On Christmas, I woke up to Brooks and Daniel bouncing on my bed. “Wake up, wake up,” they chanted.
I groaned and pulled my legs to my chest, afraid that eventually one of them was going to land on them and hurt me or themselves. “I’m up.”
Brooks took one last jump and landed on his butt. “Gray is protecting the presents while we wake everyone up.”
“Why do the presents need to be protected?” I asked, attempting to tame my hair with my hand.
“Danny’s afraid Santa’ll take his presents away ’cause he’s been bad.”
“He won’t take your presents away,” I promised Daniel.
Daniel stopped jumping. “Not now, ’cause Gray’s protecting ’em.”
As I got out of bed, Brooks and Daniel ran off to wake everyone else up. I made my way to the front room, where Gray sat on the couch near the presents, looking at his phone. I smiled to myself and sat down in the chair next to the couch.
When everyone was downstairs and ready to open presents, we had a free-for-all, which was not something that I was used to.
In my stocking, I got pens, pencils, a portable phone charger, and a lanyard. I thanked my dad, who I had gotten a Royals hat. He was always watching sports on his phone, so it hadn’t been hard to find him a gift. He wore the hat all day, and everytime I saw it, I smiled.
Weston and his wife Leslie came over not long after we had eaten breakfast. While Leslie, Mary, and Lisa helped Aunt Leandra in the kitchen, my dad worked on shoveling the snow off the walkways outside. Kiara, Mady, and Amy played with their new toys, Brooks and Daniel played their new computer games, and Weston, Gray, and I went down to Gray’s room and played card games.
“How’s senior year going, Gray?” Weston asked.
“Good,” Gray said. “I didn’t fail any classes this semester.”
“Awesome,” Weston said. “How’s FFA?”
Gray talked about the club he was in, Future Farmers of America. I had heard all of the stories before, but I still laughed to myself about some of the things they did at the competitions. They had to taste milk and guess how expired it was! I would never knowingly taste old milk, but Gray said it was really interesting.
When Gray was done talking, Weston turned the conversation on me. “What have you been up to?”
I shrugged. “Working a lot, saving for college.”
“Oh yeah?” he said. “That’s cool. College can be such a good experience.”
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“It’s not very far away,” he said. “It wasn’t the best school, but I got my degree, it was pretty cheap, and I have a job that I like, so no complaints.”
“Nice,” I said.
“Where are you applying?”
I told him the schools I had looked at, and he nodded. “That’s a good list. Have you visited any of them?”
“Dad said there was no point in going there before I knew if I was accepted, because for music, I’m going to have to go audition after I get accepted anyway. He said we would just see which one I liked best at the audition.”
“Good plan,” Weston said. “No need to waste a drive.”
“And a day off work.”
“I heard you were trying to get some surgery or something?” Weston asked. “Why, what’s wrong?” I blushed. I thought Weston had known why I was getting the surgery, but maybe no one in the family really talked about it.
“Nothing’s wrong with him,” Gray said.
Weston looked confused. I swallowed and then blurted, “It’s because I’m trans. I’m getting my breast tissue removed.”
Weston turned red. “Oh yeah, sorry. I didn’t mean to make that… Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m just still waiting for my dad’s insurance to approve it.”
“I hope it goes well.”
“Thanks,” I said.
We played the game in silence for a few minutes. My mind raced, wondering if everyone except my dad was just too embarrassed to talk about my situation.
“Are you going to be able to work right after the surgery?” Weston finally asked. “It just seems like that would be painful.”
“No,” I said. “I won’t be able to work for a while because I have to stay in Kansas City for a week just in case anything happens, and so they can take my drains out. They’re these things that catch all the excess fluid. It’s kind of gross. But when I come back home, I’m going to have to make sure that my boss understands that I should only be working register for a bit. I can’t lift heavy things for a few weeks afterwards, and it’s not good to strain my upper body in other ways, because it will make the scars worse.”
Weston nodded. “Sorry you have to deal with all that.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “It’s just part of becoming me. The me I want to be, I mean.”
“So do you--?” Weston shook his head. “I’m really sorry, I don’t know how any of this works.”
“You can ask questions,” I said.
“Do you… Will you have to, like, do other things to make yourself look how you want? Is there a way you can get facial hair and stuff like that?”
“Yeah, I can get shots of testosterone,” I said. “I haven’t been able to look into that yet. It’s expensive, and this surgery was more important to me.”
“That’s cool,” Weston said. “I’m glad there’s something that helps.”
“Me too,” I said.
We were silent again for a bit, and then Gray started telling a story from school, and I nearly sighed in relief. Even though I was glad that Weston just wanted to understand, I didn’t like feeling like they were both watching me or something.
Christmas dinner was very good. We had a ham and a turkey, which even with the 14 of us, would give us plenty of leftovers, as well as rolls, salad, stuffing, green beans, and lots of desserts, which were for the evening.
When everyone was stuffed, we all helped clean up and wash the dishes so we could open presents. It didn’t take long with all of us helping.
Brooks and Daniel were the first ones in the family room, rooting around under the tree for their own presents.
“Why don’t you two play Santa and pass out everyone’s gifts?” Uncle Don suggested. Brooks and Daniel agreed, and soon we all had our gifts in front of us.
“Do we get to go first?” Daniel asked, hands on his first gift, ready to tear it open.
“We can do youngest to oldest,” Aunt Leandra agreed. Brooks and Daniel ripped open their first gifts without hesitation.
By the time the gift opening got to me, I had decided to open the smallest one first. It was from Weston and Leslie. I opened the little box and pulled out a check, which was for $200. “Wow, thank you,” I said.
“Since we never got to go to your graduation or anything, we thought we’d give you something to kind of make up for it,” Weston said.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling at him and Leslie.
The second time it came around to me, I opened my gift from Aunt Leandra and Uncle Don. It was a card and a check for another $100.
“Thank you,” I said.
“We know that you save just about everything you earn at work for school, so we thought you could use some spending money to go see a movie or something,” Uncle Don said.
“I’ll use it only for fun,” I promised, smiling.
The third time around, I opened the gift that Mr. and Mrs. Parker had sent me. It was a backpack, just like Terin’s.
“Now who is that from?” Uncle Don asked.
“My foster family,” I said. “I’ll have to call them later to thank them.”
“It’s nice of them to send you a gift,” Dad said.
“Yeah. I told them not to though,” I said, laughing.
The fourth gift was from Gerald and Kira, and it was also the same thing they had given Terin. I smiled to myself, looking at the book. Terin had said that it was kind of weird, and he had even read me an excerpt from it. The excerpt had reminded me of Jed and how, nearly every time I talked to him, he asked me, “Are you happy?”
“So who is this from?” Uncle Don asked.
“My foster family’s neighbors,” I said. “They were kind of like our grandparents.”
“That’s very nice of them,” Aunt Leandra said, smiling. “You really had your own little community there.”
I nodded. The next time it was my turn, I unwrapped my last gift, which was from my dad. The box contained a new shower towel, some flip flops, and another box with a lamp in it.
“College essentials right there,” Weston said, and my dad smiled. “That’s what I was going for.”