Gyrle (n.) – Boy or Girl

Is it better to have a boy or a girl? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking. When I was four, I used to wedge myself in between the wall and refrigerator and yell out, “Help! I’m stuck!” It was my mom’s least favorite game. Meanwhile, half a country away, my wife-to-be was stomping the life out of a loaf of bread because her parents refused to get her a treat at the grocery store. So in my mind, as long as it’s our kid, it’s going to be a toss-up.

Following her older sister’s lead, Susan decided not to find out the baby’s gender—and I agreed. Some are baffled by this decision. Others are excited for us. And then still others seem positively affronted. They were going to tell us some gender-specific bit of advice, and now they can’t. “Well, do you have names picked out at least?” they ask. “We do, but they’re a secret.” To this they reply a weak, “Oh,” and walk away somberly. This is by far the rarest bunch—so rare that I’m not even sure why I included them at all, but I did include them. So there.

I suppose I included them because of their unrelenting curiosity. We were all curious when my nephew was on the way. Our niece, Katie, was pining for a little sister. She would listen intently to her mama’s tummy, decode what she heard, and then relate it to us: “Grazie told me she is a gore,” Katie announced. Grazie was our nephew’s tummy name. And gore was Katie-speak for “girl.” Obviously.

We were all baffled when Teddy proved himself very much a boy some weeks later. But none so much as Katie. “Why did he tell me he was a gore, Daddy?” she asked.

Without missing a beat, Matthew explained that brothers can be tricksters.

Perhaps it wasn’t that Teddy tricked her. Maybe she just confused the message. In my reading I recently came across a Middle English word, gyrle, which could mean either a girl or a boy. Maybe in some primordial, womb language, Teddy was just trying to say, “I’m here, I’m a little person, and I can’t wait to meet you!”

Boy or gore, Katie or Teddy, we’ll be happy either way, so what’s the point of shaking the box? In a few months we’ll be receiving the great gift, and I don’t see how we could possibly improve upon it. Also, by the way our little trickster has been stomping on Susan’s bladder the second she sits down, I’m not sure there’s any way we’ll be ready.



“Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.”
—Matthew 26:14-16

This morning Katie and Jimmy are learning about the potters fieldthe one where Judas Iscariot was buriedfrom their grandma. Katie is my niece and Jimmy is my nephew, and even though Katie is almost two years older than her brother, they are roughly the same size.

All morning their mom peddles adventures and mysteries and absurdist chronicles about greedy pigs and dry pancakes to the local children at her school, and then she comes home to her big family of little people. And in the meantime their grandma, Joan, prays and sings and reads scripture with them, counting out thirty pieces of silver with Katie and playing Who Loves Who More with Jimmy.

“Tell her how much more,” Katie finally suggests to end the infinite loop of “No, I love you more.”

Jimmy thinks for a moment and then shouts with all the ardor and volume of a two-year-old, “32! I love you 32!”

When I stop to think about how much I’ve been forgiven fornot just the times I almost died and didn’t, but the catalog of sins venial and mortal, the promises I made to God and my fellows and then broke immediately, the myriad separations from Him in my words and in my thoughtsI can’t help but feel impossibly blessed and grateful, grateful for what I’ve received and what I’ve managed not to lose. But what leads the procession, where I start every time, is this love like Jimmy’s that overpays any debt I could acquire.