the week that was 2

The biggest news this week was that I finally told Chris where babies come from. Mostly. Since he is only eight years old and still refers to his penis as a weiner, I had trouble using technical terms like vagina and instead told Chris the baby came out of a birth hole. (To all the women reading this, I’m sorry. I panicked.)  At first Chris thought I was referring to the derrière, but when I explained that babies did not come out of a woman’s butt and that there was a second opening, he emitted a shriek of horror that pretty much guaranteed that if/when the day comes that he finally does see a vagina, he will either run screaming from the room or refer to it as a birth hole.

Also this week, Chris received his first report card of the year. Four B’s and six A’s, including an impossible 114% in Spanish. Which is funny since Chris cannot speak a word of Spanish and when telling me about the recently celebrated Dia de Los Muertos (or Day of the Dead), he told me it was the day “you put out cookies for all the dead kids so they could come back to life”.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not baking a bunch of cookies so that creepy ghost children can roam around my house like extras on the set of The Walking Dead.

The front steps of the church where I work is a popular meet-up spot for the city’s homeless. This past Tuesday we were hosting at least eight of Pittsburgh’s most notable grifters, including a couple making out in a manner that could only be described as voracious.  When I went out to clear the steps one of the guys told me to “fuck off”.  After I said that I would not fuck off, he muttered “faggot” under his breath. One-Legged Scooter Woman found this funny and laughed. I hate One-Legged Scooter Woman. Long after the others had left the steps she sat there glaring at me as if to say, “Go ahead. Tell the woman with one leg to move.”

She is part of a revolving cast of characters at the church that includes Crazy Black Lady with the Orange Shawl, Blanket Man, and Dirty Old White Woman with No Shoes. Crazy Black Lady with the Orange Shawl stops into my office several times a day to let me know that if I need anything she’s right out front on the steps. It’s a real comfort. Blanket Man is just that–a guy who haunts the streets of Pittsburgh wearing a blanket as if it were the finest of caftans.  I once saw him walking near my house (miles from the church) and I got so excited I took a picture of him from my moving car and then texted it to a friend.

Dirty Old White Woman with No Shoes is arguably the smartest of all the panhandlers. She straddles the property line between the church and the library, leaving each business to think that she’s the others problem. She is there every day, sitting on the pavement with no shoes, picking at her dirty feet with her hands, and then shoving those same hands into people’s faces as she asks for a quarter. The other day when I was leaving the church with Chris, she briefly stopped picking at her dirty feet to ask if Chris was my son. It was sweet and I would’ve been genuinely touched by the moment had I not been sent into a Purell panic when I noticed she had taken Chris’s hand asking him if he had a quarter.

Later today we are driving to Chicago for the weekend to see a friend in a play.  Eight hours in a minivan.  Myself, Todd, Chris, and our friends Tom and Jackie. I have known Tom since I first forced him to be my friend back in junior high school twenty-six years ago and Jackie since she played a cow (or was it a horse?) in a play my Dad wrote more than fifteen years ago. Together with our complex histories and unique personalities we make up the cast of a Horton Foote play…as written by Charles Busch.

Poor Chris. Like so many of our adventures this trip promises to keep him on the psychiatrist’s couch well into his first midlife crisis.

where do babies come from?

Chris started asking me that question about eight months ago.  Where do babies come from?  The first time he asked me I broke into a cold sweat before stammering that he was too young and that we would discuss it when he was older.  A month later when he asked again I opened a bottle of beer and, following a long drink, vaguely explained that men and women have different bodies.  The third explanation — which I am not at all proud of — involved a knife.  Yesterday, when he asked me for the fourth time, I finally told him the truth.

Chris: Please just tell me where babies come from.

(And so I did.  More or less.)

Chris: That’s (lengthy pause) awful.

I thought my answer was age appropriate, but when I recounted it to Todd he ran screaming from the kitchen and then pretended to vomit all over the couch.

In retrospect, I suppose my answer was better suited to an Animal Planet documentary on reptile sex or a really low-budget horror movie on SyFy.  All the same it got me thinking about the questions Chris would ask me in the years to come and it made me consider how I would answer them and would I field them any better than I had the baby question?

Some questions I look forward to.  Chris is Native American, a descendant of a small tribe in Northern California with less than 3000 living members.   One day he will have questions about his heritage and when he does I will have the privilege of helping him to explore his ancestry.  And while it might make Columbus Day and Thanksgiving a little less festive, with those answers he can be proud of his place in history (and, as a bonus, fully appreciate his amazing cheekbones).

And then there are the other questions.  One day Chris will ask about his birth parents, these two strangers who made him.  Like most kids in foster care he did not end up there because he had a super awesome start in life.  As a general rule of thumb, children are not taken from good parents.  So how exactly do I navigate those muddy waters?    How do I explain who they were in a way that will not make him run screaming from the kitchen?  (Please understand, I’m not looking for answers because until we are in that moment, there are no answers.)

For now I’ll take the easy questions.  Where do babies come from?  Please.  I got this covered.  In fact, let me just draw you a picture…