#37. I’m not a Bald Eagle but I know all about their courtship and mating rituals: lock talons, flip, spin, and twirl through the air; and hopefully unlock before hitting the ground. Thus, it’s possible to know the “facts of life” of a species and not have had first hand knowledge of them.
You and me, sitting in the back of my memory like a honey bee….humhumhum...Oliver’s learning the words to Long Monday. That why all the “humhumhums.”
Or not: Perhaps he thinks the lyrics are too “explicit” for me. Does that make sense, though? I was the one who introduced him to the song, well, “the back of my memory” part of the song. As I recollect, I didn’t actually sing it to him top to bottom. Dad learned “Long Monday” to honor Mr. Prine when he died of cancer last year. Oliver surely would be aware that I, of all people, know the “facts of life” hinted at in the song! (Or, maybe a tad more than hinted at: “We made love in every way love can be made and we made time look like time could never fade…soul to soul, heart to heart and cheek to cheek.” I understand: Oliver is shy of me.
He needn’t be. When Mom and Dad told me we were going to have new babies, after all these years of just me and them, they decided to spell it all out.
Of course (!) years before this, I’d already had the First Period Talk, both in school and with Mom. At school, while the girls met with the health teacher and got ALL the details and diagrams, the boys met with the gym teacher. We got the facts, they played basketball. Go figure. I had a booklet from Girlology (excellent) and another called “You Got IT.” At home, Mom drew pictures and talked. It was the menstruation version of the long division saga, but this time we didn’t have oases and dromedaries. “Your body changes so you can have a baby when you grow up. Getting a place ready for a baby to grow is part of this. This place is called the uterus. Every month the uterus wall gears up. If there’s no baby, this wall comes off and bleeds a little, coming out of your vagina.”
When Mom and Dad got pregnant with Clyde and Sam, they explained all over again.
But scientist Mom and word-master Dad were tongue-tied, this time it being them and not me that was prompting the talktalktalking. Our twins being the end result of all that uterus-wall-gearing-up protocol. Seeing them struggle for how to begin, I reassured them. Don’t be bashful about explaining sexual intercourse, I know all about it already.
I can do a sidebar here because my poor parents were gobsmacked and speechless. An interlude is fitting.
I’m a reader. My old school’s librarian was a liberal humanist in her 70’s with “carte blanche” as she told me to buy any books she thought kids should“have access to.” I’m eclectic. Take a look at what I have stacked on my bedside table: Forever by Judy Blume (very explicit and filled with the wonder of “the first time.”) ; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (fantasy: girl meets dragon); Sign of the Beaver (Historical fiction); Openly Straight (Rafe is gay but wants to be defined as not only the gay guy. It got the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor…and I love Sid); Charlotte’s Web (Pop read it aloud—of course I’d read it tons before—hoping it would be one of the ties that bind). George by Alex Gino (ironically, I listened to the audio of this while Pop was reading Charlotte’s Web!) In George, George/Melissa is trans and proves this to “their” parent by switching with her best friend to play the role of Charlotte in the class play. Miseducation of Cameron Post (Cameron is sent to conversion camp after coming out as gay.); You Against Me (a complicated plot about love. Unflinching is a good word for how I tried to be as I read it.) The One and Only Ivan (gorilla and elephant hatch plans to escape captivity. Love it. Has a sequel!) These Truths: A History of the United States (The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers need to read Jill LaPore’s history books.)
Fantasy, history, classic kids’ fiction, novels dealing with gender and sex. Some really good. Some mediocre. I thought maybe the sex, vodka, and pot in Lock and Key ended up being a little too intense for even mature me, but it was on the shelf in the library. I laughed and worried my way through Lost It. Also, as a writer myself, I emulate E.B White in his descriptive paragraphs—so I keep rereading Charlotte’s Web. I can still smell the leather harnesses hanging in that barn. As for the gender and sex novels, I am sure, since I don’t have any first hand experience, I don’t fathom it all; I admit to being hazy on how it all works.
But the haze got blown away by my thorough parents and the book pile with titles like this: Born or Hatched? Mummy Laid an Egg! Where Did I Come From? (Cartoon drawings worked for Mom and Dad and me). If the Stork Didn’t Bring Me, Where Did I Come From? Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex (Mom and Dad read this to gather courage; I found it in their bedside book stack!!) I remember studying the pictures in the Joe Kaufman book How We are Born, How We Grow, How Our Bodies Work, and How We Learn. There was like a center-fold spread of the actual act. Even though I thought I knew exactly how “IT”was done, I had to position the two-pager sideways and upside down, and slant it this way and that. (Very elementary, but it had great drawings of humans having fun with all that borning, growing, working, and learning.)
However, that was five years ago; I was way younger then. Young and innocent.
So, I smolder and hold back with Sir Isaac as Oliver grips the ram’s halter to pull him into a reinforced three-sided stall. He’s feisty today. Then Sir Isaac helps me gather the ewe, lambs, calves, and cows and herd them into other enclosures.
Honestly, If I’m old enough to know about rams and ewes—and where Sam and Clyde came from—you can stop censoring parts of Long Monday, Mr. I’m-so-much-more-grown-up-than-you Oliver.