“Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”
The second Yi stepped in the house, Sarah came out of her room and asked her.
“Of course. What’s going on?”
Yi hung up her jacket and walking to Sarah’s door nervously.
It was never easy to talk to a teenager like Sarah. She was sensitive growing up and now irritated very often. Mom always attributed to her autism. Yi was always careful when she dealt with Sarah. With the few steps into Sarah’s room, Yi’s heart beat started to fasten.
“What’s up?” Yi hugged her and tried to talk in a relaxing tone. Her legs were shaking.
“I just want to know what’s your opinion regarding transgender.” Sarah’s voice was trembling. Standing in front of her bed, she wrapped her hands in front of her breast with fingers crossed tightly. Her shoulders was up almost to ears. She was expecting some answers nervously.
Yi instantly recalled that Sarah planned to get her breast reduction surgery near the Christmas. She did not have a chance to take a deep breath before the answer came out.
“It’s all personal choice. I respect their identification.”
“I identify myself as a male. “ Sarah’s lips were tightly closed after she said that. Her hands were up to her chin.
Yi did not need to think twice to speak appropriately. With so many years life experience in deep blue city, she was talking about it like picking up some milk from grocery stores. “We love you whatever you are.” Yi hugged Sarah. Yi was not sure if she truly loved Sarah that much. But that moment she felt that was the right word to say.
Sarah’s tight shoulders relaxed down. Her knotted fingers went apart. She leaned back to her bed frame.
“I changed my name to Sam. Can you call me Sam going forward?” Sarah’s voice softened a lot.
“Of course. Sam. I might mistake it for a while but I do not mean it.” Yi gave her a big smile. She also started to concern if she called her Sarah. “Do you also want me to refer you as he or him?”
“Yes.” Sam nodded rapidly and firmly.
“In front your parents?”
“No. Not in front of them.”
“How do they take it?”
“Mom is fine with it. Dad will never accept it as he is a right wing.” Sam started to get irritated speaking of his father.
“Don’t say that. He will eventually accept it. He is your father and he loves you.” Yi did not wish to see any trouble on Christmas eve.
Sam obviously did not want to continue this topic.
“How do you feel about the surgery? Mom told us you would have breast reduction surgery soon.”
“Yeah I will have it right after the Christmas. I am so nervous about it.” Sam was a little excited when he talked about the change. “Did you already know my gender identify?”
“Oh no, I only knew that you would have breast reduction.” Yi was nervous again. She did not want to sound hypocritical.
“I don’t know how Alex reacts to it so I think I’d better talk to you first. You know, he is a man. Can you tell him right now about my gender identity?”
Yi was a little surprised but also flattered. Her husband Alex was always gentle and kind to his siblings. Sam trusted her more probably because she was a minority and a woman. Alex would have had the same reaction if Sam talked to him first.
“He will also respect you. Trust me.” She reassured.
Sam finally smiled a bit.
“Now I have a brother-in-law.” Yi hugged Sam again and walked out.
Yi whispered Alex in a hurry, interrupting the conversation he was having with his dad.
“Sarah identified herself as a male and changed her name to Sam. Go and talk to her right now.”
Alex put down his whisky glass and was pushed into Sam’s room.
It was starting to get dark outside. Mom was busy dressed up and called everyone to go to church. Yi and Alex got up reluctantly, so did Sam and Chris, Sam’s younger brother.
“Can you take me?” Sam put his headphones on and walked to Alex.
Sam jumped into the back seat.
Cold rain shed on the wild fields. Windshield wipers made regular noises by rubbing around. Christmas songs were played out of the radio.
“Are you atheists?” Sam asked.
Yi did not respond. She did not know if she was truly religious or not. She prayed to God or Buddha when she needed a little luck piously and believed in karma. Atheism seemed too extreme to her.
“Yeah I am not religious.” Said Alex.
“Me neither. Then why do you go to church?”
“We go just to make Mom happy.” Alex focused on the rainy road and talked softly.
Sam was convinced but he was quiet the whole time.
After the service, they all went back home. Sam and Chris shut themselves into their rooms. Dad was making dinner. Mom took out her crochet pumpkin jar and other samples she made for the church. The pumpkin jar was a cup size with curved patterns in one piece. A small cap with black bar on top was sitting nicely on the pumpkin. Mom showed Yi the picture she followed and the technique used. Yi was never a fan of crochet but surprisingly found the pumpkin piece was exquisitely made. She also remembered that Mom gave her a knitted dome hat a while ago. That hat was very old fashioned — dark grey with some glittering white decoration near the brim. Only grandma would wear it.
Mom continued to show her some pieces she worked on. There were a bunch of crochet ornaments for charity sale. Mom worked with a few other ladies. One of the ladies’ son was Sam’s friend. The boy was a little shy and only liked to hang out with Sam. His mom was taking care of 4 kids. 2 of them were Sam’s age and the other 2 were around 8 or 9. Mom said the teenager boy really liked to stay with Sam so that he could escape from his crazy siblings. She helped the lady a lot with her 4 kids too.
Yi could never imagine a life with 4 kids. The office job already exhausted her. Country life was a completely different world. The admiration grew as she talked to Mom more. Lack of convenience and social activities, people need to keep their life busy and interesting in some ways.
Mom then talked about her day. Yi had listened to it many times – got up at 5am, cook breakfast at 5:30am, woke up Sam and Chris, drove Chris to school sometimes since he was always late for the school bus.
Yi carefully asked Sam’s situation. She mainly wanted to find out how Mom react to the whole transgender topic.
“Her breast is too big. like cup G or E. She got bullied at school because of her breast. A breast reduction can make her feel better about herself.”
One could never recall how evil teenagers could be once they grew out of it.
“Did she tell you about her gender identity thing? Did she want to take the breast out completely?”
Mom shook her head. “I told her to reduce to B. B is enough for now. Once she feels better about herself, she will start to lose some weight and forget about the whole identity thing.”
Ignorance was expected, which was better than disapproval. Yi was a little relieved.
“How’s Chris doing?”
“He is doing well. He helps at church and likes to social with people. But you never expect too much on teenagers. I have to tell them to keep their room clean.” Mom sighed. Their rooms were messy as usual.
Dinner was ready. Dad made clam chowder for the Christmas eve. The whole house came to the dinning room.
“I don’t like soggy bread.” Sam took a bite and pushed his plate forward. “I don’t like anything creamy. It is disgusting to have soggy bread and the soup.”
Dad did not say a word. Yi felt uneasy and looked at Alex. He was eating his food quietly and did not seem bothered.
“The chowder is pretty good.” Yi talked happily. Credit should be given away before things got too bad.
“You need butter and cream in winter.” Mom followed.
Sam stopped complaining about his food. They chat about a boy moved to this neighborhood recently. Chris said the boy showed his dick when he was waiting for the school bus. Mom said the boy gave her nasty finger when she drove by.
“Hey he is not a freak. He is just different.” Sam suddenly jerked out.
The room was silent. Dad still did not say a word.
Sam started to pour a lot of spicy seasoning into her clam chowder.
“Are you going to eat your soup?” Dad finally asked.
“No.” Sam dropped his utensils and left.
Dad took his bowl and started to eat the chowder.
“What did you put into it!” Dad choked after the first try.
Alex and Yi were eating quietly. You can never expect a peaceful meal in this house.
Christmas morning was pleasant. Sun came out after a whole day rain.
The family opened their gifts by the Christmas tree. Yi was doing better to pretend she was happy for the gifts she received. She already had a storage plan for every piece she opened. Alex could do better to look happy. He was a quiet kid. Mom always said that.
Sam was happy to have every gift with “To Sam” on it. His eyes light up when he opened the pair of sneakers from Yi and Alex. Mom told Alex that Sam wanted to go to gym more after the breast reduction surgery.
“You won’t use it come on.” Chris was making joke.
“No weight jokes in this room.” Sam was cold. Chris made a grimace.
The day went fast. Yi helped Mom to make Christmas dinner and kept Chris entertained. Sam was in his room to play with the guitar he received for Christmas. Alex and Dad watched some football games.
At 6pm, all the food came out of oven and served on the kitchen island. Yi was calling Alex and Dad to grab food. On her way back to the dinning room, she heard Sam was talking about something. Then Dad jerked out loudly.
“Shut up. Don’t interrupt our conversation. Kids and women stay out of it.”
Yi was frightened by the shout. She froze by the kitchen and went blank. It was not something she could believe she heard. Her joyful reaction to any situation did not work this time. Her tension was always high entering this house. Finally it came as she expected.
Dad took his plate and walked away to eat with Alex in the living room. Mom brought her plate to the table and joint kids. Yi collected herself and took one plate.
“Just ignore him when he gets annoyed.” Sam comforted Yi when Yi was coming to the dinning room. Yi gave him a faint smile. She could not imagine what Sam had been through.
Sam gave one piece of extra ham to Yi. He ate a few bites and left. Chris didn’t eat that much either. He was bothered with his pimples but still ate a lot of candies before dinner.
Mom was exhausted after the whole afternoon cook. She sit on the other side of the table quietly, looking down to her plate of food. The folk was hanging in the air. Yi could only see the reflected ray from her grey hair.
Yi already finished her food but sit there. She did not try to talk much this time. The food was delicious.
After dinner, Yi asked Alex to help clean the dish. Yi took the plate in the sink from Mom’s hand.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah leave it to us.”
Yi rinsed out all the plates and bowls and Alex placed them skillfully into the dishwasher. Alex then saved all the leftovers into fridge and cleaned the 2 heavy cast iron pans. Yi cleaned the mixer bowls and all the cups. The small sauce pot took a little effort as the sauce was creamy and thick. Finally everything was back to where they used to be. The Christmas dinner was finished.
“I am not used to it. I cook and I clean.” Mom paused for a few seconds.
“Thank you.” Her eyes were glittering.
It was me who should say thank you. Yi was tempting to say that. But it was too sentimental at that moment. She was not used to show her sensation in public. Alex came over and pat her shoulder. She knew he understood.
Time to leave. Dad put some home-made sausage and candies into a bag.
“Freeze the sausage and cook on the stove. It is good to eat with bagel.” Dad made sure Alex and Yi know how to eat them. “The candies were made after grandpa’s funeral.”
“Bye Sam&Chris. We are leaving.”
Alex hugged Mom. Mom hugged Yi firmly.
“Your mom is very tired today. So am I” Said Yi. They were driving to their hotel.
“Thanks for spending time with her.” Alex caressed Yi’s tender hair.
“How do you think about the whole Sam thing?”
“I’m still not used to his new name. It takes time to call him Sam naturally. He need some support from the family.”
“Of course. We definitely support him. Do you think your parents will eventually accept it?”
“They have no choices.” Alex shrugged. It was soothing to have this kind of mindset. Yi’s tension started to release.