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Lily Turns The Crank

At Farmers’ Market today, I helped to run the apple press. We had a press with a grinder/feed mechanism. You turned a big crank to grind up the apples, spitting them into a bucket. When the bucket was full, it was time for the pressing — a plate went over the bucket, and another crank engaged to squish out the juice.

Volunteers came and went at the press. Some fed the apples into the chute, some turned the press; but most turned the crank while I braced the machine and dumped in apples. Lily — about ten years old — started by feeding the chute. She was around for awhile, with her dad; she left and then came back by herself. She turned the crank and turned the crank — for quite some time — and went back to feeding the chute while I braced the press and someone else turned the crank. “What’s your name, brother man?” Lily did a double take. “Lily”, she said, quietly. I thought about this for a minute or two, waited for the crowd to thin, and apologized to Lily. “I don’t know many young people.”, I said, “I sometimes can’t tell girls from boys.”. Lily went back to the crank and people commented on her vigour. “Yeah, she’s great!”, I said — I didn’t want anyone else to make the same mistake, and I wanted Lily to know I had taken my apology to heart.

I gender children on the basis of what I think their parents want them to look like. Lily, in mottled gray pants, a plain colored tea shirt and bright orange sandals, with a short haircut, seemed boyish enough. Her dad mentioned her name once or twice; but I took it as “Lionel”, since I had already made up my mind.

One of the other staffers though Lily was a little boy, too, so I’m not alone in my error. I wonder how this will effect Lily as she transitions into adolescence?


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