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I finally decided that my grandma was right about our different natures and that neither one of us was right or wrong, neither one of us was better or worse. If anything, we complimented each other. It was in his nature to build. In my nature to nurture. In his nature to move forward without looking back. In my nature to care for what was already here. He obeyed a sense of duty. I responded to a sense of loss.
I finally saw him again one Saturday afternoon. I was on my grandparents’ front porch and saw him walking down the road toward me. I stayed on the porch steps and he stayed down on the road, but he stopped when he got to the house and I stood up when he stopped.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I said back.
“Want to go down to the creek?”
And that was the end of our estrangement but possibly not the end of our disagreement. As we started to walk around back to the kitchen to get some jars, I told him, “I think it was a good thing you shot that kitten. It was the best thing to do.”
He looked me straight in the eyes, something he rarely did.
“You really think so?” he asked and I realized that maybe he had been as troubled by what had happened as I had been but for different reasons.
It suddenly occurred to me that being a boy might not be all fun and games after all.
“Yeah,” I told him then felt compelled to add, “I couldn’t have done it.”
“I know,” he said. “I wouldn’t have wanted you to.”
Randy and I were friends for another year but then along came puberty and junior high. I put away my baseball cap and strapped on my first pair of high heels and there was no looking back for me. I started spending more time with my friends in town and less time at my grandparents’ house. I wouldn’t have acknowledged it at the time but the biggest obstacle to our friendship at that point would have probably become the differences in our home lives, not our sexes.
I’m a grown woman now. I like to think I’ve made my mark in this world of ours that sometimes still feels very much like a “man’s world” to me.
I have a son and a daughter. I’m trying to raise them both with a sense of equality but not of sameness. It isn’t always easy. Things may have improved over time in regards to women’s quest for equality with men, but the struggle to redefine our roles in society without losing our identities as women still goes on.
For me, whenever I’m faced with a moment where I’m trying to decide if I should follow my female instincts or if I should try to do what is expected of me as defined by one of my gender-neutral roles such as single parent, breadwinner, homeowner, bestselling author; or whenever I’m faced with a situation where a man frustrates me with what I consider to be his typically male behavior; I think back to Randy and the time we spent together in our youth. I think about how he was able to pull the trigger and I wasn’t, and how I’m glad I wasn’t able to do it but I’m glad he was.