Saturday, July 12, 2008


(Early Meg Christian photo, copied from Queer Music Heritage.)

Yet another flash from the past for my novel-in-progress Ginny Bates. This takes place a few months after my post of yesterday, in early 1998. If you are not yet a Ginny Bates reader, you can catch up by going to the right hand column, finding the Ginny Bates section, reading background and starting through the chapters in numerical order [within the brackets] in the Labels section.

Mid January 1998 -- Margie is 9, Gillam is 7

Myra was listening to Teresa Trull sing "Woman-Loving Women" when the children burst in the front door from school. They hit her study two seconds later, Margie shouting about winning a spitting contest at recess against some boy named Brett and Gillam sidling up to Myra for a peek at everything on her desktop. Myra called out to Hannah "I've got 'em, you can leave early for your class or whatever."

"'Kay, thanks" came Hannah's voice from the kitchen. Gillam had picked up the album insert, with its large photo of the Olivia Records collective, and was scanning the faces, saying "Which one is Mama?"

"What?" said Myra. "Neither of us were in Olivia, honey. We weren't in any women's music group, we just went to all the concerts."

"But it says 'Ginny' at the bottom" argued Gillam.

"Oh, yeah, different Ginny. Although her name was Ginny B, too, come to think of it. It's Ginny Berson, that's her right there, in the helmet and leather jacket. She's a brilliant, powerful woman, at whatever she put her hand to, seems like. Though she doesn't hold a candle to OUR Ginny, the real Ginny B." said Myra.

Margie was now looking at the photo as well. "How come they all look mad?" she asked.

"That's not anger. They're serious, is all. Being a lesbian-feminist in those days was serious work. And often dangerous" said Myra.

"But not anymore?" asked Gillam, looking at Myra with a worried crease between his eyes.

"Not so much dangerous. Often still serious" she said.

"You and Mama don't look like this" pointed out Margie.

"Nope. We're mostly happy, happy campers. And can you guess why we're so happy?" said Myra in her riddle voice.

"Because you found each other" said Margie in a bored tone.

"Well, that goes without saying. But that's not the answer I was looking for" said Myra. She saw Ginny appear at the doorway to her studio, leaning against the facing with a grin.

"Because you won the lottery?" ventured Gillam. Lately he had been asking a lot of questions about the lottery, how it worked and what it had meant to Myra to win it.

"Well, again, extraordinary luck like that cannot be overlooked. But -- the answer I meant is -- do you want one more guess?"

"No, tell us" said Margie impatiently.

"Because we have you as children. You've made us out of our minds happy ever since you arrived in our lives" said Myra, her tone sounding overdone even to her ears. Gillam grinned but Margie looked away, seeking relief from the tedium of her mothers' love. When Myra hugged Gillam, however, Margie saw a window for possible exploitation.

"Could we maybe watch TV after dinner tonight?" she asked, plastering on a fake smile.

Myra didn't look in Ginny's direction. "It's a possibility, but we'll have to see what's on. Go get today's paper from the recycling bin, the section headed Entertainment" she suggested. The two thundered away in a race which involved ugly shoving. Myra ventured to meet Ginny's eyes. Her face was serious, and Myra didn't know what was up until Ginny began singing in her lovely clear voice:

"And I loved you at first for your wicked eyes
And the laughter that loosens your bones
And your soft curls
And the passions that I'd never known"

Myra was capsized with emotion. Her gazed remained locked on Ginny's even after the children returned, Margie holding a roll of newspaper over her head beyond Gillam's reach. Finally, as the shoving resumed, Myra tore herself away from Ginny and said "Hey! Knock it off." She took the paper from Margie and found the TV listings, Margie crowding in so close she almost blocked Myra's view.

"The Simpsons!" yelled Margie.

"Never in this world will I let you observe Bart Simpson" said Ginny. "Napalm meet match, nuh-uh."

The expression on Margie's face made Myra sure that Margie would now move heaven and earth to check out Bart. She pointed to the PBS channel and said "Look, 'Nature' has on a special about the snow monkeys of South Texas."

"Monkeys, in Texas?" asked Gillam quizzically.

"Well, that's the thing -- there are no monkeys in Texas. If I remember correctly, snow monkeys are from Japan. But this says different. I think it's worth seeing what the mystery is" said Myra. Margie nodded her head grudgingly. "Starts at what, 8:00? Which means baths and PJs after dinner, before the show."

Margie was taking the paper back from Myra, saying "Hey, there's funnies on this side."

"Let me see, too!" demanded Gillam. They lay down on the floor beside the daybed, resting on their elbows across from each other, to read the comics. When Myra looked back up, Ginny had vanished. Myra felt disappointed. She began putting away the album and clearing her desk.

After several minutes, Gillam said "Mama, what word is this? F-E-L-A-T..."

Ginny reappeared at the doorway as Myra dropped to the floor, reading over Gillam's shoulder. "Oh, honey, that's the jumble puzzle. That's not a real word, it's the letters of a real word which have been rearranged so you can try to guess what it is."

Gillam's face was confused. Ginny was cackling. Myra said "Okay, so if I said rearrange these letters to make a real word: M-A-L-G-I-L, what would that be?"

Margie showed urgent concentration, but of course Gillam was the first to cry out "Gillam!"

"Bingo. Each of these words is like that, would you like to try to solve it?"

Ginny said "Why don't you bring it to the art table in here, we can all do it together." Myra handed a pencil to each child, reminded them not to run with it, and followed them into Ginny's studio. Ginny took Myra by her arm and pulled her down to her daybed, fitting herself sideways into Myra's arc as they both faced the art table. Myra slid her hands under Ginny's shirt, cupping her belly but allowing her thumbs to rest just below the curve of her breasts. Ginny sighed a little raggedly and put her hands over Myra's.

"Mom, is 'dogly' a word?" asked Margie. "Like if Juju walked dogly across the yard?"

"Nope. But you're very close" said Ginny. "Try switching that first D with another letter in the word."

They listened to Margie muttering possibilities out loud. Gillam said "I got this one! Fealty means something about kings, right?"

"Way to go, honey boy" said Ginny. "It means an oath of loyalty, yes. All that reading of T.H. White is paying off."

Myra whispered in Ginny's ear "It's because he's a GB, born of a GB, exalted beings all" and kissed her lobe gently. Ginny rolled over and began kissing Myra in earnest. Myra said "I feel like our movement was invented just in time for us, the sisterhood that would give us freedom and connection like no women had ever known before."

"Meg Christian's voice always makes me want to jump you" Ginny whispered back, "Is that perverted or what?"

"I'm D-O-N-E!" Gillam sang out. He climbed on top of them both and said "When we go over to Carly and Truitt's house, their moms don't kiss on each other like you guys do."

"First of all" said Myra, grinning at him, "We're not guys. And secondly, that's too bad, because kissing on the love of your life is a daily blessing."

"Why do you kiss with your mouths open?" asked Gillam, staring at Myra's lips.

"Because it feels good" she said. Margie had come to stand beside Ginny's shoulder, fiddling with the buttons on Ginny's sleeve. Margie said to Ginny, "Can I kiss you with my mouth open?"

"No" said Ginny firmly. "It's for grown-ups to do with each other, never between a grown-up and a child."

"Why not?" asked Gillam. Margie piggybacked with "How come we never get to do stuff that feels good?"

"It's not appropriate" began Ginny. Margie really hated that term "appropriate", Myra knew. "And it wouldn't feel good to you in the same way, you don't have the developmental level yet." Margie hated "developmental" about as much as "appropriate".

Myra jumped in to help. "You know how your mom and I order Thai food that we like sometimes, and you think it tastes awful?"

"It burns my tongue" said Gillam.

"Well, eventually you'll be old enough that you'll like that level of spiciness. But you simply don't have the taste buds for it yet" said Myra. Gillam was staring at her mouth again. She continued hastily "Not that kissing is about taste buds, it's not. It has nothing to do with taste."

"Grown-up kisses make your body release chemicals into your bloodstream that causes pleasure" said Ginny. "Your bodies won't start manufacturing those chemicals until you're a teenager, at least."

"But what does it feel like?" persisted Margie.

"For one thing, it makes me think about having a baby" said Ginny. That stopped both kids in their tracks, and gave Myra a jolt as well. After a long silence, Gillam said hoarsely "So are you thinking about having another baby?" Margie's face was furious; she already thought they'd overbred. She was looking at Myra now, always able to sense where the weak spot was.

"Absolutely not" said Ginny. "We wanted two, we got two way beyond our expectations, we're D-O-N-E." Gillam began giggling, and Margie joined him in relief. Ginny said "Listen, have I ever shown you how to make hats from newspaper sheets?"

"Lots of times" said Gillam. "And boats" said Margie in a warning tone.

"How about cootie catchers?" asked Ginny. Both small faces perked up: A word they'd not heard before, with an intriguing sound. Gillam pushed himself upright, forcing the air from Myra's chest momentarily. Ginny sat up as well, saying "We're going to need a different kind of paper."

Myra put her arm around Ginny's waist and pulled her back for one last hug, murmuring "My boiler is still stoked." Ginny half-turned to kiss her and said "Raincheck." As she and the kids headed for her paper cupboard, Myra looked at the clock and said "I guess I could get an early start on dinner."

Gillam said over his shoulder "Could we have something cheesy tonight?"

Myra thought. "How about migas, in honor of South Texas?" Both Margie and Gillam said "Yay!" Migas would take no time at all. She could start a giant pot of pintos for a side, use the remainder as refrieds tomorrow. Braise some cabbage. And maybe come up with some sort of Ginny-approved agua fresca.

As she walked to the kitchen, she felt a sudden ache at the absence of Alice, who would be joining her at this moment. She swallowed the catch in her windpipe and began singing "Little Fur Person" as she went to the freezer for chorizo.

[NOTE: To listen to a 30-second clip of Meg Christian singing the lines from "The Valentine Song" that Ginny sings to Myra in the above story, click here. This is from the first LP put out by Olivia Records, I Know You Know.]

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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