I went upstairs to the attic and came back down carrying a very dusty shoebox. “You’ve never seen this before. In fact it hasn’t been opened in about forty years. But it’s going to help us both understand each other.” I peeled away the dried-up duct tape, took off the lid and lifted out the contents, a long faded ponytail tied with a ribbon and a photograph of a little girl in a white First Communion dress, white stockings, white shoes, a little tiara thing on her head, and long straight shiny hair with bangs. Looking delighted.
“You and Chris used to sometimes ask why there were no pictures of me when I was small. That’s why. That’s me at age seven. I’d been Jean for almost three years. But when I was thirteen my long hair was cut off, your grandmother put it away in that box, and I became a boy again. This is the first time I’ve seen the photo and the ponytail in over forty years. It brings it all back.” And I stopped because emotion was overwhelming me.
Ronnie looked at the photo, looked at me and looked back at the picture. Stunned and speechless. Then it was my turn to talk. About a crazy set of circumstances that had resulted in me living as a girl from age five to age thirteen, and how Karen had been my closest friend during those incredibly joyful years. How I’d then gone back to being a boy — with great unhappiness. How I’d eventually accepted being a male, but never with total comfort, not even now. “We wanted to keep this a secret until both of you were well into adulthood. We told Chris about a year ago. So you see, once Mum and Chris get over the initial shock of what you’ve told me, I know they’ll handle it okay.
Et moi, Ronnie ? I guess you’re doing what I regret I didn’t.”
“And maybe Veronica could spend some time with us before she goes back to Julliard ?”