They lug the last box through the door, exhausted, aching, and sweaty. High fives all around, toasts to the new house, and to happy memories yet to be made there. Friends clink plastic cups of soda and water while a few enjoy the cold wash of beer down their throats after their labor. There are the expected jokes about being too old for this, even though most of them are in their early 30s and don’t have a clue what being old is all about. The air is warm but comfortably so, allowing them to relax for a bit and celebrate a moving day without any major hiccups, injuries, or breakages. But soon they all drift off one by one, offering hugs and help with unpacking. At last, it is just the three of them left. They are home.
The new house is a huge milestone, as it should be. Homey, comfortable, with room to spread out, a change after the cramped apartment they just vacated. A decent yard that’s big enough for privacy but not too much to maintain, partly shaded for those sweltering summer days. The porch that offers a taste of time gone by. He thinks about where to plug in the gaming stations so the cords will reach; she’s focused on whether the baby could squeeze through the porch railings. You see an all-American family excited about their future. Father, mother, baby boy. Their reality looks like any Hallmark movie.
But how did that film become our everyday expectation of traditional life? Who gets to determine what normal is supposedto look like? The script plays out time and again, generation after generation. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They pledge their lives to each other. There’s a baby or three who completes their family: living proof of the legacy they’ll leave. And a home, always some sort of home. A cozy nest to call their own.
That’s where Jennifer and Marc are right now. Home.
The next few months will find them making it their own. Of course, the big stuff is easy. Couch on that wall, love seat over there. Bed goes here because of the window. That all gets put in place pretty quickly. Then comes the more laborious part. A whole lot of boxes marked “kitchen” in her neat penmanship, every one of them carefully packed and full of utensils they rarely use but somehow can’t part with. Whisks and sautépans, cake knives and juicers. More Tupperware than anyone could ever need (but at least every container had a lid, Jen made sure of that) is tidily stacked away. Spices and glasses and forks all found their space in cupboards and drawers in fairly short order.
In the meantime, there’s everyday life. Jobs and daycare drop offs. The biting phase of every two-year-old who can’t quite figure out his emotions, so he sinks his teeth in to let his feelings out. The date night for a friend’s wedding. The maintenance appointment for the car. It all goes on, just as always.
From every angle looking in, they are a perfect family settling in to their new life on Water Street. But peel back a layer and you’ll catch a quick glimpse of something quite different: old photos of a little girl who doesn’t exist anymore but bears an uncanny resemblance to him. Dig just a tiny bit deeper and, surprise, there’s a needle in bathroom (safely out of the baby’s reach—they both make sure of that). There’s the serum in the medicine cabinet at the ready for his next dose. And when the light hits her arm just right, you can see the scars, a small series of them lined up like matchsticks.
What you see from all the angles is still true. It’s not a mirage, and it’s certainly not a façade. They are, indeed, a sweet family filled with love, laughter, and memories in the making. But what’s not so easily seen—what isn’t at all obvious—is what got them to this place, living out the storyline whose scenes we all know so well. Those who see this contented little trio in their first home don’t know that Jen and Marc, stars of this would-be Hallmark movie, very nearly never made it at all.
Because a bomb ripped their lives apart. A verbal kind of bomb, of course, but one that was every bit as catastrophic as the kind that leaves physical wreckage scattered for miles. The debris ripped apart the very fabric of this sweet family when it was just the two of them, newlyweds still in their newly wedded cocoon who approached each day as a sparkling opportunity to share their lives and deepen their love. And this bomb, like so many physical ones, claimed its own kind of collateral damage.
And irony of ironies, it landed on Valentine’s Day… a “gift” she never saw coming and almost never recovered from.
Jennifer and Marika wedding photo
"This is a stunner of a book - eye-opening, heart-wrenching, all-the-feelings filled - made all the more powerful because it's true."
"A beautifully written story about love overcoming the challenges that life presents. The author and main characters bravely share their real experience with gender identity and mental illness."
"This is a well-written memoir on a topic that people don't see much of. A must-read & valuable addition to LGBTQ Collections. This book scored a perfect 100 from the cover to the content."
"This was a heart-wrenching story that brings up so many different questions. Would your love change for someone if their gender changed? Such a great story that really touched me."
"This is essential reading, not just as a woman, or as someone with a close friend and family who are experiencing transgender changes, but as a human being in today's world."
"Highly recommended! This book did exactly what it set out to do, with originality, style, and maybe even a twist. It stands out next to popular, traditionally published novels in its genre."