The Christmas when my son was two and a half, there were lots of things on his Christmas list. A few of the items were actually things he himself added (anything remotely related to Thomas the Tank Engine, Scooby Do slippers, a fire truck, a construction truck Lego set). Being his mother, I was naturally clairvoyant regarding a few items he was going to love but he, at two and a half, didn’t have the life experience to know he really wanted. And two things that he really wanted were a baby doll and a kitchen.
Now I KNOW what you’re thinking, “here we go, politically correct liberal feels a need to bring out the feminine side in her son. She wants to make damned sure he doesn’t grow up not knowing its OK to cry. She really wanted a girl so she’s going to make him a substitute. She’s mad at men so she’s going to ‘fix’ the one she gave birth to.” Well, NOPE... none of the above. No big agenda here. Here’s the deal... I was trying to get pregnant with who turned out to be his sister, and wanted my son to have a baby doll so we could practice what it was like having a baby around the house... you know.... “we rock the baby, we’re GENTLE with the baby, babies wear diapers and sleep in cribs and ride in strollers.” I wanted him to have a kitchen for an equally practical purpose.... so that he would have somewhere to play in the REAL kitchen without emptying my cabinets and trying to “help” me cook each evening.
So anyway... the J-U-L-Y before the above mentioned Christmas, my mother calls and this is what follows:
Her: “What does he want for Christmas?”
Me: (obviously, forgetting who I was speaking with): “A kitchen.”
(I admire the consistency with which she feigns deafness every time I say something she doesn’t want to hear, which is just about every time she calls.)
Me: “A kitchen.”
(What happens next is about twenty minutes of her trying to talk me out of buying him a kitchen. It was established immediately that SHE would not be buying him a kitchen and then the conversation quickly shifted to her trying to convince me this was an unnecessary gift for me or anyone else to buy for my son. Right away I picked up on the fact that she thought this was a gift only appropriate for girls. However, she wasn’t saying that. She became supremely frustrated and finally....)
Her: “WHAT IF HE GROWS UP TO BE a... a... a... a... CHEF?????????”
(ahhh, now we’re getting somewhere)
Me: “Do you mean gay?”
Her(Exasperated and Breathless): “What?????????”
(She really needs to see an Otolaryngologist about this intermittent deafness.)
Her: “I didn’t say THAT.”
Me: “Is that what you meant?”
Me: “Good. I’m okay if he grows up to be a chef.”
(I add silently): “Or Gay.”
Okay, fast forward five months and it’s now my son’s third Christmas. I’m not pregnant yet, but I’m due to ovulate on New Year’s Eve and plan to party like its 1999... Which it is. I’ll regret this in September of 2000, when I’m in labor and I would have had a better chance of my mom buying my son a kitchen than finding an available anesthesiologist in my hospital where quite the little baby boom was going on. But, when my daughter is old enough, it will be a funny story to tell her that she was conceived on the eve of the new Millennium.
Anyway, over the fall my mother had come to understand, if not accept, that my son WOULD be receiving a kitchen from Santa. Santa is not a homophobe and has nothing against chefs, so when my son requested a kitchen from Santa at the mall a few weeks earlier (prompted by his loving mommy) it was not a problem. What my mother WAS unprepared for was the baby doll he was getting from me and my husband on Christmas Eve.
Understand, I was at the time only the mommy of a boy. I had not ever once purchased a baby doll. I was a little surprised to see that 99.9 percent of them were pink or at least dressed in pink. I didn’t have anything against the pink baby dolls per se, but when I saw this cute little one in a blue and green striped outfit it seemed right for a boy, so I purchased it. It was in a box and I wrapped it up, put it under the tree and didn’t give the little ticking time bomb another thought, until…
It’s Christmas Eve and my son unwraps the doll. He likes it... not the reaction we received to the new Thomas the Tank Engine toys, but he likes it. He holds it, plays with it a bit and then decides as any two and half year old would, to undress it. The little blue and green striped outfit is snug and my son is having a hard time getting it off. Enter stage right, my mother. She swoops in to help my son undress the doll. Suddenly, without warning, the following ensues on my living room floor back lit by the idyllic Christmas Tree, in the slow motion version only granted to those, like me, who can occasionally see what is about to happen, but not in enough time to adequately intervene.
(As the outfit pulls across the doll’s head...)
My Mother (Sputtering): “uh... uh... uh... this uh... doll... has a... a... a...”
My Son (clearly, without reservation and proud to help my mom find her words): “A PENIS!!!”
Now, to this day I’m not sure if my mother was more upset by the fact that the doll did indeed have a penis or that my son said “THE WORD.” There are many things that are NEVER spoken of in my mother’s presence and penises and anything related to them are at the top of the list. Suddenly, that damned kitchen she had given me SO much grief about was looking pretty freaking good.