Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.


On Thursday, June 6, which was their actual anniversary, Ginny woke Myra up and they made love. They always promised the night before that it was not mandatory to make love on their anniversary, and somehow that agreement always cleared the decks for desire. They laughed about it afterward, showering together. As they were dressing, Ginny said "What would you like for brex, I'm making."

"Too bad we don't have the makings for leblebi. How about Ginny eggs, with those pumpernickel muffins we got yesterday and fried tomatoes?"

"We've got big lovely green tomatoes on the vine outside -- I'll make fried green tomatoes" said Ginny.

"With your buttermilk dressing? I'll eat as many as you can make" said Myra. She decided to have a 15-minute workout upstairs while Ginny was harvesting. When she joined her in the kitchen, she said "I need something to keep me busy. Besides starting those beef short ribs braising for lunch, I mean. I'm anxious."

"You could do bread a day early" suggested Ginny.

"No, Gillam generally wants to be in on that, if he can. Look at all those anchos and serranos in your basket, coming in this early" she said, momentarily distracted.

"Lots of sun this spring. How about if you clean and roast them, then put them into vinegar in the fridge for later use, instead of us drying them?" said Ginny.

"Perfect" said Myra. She was done by the time Ginny had platters to place on the table. She scrubbed her hands well and joined Ginny with a glass of orange juice.

"No Coke?" remarked Ginny.

"I had my wake-up tonic this morning" grinned Myra. They were still lingering over empty plates, looking at a fruit tree catalogue and trying, once again, to find a spot in their yard where an avocado tree might be persuaded to survive, when the front door opened to show Gillam's beaming face. He set Beebo free before hugging Myra. Ginny had already embraced Jane.

"You're a little earlier than I thought you'd be" said Myra. "Perfect timing."

"Yeah, and that's with us stopping by Pike" said Jane, holding four crammed canvas bags. "We found sweet corn which they swore was picked yesterday, and new potatoes."

"What else is in there?" said Ginny, seeing a wrapper from the fish market.

"We kids are making dinner for ya'll tomorrow night" said Gillam, blocking his mother's view. "We made a menu together, all of us, and I got what was on Frances and Carly's list as well." He took two bags from Jane and headed upstairs, saying "No peeking in Carly's little fridge."

Jane took the remaining bags into the kitchen, where she lifted the lid on the heavy saute pot to find out "what is that incredible smell". When Gillam rejoined them, he said "Oh, and here's some kielbasa from that place you love, Mom, already cooked -- we had breakfast there. Shall I warm it for you?"

"Absolutely" said Myra. Gillam said to Ginny "I didn't forget about you, we have kiwi, too."

"There's a plate of fried green tomatoes left on the table" said Ginny. "From our heirloom starts."

Everyone returned to the table for a second course of breakfast. Beebo had conducted his rounds and appeared at Myra's side to cadge shreds of sausage.

"Margie said to tell you she and Frances are driving in tomorrow instead of tonight, should be here right after lunch" said Gillam. "And Carly is bringing a friend, they'll be here later in the afternoon, in time to help cook."

Myra was about to ask "What friend?" when Jane exclaimed "Oh, lord -- I have never tasted tomatoes like this in my life, and I come from a farm family!"

Ginny was extremely pleased. "It's how they were meant to taste, I think, before commercialization took over. And it's a bed of soil Gillam helped put together."

"Almost twenty-eight years of composting and no chemicals" said Myra. Ginny blew her a kiss.

"Don't think I've forgotten that today is the actual day" said Gillam, splitting another muffin. "We have a joint present for you. After I eat" he added to Jane, who looked ready to burst with anticipation.

"Are you all rested up?" asked Myra, skirting around the issue of what they'd been doing this week.

"Not really" said Jane. "We've been on the go almost nonstop."

"On the go, as in travel?" asked Ginny, glancing at Myra.

Jane replied "There was travel involved, yes", a note in her voice Myra couldn't decipher. Gillam, with his mouth full, said "Okay, all right, let me swallow this down." He gulped some juice to help it down. Myra suddenly wished either Ginny was beside her or that she'd had a Coke, after all.

Jane scooted her chair closer to Gillam with an ear-to-ear grin. He looked at his mothers with an expression they'd never seen before.

"As you know, we're rather desperately in love. We've decided to get married, using all our heterosexual privilege to do so."

Jane interrupted to say "He asked me, in case you wondered."

Gillam said "I had Helen's beautiful old diamond reset in platinum, which Jane prefers. You can put it on now" he said to Jane, who pulled it from her jeans and allowed him to help slide it on her finger.

"Mazel tov!' shouted Ginny. "When's the date?"

"We'll get to that" said Gillam. "We're just getting started."

Myra found she was gripping the side of the table as if to steady herself. Gillam finally tore his eyes away from Jane again.

"We've been traveling, yes, but mostly to Seattle. On scouting trips we didn't tell you about. I've had a job offer from Nova High School, contingent on my finishing my Master's within a year, and I've accepted. Yesterday we put a deposit down on a garden apartment off Broadway, five minutes' walk from here. We mean to have babies, and I couldn't possibly deprive any child of our of the chance to grow up with you and the aunties nearby. I was a happy kid. We love Seattle, and it's where we plan to root."

Ginny burst into tears. Myra didn't know what to do with herself. It was almost as hard to take in as bad news. She clasped her hands together and stared at Gillam, unsmiling, for a minute, studying his face. Finally convinced, she leaped to her feet, yelling "Fucking A!"

Gillam had reached over and was patting Ginny's hand. "It's a good thing Margie's not here" he said ruefully, "She'd take a swipe at me for upstaging her completely."

Ginny got up and climbed into Gillam's lap, ignoring his small grunt of pain. She pulled Jane to her chest awkwardly and kept saying "Mazel tov, mazel tov." She wiped her face on her sleeve and looked with tear-streaked joy at Myra, who seemed rooted in her spot.

Myra said "When you're ready for a house, we're buying it for you. That'll be our wedding gift to you." Gillam started to look worried. He tried to reach into a shirt pocket but was blocked by Ginny's torso. "Mom" he said gently. "Sit here beside me for a minute." Ginny stood up instead and wrapped herself around Myra. Gillam fished a piece of paper out of his pocket, and grinned at them again. "I don't have one of your notebooks, Mom, but still, I made a list. We made a list" he corrected himself, squeezing Jane's hand. "I tried to think of everything you'll want to know, so sit down and hold onto your hats, here's the skinny."

Myra sat back in her chair and Ginny claimed the one next to her. Gillam held the paper up in front of him and Jane, and they took turns reading the lines off.

Jane began "Gillam will be working at Nova as a Read Write and Special Education teacher. The pay will be enough to support us both if we don't have a mortgage right away, but I'll be working on my Master's and working as a substitute teacher for as long as I can."

"I don't feel comfortable with you buying us a house" said Gillam sternly, "and we don't want to live with you. No offense, but we need our own space."

"I want to have children as soon as possible" said Jane. "We think our relationship can weather having them right away, since it's a life ambition for both of us. Plus we'll have almost unlimited help, right?" Myra couldn't find her voice. Jane added "I'm not going to teach full-time until they are in school." Myra's ears ran with that plural "they".

"Jane is transferring her membership from Fresno Friends to my local Quaker Meeting, and we'll both attend, but our children will be raised Jewish. Jane is willing to convert, but I don't think that makes sense -- I want the children to have access to both of our spiritualities, mixed as they are. But we want them to be Jews, at least culturally. We think her parents will be okay with that."

Jane said "We will not circumcise our sons."

"We want you to be a daily part of our children's lives" said Gillam. "Plus Sima and Chris, Allie and Edwina. We're the mommy and daddy, we'll make sure of that, but they'll get to have vast quantities of grandmas."

"Bubbe" said Ginny. "I'm the bubbe." She crying again.

Jane said "Bubbe it is. My parents want Opa and Oma. As far as last names, I am keeping my own name but we are giving the children Gillam's surname. I know what I'm doing -- I want the Bates-Josong name multiplied in this world."

Now Myra began crying too.

"We will accept new trusts for the children's education, if you are so inclined." Gillam didn't look one iota apologetic, which thrilled Myra to her core.

"My sister Lucy is pregnant and due in early September" said Jane. "Because I want her to be my matron of honor, and because she doesn't want to drive or be too exerted the last six weeks, we need to have our wedding by the middle of July. She and my mother want to plan it with me, mostly."

"Although I'm sure Margie is going to want to poke her nose in" added Gillam. He took a long breath, then said "Jane has the big one."

Jane said quietly "Since I was 12, I've been certain I wanted to have five children -- one for each finger of my right hand, is how I've thought of it. Growing up with lots of other kids was a blessing. If my body holds out, and if Gillam keeps liking how it's going, that's my plan -- one each year for the next five years."

Ginny turned around and sobbed onto Myra's shoulder. Myra sobbed back. Gillam said to "I told you they cry all the time."

"It's sweet" said Jane. "Lucy is like that."

Gillam stood up and kissed both of his mothers on the top of their heads. "You take some time to process this, like you usually do. Other details, like wedding dates, we can address when everyone else is here. I am itching for a long, hard swim. I guess I should bring in the bags from the car. If it's all right, we'll stay here until the 15th, when our apartment becomes available."

"Of course" Ginny choked out. Jane cleared the table while Gillam went out to the car. As he carried bags up the stairs, Jane said "I'm joining him in the pool." Ginny said "One more question -- have you told your parents yet?"

"We did, on the phone. They're completely happy for us. Except for the living in Seattle part, of course. Dad is traditional enough, or just didn't think it through, that he's assuming it's me letting Gillam make the decision. Mom knows better, but I hope she understand me not wanting to live in Fresno. Plus, with three of us kids up here, visiting can be spread around easier."

Myra said "You can not answer me if this is prying, but -- how soon are you going to start trying to...have children?"

Jane grinned. "We already are." She went upstairs.

Myra stood and said "Come to the bedroom with me." They shut the door and lay down on the bed. Ginny rolled on top of Myra and said "Happy anniversary."

"He fucking knocked that one out of the ballpark" said Myra. "And he's right about Margie, she's going to be extremely competitive about this."

"You know, we've never offered her a wedding" said Ginny.

"Well, but it's not because we value his partnership more, it's simply -- "

"I know, Myra. Still, I think we should bring it up and ask her if she wants one."

"Okay, Gin. What is our function supposed to be for this wedding? I know next to nothing" said Myra.

"We'll find out. We can ask questions, it's all right if we're dummies about it" said Ginny.

"I hope you won't get mad at me for saying it, but -- they're too young for this. Not for marriage, per se, but for having kids so fast. It'll be more stress than they can possibly anticipate" said Myra.

"I agree. Both our kids tend to jump into the deep end. The good news is that Gillam -- and Jane, with her extended family smarts -- know enough to not do the nuke fam isolation game. I think Gillam might understand it better than you and I did" said Ginny.

"He's going to be a daddy" whispered Myra. "His children are going to be out of their minds in love with him."

"I wish Daddy were here, more than ever" answered Ginny.

"God, yes" said Myra.

Ginny lay her head on Myra's shoulder and let the sadness sit in her chest for a while. "In the midst of life, we are in death" whispered Myra.

Ginny looked at her and said "Are Edwina and Allie coming for dinner tonight, for sure?"

"Yep. Chris was a maybe, but I'll call her and say they need to be here, there's news. I want to see their faces in person when they hear it all."

Ginny said "I wonder how Carly's handling it?"

"He'll get to be an uncle, I bet he likes that part" said Myra. "Here's the other thing, Gin -- if they're both getting Master's, and trying to have kids, there's no way they can save up enough to buy their own house within even five years. Not anywhere in this neighborhood, even with the housing market back to near normal."

"Yeah. Let's give them a while to figure that out for themselves, working for a living. I can start looking around, see what's on the market within a short walk."

Myra said, "In the meantime, maybe for a wedding present they'd like a new car. Gillam's Mini is at the end of its rebuilt engine, and Jane's Ford looks to be at least eight years old. They could pick it out themselves. We'll see if Gillam gives in to the siren call of brand-new or sticks to the principles we taught him. I should go check those short ribs, give it a stir."

"Wait, Myra." Ginny was looking at her speculatively. "We need to not take this as a reason to backslide."

"Take what? Backslide where?"

"About our new direction as empty-nesters" said Ginny. "Grandchildren -- you know how kids are, they're black holes for any adult attention they can find."

"And these will be Gillam's babies" Myra said slowly.

"If there's anybody we'll love more than our children, it'll be their children" said Ginny. "Of course we can't hold them at arm's length. We love children for their own sake, not from female conditioning. But..."

"I hear you" said Myra. "And you're right, I could easily get swallowed up in the role again."

"Possibly Gillam would let you, I can't tell" said Ginny.

"I bet Jane won't. I bet Jane will help us keep boundaries" said Myra.

Ginny laughed. "She's not so bad after all, that Jane, huh?"

"Good strong genes. Fit for blending with Bates" said Myra in a pompous tone, laughing with Ginny.

"Bates-Josong" said Ginny. "If they follow their plan, there'll be five more human beings in this world with that name. You've launched a lineage, sweetheart."

"Couldn't have done it without you" said Myra, which struck them both as hilarious. As they headed for the kitchen, Ginny said "I want them to name one of their children after you, Myra. The Myra part, I mean. Ashkenazic custom be damned."

"What if they have all boys?"

"That would be karma for us, wouldn't it? Well, little Myra will just have to tell everybody it is too a boy's name."

"Or he could be Myron -- that was David's middle name, wasn't it?"

Ginny said "I think he'd have just as hard a time with Myron as Myra."

They continued laughing as they watched Gillam and Jane through the glass wall, swimming in opposite directions because one of them had lapped the other.

After their swim, Gillam and Jane both joined Myra in breadmaking, experimenting with new additions because they were making such a large quantity of loaves. They ate a salad Nicoise made by Ginny during one rise period, saving the corn and short ribs for dinner. Ginny used sugar-free graham cracker crumbs mixed with roasted coconut to make a tart shell, which she lined with slices of kiwi and her own strawberry preserves. As she was constructing this dessert, she told Jane and Gillam about her new plan to paint furniture.

Jane's face lit up. She said softly to Gillam "We need a dining table."

"Really?" said Ginny. "I'd adore it if the first thing I made was for you. But what if you don't like it? You honestly must tell me, I'll do something else. Or you can give up on the idea."

"Not like it?" said Gillam. "Are you nuts? But Mom, I know what you charge -- "

"Oh, shut up" said Ginny. "The truth is, I had an inkling for a painting while I was watching you two swim. The thing is, how do you feel about blue? Because it might come out rather Hockneyesque in that regard."

"You mean a portrait of us, on our table?" said Jane. "It seems rather immodest of us."

"That means yes" said Gillam. "Shall we go look for possible pieces now?" He turned to Myra. "You can put these in the pans to bake on your own, right?"

"I'll manage" said Myra. They were out the door in no time, Ginny radiant and already warm to the touch.

Myra was still alone with Edwina and Allie showed up early because Edwina was done with teaching and they wanted to know what Gillam's news was. She managed to keep the secret another hour, despite dishonorable methods used by Allie to pry it out of her. The furniture shoppers finally arrived at 3:30, with not a table but a blanket chest for the foot of the bed, which Ginny said was probably better for a first attempt. She and Jane put it on a ground cloth in the carport and began removing its hinges and clasp for later replacement. Myra called them back into the house briefly so Allie's curiosity could be satisfied now, instead of waiting for Chris and Sima.

They both whooped and then it was Edwina who got teary. She said "For this generation, I get to be there from birth", which made Allie get wet-eyed as well. Allie pointed out that her name worked equally well for boys or girls as Jane laughed nervously. Gillam remained in the kitchen with Myra to help with the rest of dinner. Allie made iced coffee and sat at the breakfast bar with Edwina while Edwina looked at the summer courses in education at Udub and advised Gillam which professors to avoid. He and Jane had already enrolled -- part of the previous week's furtive activities, Myra guessed -- and would register the following Monday.

By the time Sima and Chris arrived, Ginny had ruined the good shirt she'd put on that morning by dripping paint stripper on it. She and Jane had to be called in by Myra so Gillam and Jane could repeat their announcements. There was more shouting, with Chris turning to Myra to say "And you were so sure he was headed for Houston, you were utterly tragic about it."

Gillam was gleeful. "I knew Margie would send that on down the line as fast as she could. I mean, I did talk to Amy, but Houston? Come on. It was a diversionary tactic, to keep you all from messing around in our plans."

Sima began explaining the protocol of Jewish wedding ceremonies to Jane, who probably already knew but listened politely. Chris punched Gillam on the arm and said "Five, huh? Have you no consideration for the woman who's agreed to do your reproductive work for you?"

"It was her number in the first place -- " Gillam began protesting. Jane turned around and grinned at him as she said "He's promised to do more than half the work after they're born for nine months, to even it out. Neither one of us has a lot of diaper experience, so we'll see how it goes."

"Myra's the expert on that" said Ginny. Allie said "Yeah, she smelled like poo for years. You get used to it."

"One thing we're not doing is cloth diapers" said Gillam. "They have disposable ones now that are completely biodegradable."

After dinner, they walked over to Jane and Gillam's new apartment. They didn't have a key yet, so the plan was just to show where it was, the courtyard, what the balconies looked like, but as they were leaving they ran into the manager who was duly startled by Gillam's introduction of "These are my moms and assorted mother figures". When he recognized Allie from her latest book, he offered to take them upstairs and show them the place again.

"We'll get to see what it looks like at night!" enthused Jane. It was at one end of the complex, overlooking a tree-lined side street. They had two bedrooms, one large and one small. Gillam said for now they were going to use the smaller room as a shared study and music room. "I have a piano" said Jane. "Upright, with great tone. Plus a cello."

The kitchen was tiny, and the bathroom had only a shower, no tub. But the ceilings were high, the upkeep excellent, and the balcony large enough "to grow herbs and tomatoes, plus hold Beebo's litter box" said Gillam. Ginny said "If you can convince him that the plant containers aren't his litter box." Myra was distracted by trying to figure out a place in their house which could hold a piano for Jane's use there.

The aunties all left early because they planned to have a long visit with them the following evening. Gillam got sucked into the refinishing vortex, and Myra was happy to sit at her desk with the house quiet for a hour. Beebo took her pulse, allowed her to throw a toy for a few chases, then curled up in his cubby where his purrs were so loud she could hear them over the hum of her CPU. She asked him "Are you going to learn to walk on a leash, so you can come visit Grandma when Gillam and Jane walk over for a visit?" He didn't look her way, but she said that word aloud again, "Grandma", with a different meaning. She began composing a post for her blog.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

No comments: