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The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Tranny Christmas Angel

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

The painter has completely taken over my apartment. I can barely find my cats much less clothing to put on. It’s taken him two weeks to get remotely close to finishing the job – and mind you, it’s a studio, not a 2,500 square foot loft. So my mom sent me a bus ticket to visit the family in D.C. to get away for a few days.

My parents moved from the house I grew up in to a small apartment in downtown D.C. a few years ago. My father, a writer, also rents a small room in the building’s lobby and uses it as an office. He’s about to move offices, though, which means he’s cleaning out years of old checks, tax returns, letters, awards and books. He asks me to help him, it’s easier to weed out shit with a second pair of eyes. He’s always quick to show me the folders upon folders of rejection letters he got when he was in the “business” to keep me grounded in reality – which I am often not.

In storage, we also found Christmas ornaments, including strands of decorative plastic apples dusted with fake frost, jalapeno lights, plaster impressions of my hands when I was a baby, my coming out letter to my dad, brown clay pretzels dotted with Wite-Out “salt” made by my sister Sarah, and a 50-pound clay car I made in the 10th grade. I didn’t even know where to start. So I started with the ornaments.

I separated them into two piles: one for me, and one for my sister and brother-in-law. In my pile: a Raggedy Ann doll made of yarn, which was my favorite when I was a kid; a felt gingerbread man; a crusty red robin with one eye; and a gold cardboard tranny-esque Christmas angel that used to top our tree until my dad got more work and we got new things, including ornaments.

My sister comes over for my dad’s birthday dinner, and after we eat, I bring out the bags of ornaments for her to go through. I dump them on the dining room table.

“I don’t care about any of them but the yarn Raggedy Ann doll,” she goes, picking up a stuffed pea ornament with a smiley face and a Santa Claus hat.

“I took that Raggedy Ann ornament,” I said.

“No! OK, fine. Then I get mom’s mink,” she giggles.

My mother is very much alive – an active 71-year-old with virtually no health problems. She walks in on us splitting up her possessions prematurely.

“No one’s touching my mink, and it’s muskrat anyway.”

“Well, I want the brown and white plates,” I laugh.

“That’s fine,” my sister chimes in, “those colors clash with my kitchen anyway.”

And it suddenly dawns on me what all the bickering and jesting is REALLY about – my parents’ mortality, and our anxiety surrounding it. No one speaks about it, but there are a few beats of silence when I’m wondering if anyone is thinking the same thing.

After a second or two, I go, “You can have the Raggedy Ann doll, I don’t even want it.”

“No, you keep it. As long as it stays in the family –”

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” my dad yells from the other room, “make up your minds and shut up or the fucking Raggedy Ann will end up in the trash.”

“I get the tranny Christmas angel,” I say.

“Good,” Sarah goes, “I don’t want it.”

“You two, seriously – be quiet,” Mom urges. “And anyway, we have to have cake now.”

She disappears into the kitchen and comes out with a gigantic pear torte and ten candles. It’s my dad’s 79th birthday and we start singing. I don’t look at Sarah because then we’ll both tear up.

“Happy birthday, dad,” I say, kissing his cheek.

And many more.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page and Tweets at @MsOToole.

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