This F-ing Box

My dad looked at me with an intense earnestness I hadn’t seen much from him. 

“No, really,” he said. “Your kids are so incredibly privileged.” 

He seemed shocked by the depth of it as he said it.

He and I mean that phrase in different ways– although both are true. He was responding to the artwork they’d done at an art camp that they go to in San Francisco every year. He seemed shaken to his core that my children are exposed to this kind of stuff in summer, and have gone every year. He seemed to be wondering what he, or any of us, could have been or done with that kind of lifelong coaching and encouragement. 

He looked at Evie’s fancy animal portrait like I’d paved her way into Harvard. It was strange, but also sweet? That moment when he saw how hard I’d worked to give my kids a very different life than I had, which was already an astoundingly privileged life compared to the one he had. There was admiration in it. 

But that’s not how I think of their privilege. 

My white girls— one cis-gendered, one trans-gendered— live in a place where they have rights and will have rights or we will leave. (Rights my dad opposes. FWIW.) The bullying and trauma my transgender daughter has experienced is nothing compared to most trans kids in America. From the age of five on, she had an incredible therapist, even when I had to pay in installments and put it on credit cards. We moved cities to give her a fresh start, and she gets her medical care at the best gender clinic in America. The real privilege, of course, is a family that absolutely adores her as she is. Not accepts her. ADORES HER. 

“Eli is just so glamorous,” Evie frequently says looking like that emoji with the heart eyes. Eli raids my closet with impunity and everything looks better on her. Every spaghetti strap dress I own has tight knots in the top of the straps to adjust for her slim shoulders. She has never met a mirror she doesn’t like. The fact that my trans kid is so in love with her reflection is one of my proudest achievements as a mother. 

She will not be the statistic, and I can’t imagine a greater privilege as her mom. Moms of trans kids know what I mean by that. The suicide rates. The suicide rates that plummet when just one adult in their lives affirms their true gender.

We weren’t talking about any of that though. My dad consistently misgenders my child, which is why I cut him out of my life, before he fell and broke his neck and then my mom fell into a near-coma. Instead of never going back to Memphis again, I’ve gone four times this year. He can’t fathom their actual privilege. 

***

“Let me carry that box!” he yelled at me days later.

“I TOLD YOU I’VE GOT IT!”

He was obsessed with a not-very-heavy, not-very-large box that I was carrying into his assisted living complex the last day I was in Memphis. I could easily carry it with one arm. But he tried a dozen times to take it from me. 

“Isn’t this how you broke your neck?” I finally said. “Insisting on carrying a vacuum cleaner in, when the woman helping clean your house was perfectly capable of it? Can we please limit the family tragedies to one at a time? You’ve had your turn this year.”

He had to concede the point because it was true. But three times after that, he asked me to put the box down while he glad-handed everyone we encountered in the foyer and then paused to check his mail. 

“I can still carry my kids, and they weigh many times this box,” I said. “Think of it as the workout I didn’t pay for today.”

A woman stopped us in the entryway, desperate for news of my mom. 

“Look at my strong daughter carrying this box!” He declared. 

She looked understandably confused at the bizarre comment. I just shifted the box to one arm and made a bicep with the other one to mess with him. 

What was behind his obsession with me carrying this box??? Does he even understand everything I’ve accomplished in my career? That I’ve written three best-selling books with major publishers despite being dyslexic, FFS? That 2% of venture capital money goes to women and I’ve raised it multiple times? That I’ve toppled bro regimes with my words? 

Does he understand that giving birth is substantially harder than carrying a box and my mom did it five times, me twice and my sister twice? 

How was this box the unimaginable lift from a daughter who cut them out of my life, then came here four times this year because it was a crisis and I’ll help in a crisis even if I don’t like you? This stupid box was the easiest lift in four trips. This box was nothing. I had no emotional scars and certainly no physical scars from this stupid f-ing box. Not what I can say of the rest of the trips.

I remembered something Evie said to my dad when she was three years old. I was in their house before we had to sell it –before I cut them out of our lives. I decided not to close the attic stairs because it makes a disturbingly loud noise, and my mom was napping. Paul thought I just lost interest and swooped in to close it. 

My dad said, “Sometimes you just need a man to do things!” 

I rolled my eyes. Honestly, what’s the point? He’s in his 80s. He is who he is.

Evie skipped up to him, with her cute little yellow A-line H&M Minions dress, her ponytail bouncing. 

“Gwanddaddy? Do you know who you sound like when you say things like that?”

He bent down to take in her adorable sweetness. 

“Donald Trump,” she said, her eyes boring into his soul. 

It was a devastating blow to my evangelical dad who prides himself on his objection to Donald Trump. 

The Lacy/Ellis girls are immeasurably stronger than you think, Dad. The box is the least of it. And yes, it’s a privilege that we’re all very proud of.