Annabel by Kathleen Winter

annabel(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Intersex is my ‘new issue’. As my church wrestles with, and fails to come to terms with, homosexuality, I am being told that my thinking is too ‘binary’. Intersex leads to a whole new set of considerations.

I was alarmed to find out that the surgeon had never done this operation before and I wonder whether surgery is done for the sake of the baby, so that s/he won’t be made fun of. Or for the adults, who need to define everything: to annihilate all questions…….It’s a tiny ruler.’ `It is. See?’ He pointed to a mark three-quarters of the way down the phalometer. ‘If the penis reaches or exceeds this length, we consider it a real penis. If it doesn’t meet this measurement, it is considered a clitoris.’ Jacinta strained to read the tiny marks. ‘One point five centimetres?’

The descriptions of people and landscape are lyrical and haunting. There’s a clash between Inuit and Western (Canadian) civilisations. Hoewever, the Inuit lived very close to nature: And if you were one of the Innu or Inuit those days, you had no need of cinema. Cinema was one of the white man’s illusions to compensate for his blindness. A white man, for instance, had no idea of the life within stones…. This whole religion, Jacinta thought — and Treadway knew without thought — depended on people more than people depended on it. You didn’t need it unless you did not have the land in your heart; the land was its own god.

You can’t escape mysticism by living in that place: They did not know that her idea of resurrection was different from that of the Church, as were her ideas of Christ, of light, of immortality and holiness. Christ, for Thomasina, was not so much a person as an opening in the grass, a patch of sun, a warm spot in the loneli­ness. She had never been a person who respected stained glass or altars. That butterfly’s small early wings were her stained glass. That patch of earth, peeping through the melting snow, was her altar. Her mother had not called her Thomasina for nothing. ‘If you were a boy,’ her mother had said when she was young, ‘I was going to call you Doubting Thomas, after the disciple who wanted to see Christ’s nail marks with his own eyes. But you were a girl. So I called you Doubting Thomasina.’…. a woman who would not turn to page 254 of the Book Prayer and recite, ‘Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin . . .’ What kind of words were these to start off a baby’s life?

The author confuses lecterns and pulpits – pulpits don’t have eagles.

Don’t hospitals vet the material they leave in waiting rooms?: Jacinta looked at a Paediatrics Today magazine lying on a table. On its cover was a photograph of a baby with tubes coming out of its nose, arms, and head. Why did hos­pitals think people coming in with their babies wanted to look at magazines like that?

The husband and father is a distant man but reliable, and even likeable if you like the strong, silent type. Though taciturn, he champions his son: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. `When?’ asked Treadway. ‘When is the Lord planning on getting around to it? Because I can have it done by this time tomorrow.’

Like me: Treadway was a man who did not like talking on the phone. The phone was for getting information across that could not be exchanged in any other way. It was the new form of telegrams.

Wayne starts to dream that he is a girl. Before that: `I told Dad you were calling me Amble and he said he didn’t like it.’ `Don’t worry. I’ll only call you Annabel when there’s no one else around.’

In early adulthood, after thoughts of suicide: Years of hormones had made him angular, and it occurred to him that he wished he could stop taking them. He wanted to stop swallow–mg them every day and having them alter his body from what it wanted to be into what the world desired from it. He wanted to throw the pills down a toilet ….. He wanted to throw the pills away and wait and see what would happen to his body. How much of his body image was accurate and how much was a construct he had come to believe?

One intriguing detail –you can’t keep cows in Labrador so have to use Carnation Milk.

And something I didn’t know – there’s a Cabot Tower in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, situated on Signal Hill, built at the same time as the one in Bristol UK.

Quotations

`It was as the baby latched on to Jacinta’s breast that Thomasina caught sight of something slight, flower-like; one testicle had not descended, but there was something else. She waited the eternal instant that women wait when a horror jumps out at them. It is an instant that men do not use for waiting, an instant that opens a door to life or death. Women look through the opening because something might be alive in there.’

`Only in wind over the land did Treadway find the freedom his son would seek elsewhere.Treadway was a man of Labrador, but his son had left home as daughters and sons do, to seek freedom their fathers do not need to inhabit, for it inhabits the fathers.’

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