling herself in. They all saw it and broke out into smiles. “That’s it, I’m keeping her,” she joked. “I don’t want to be a grandmother. I still want to be a mom.”
Her son and son-in-law exchanged a look and then turned back to her. “Have you been seeing anyone lately?” asked Joel. “What about that gynephobic professor from Parnell? I could tell you had more than a crush on him.”
Jennet smiled sadly, but only said, “It’s complicated.” It had been two weeks since Jonathan shoveled her snow, and even though she was back at work now, she had laid eyes on him only twice, and at a distance. Either he didn’t see her, or he pretended not to.
That afternoon, she’d stopped by Michael Templeton’s office to discuss the papyrus. She had received an enthusiastic, almost euphoric acceptance from the journal, and she sensed a distinct possibility that one of their staff would leak the item to the press before the publication appeared. Michael argued that he should be allowed to break the news first in his blog. In his hands, the story of Paul’s long-lost letter to the Laodiceans and the woman apostle Didyme would prove that Classics was not an irrelevant, outdated field, as ignorant yahoos tended to assume, but directly relevant to concerns of the present day.
Jennet knew that Michael’s blog had a strongly conservative slant, something that gave her pause. On the other hand, his conservatism was mostly fiscal rather than social or religious. In fact, Juniper had shared with her the secret that Michael was the sperm donor for Juniper’s baby with her partner Jillian. Like all others of his gender, Juniper explained, Michael could be a shit, at times even begging for a corrective ass-kicking, but at heart he was a decent shit.
“I wanted to keep this under the radar as long as possible,” she said, still uncertain.
“Come on, Jennet,” coaxed Michael. “Better for us to control the timing than for some bozo at your journal to leak it. Besides, getting the story out now might help the department more than you realize.”
“Okay,” she finally said. “But try to keep Jonathan’s name out of it. I haven’t warned him yet.”
Later that day, because she felt bereft and missed Jonathan, she looked up Swetnam’s 1617 fencing manual and perused it during her lunch hour. Swetnam had laid down seven laws of fencing. The sixth law counseled patience, “one of the greatest virtues that can be in a man. The Wise man saith, he is a fool which cannot governe himselfe.” Not bad advice for the Wise woman too. She’d been tempted to call Jonathan, but now she restrained herself. She would give him all the time he needed.
Copyright 2015 by Linnet Moss
Notes: The occurrence of the sixth of Swetnam’s Seven Laws of Fencing will indicate to astute readers that we are approaching the finale…