Friday, June 4, 2010


"Girls! Girls! Girls!" I remember calling out, trying to restore order to the chatty-wild young ladies in my Sacred Heart classroom many years ago in Hoboken. And everytime I shouted, I remember amusing myself thinking, "Geeze-I sound like a Camden billboard." (Yes, sometimes Billy Crystal lives in my head.) Admittedly it is hard not to draw a line to sexual innuendo at every turn when you are the English/P.E. teacher to a bunch of high school girls who are trapped inside a boyless institution for hours on end. I had to be prepared because they drew that line every chance they got. I always thought, when my kids ask, I'll surely be ready to answer. And I am.

I thought of my readiness again when Uncle Pat (my Godfather, the best one there is, a fact that is important) sent me an email-giggle regarding one of Kit's cute little sayings. "The day is not too far off when you will be hit with the big question of where did I come from and how did I get here, etc." he wrote.

We were both wrong.

Instead, one night before bed, my darling six-year-old with her covers tucked up under her chin told ME where babies come from: "May said that to have a baby, a man . . . " shall I save you from her clear and correct description? (If you are trying to think what it was like to be me, make sure you insert those two, big, innocent baby blues looking at you for confirmation. Blink. Blink.)

First, I silently forgave May (who has teenage brothers and clearly academic understanding of biology), then aided by angels, I answered "Yes, but that doesn't decide that there is a baby. That's still up to God. It's a big mystery. That's why some people have lots of babies and some people have none. It's alllll up to God."

Still young enough to cling to all things magical, she liked that, and I hadn't heard from her since. Until early this morning, when she was reading a newspaper and asked, "What's sex again?"

I decided to think animals, and came up with a cursory but usable definition for reproduction. I spoke slowly and clearly, with my heart stuck somewhere in my throat. Then I held my breath.
"No," she looked at me blankly. "I mean like here, it says "Sex:Female. What does that mean?"

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