Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Latkes with applesauce and sour cream
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.

Early December 2013

Two days later, Margie arrived for a belated Hanukkah celebration. Myra was at Pike, getting a last minute load of potatoes because they were eating everything that came out of the garden as fast as they could dig it out. When she got home, Ginny had pulled out the sour cream she had started the night before and it sat in a bowl on the counter, looking perfectly incubated. Ginny, however, was the dining table with Margie, engrossed in going over the sketches of the Limons' house.

Ginny smiled at her apologetically and said "I couldn't wait. Margie brought up a question about their apartment and, well, I just couldn't wait."

Myra felt a little irked. She said "Don't go any further. I'm starting the turkey to roast and then I can join you." Margie got up to help her, and Ginny went to the back yard to get onions and parsley.

As they all settled back at the side of the table, Ginny propping up her foamboards on the salt and pepper bowls, Margie said to Myra "She gave me veto power."

"What do you mean?" said Myra, startled.

"I told her if she really doesn't want us to offer them this house, she can ask us not to" said Ginny.

Myra leaned back against her chair, feeling nothing but disbelief for a few seconds. Margie's face was now wary, and Ginny's expression was bland.

"You had no right" Myra finally said. "I only agreed to the possibility of offering Jane and Gillam this house yesterday afternoon in our session with Nancy, and here you are charging ahead -- "

"I took you at your word, how much post-decision time do I need to give you?" interrupted Ginny.

Myra stood up, saying as levelly as she could manage, "You know, this is one of those times when I wonder who I'd be if I wasn't partnered up to my neck in concrete." She strode into the kitchen.

"Where the fuck are you -- "

"I haven't had lunch, I'm making something to eat" Myra snarled over her shoulder. She took leftover brisket from the refrigerator, and began slathering two slices of bread with thick mayonnaise. No lettuce, no veggies of any kind. She cut her sandwich Mary Poppins, opened a Coke, and returned to the table with her plate. No one had spoken a word in two minutes.

Myra took a big bite, mayonnaise squeezing out the sides onto her fingers. She licked it off slowly, knowing how this would disgust Ginny. She took a drag of Coke, then said to Margie "Listen. Of course if you would be hurt enough by this house going to your brother to speak up about it, I'm not going to do that to you. To either of you. You need each other, in your elder years you and Gillam will be the family of origin you have left. I know how important that is, even if you don't yet."

"I do, Mama. More and more, I do. And -- well, I can't pretend that the idea of not having this house as a sanctuary, as the gathering place for us all, doesn't bother me. It will be a loss, no matter how hospitable he and Jane are. But I'm already feeling a loss, and...it's the people that matter. It's the faces who turn to see me come in the door, not the door itself. I would be happy to see him have this as the ground beneath his feet. If I lived in Seattle, I'd fight him for it, but..."

Myra wiped her hand on her napkin before reaching to close it over Margie's. She was very moved. Of course, Margie had had half an hour to get used to the idea, more than Myra had been offered.

'Well, then, Marjorie Rose, I'm going to ask you to never tell Gillam we offered you the veto. I know the temptation will come up in you to smack him with it, when you get insecure, and I'm asking you to make sure that doesn't happen. And if that means you can't tell Frances either, then I'm asking that as well. We are obligated, as parents, to not give you two ammunition for competition, and Ginny's stupidity today is not my choice. Can you understand that?" Myra realized she was furious. Her other hand, around her Coke, was trembling.

"If you two need to talk privately -- " began Margie.

"Nope, you're in it this deep, might as well stick around" said Myra. She thought Margie's presence might keep her from saying something she would regret in short order. She took another bite of sandwich, waiting to see where Ginny went.

She didn't have to wait long. Ginny said "I want you to apologize, for that partnered up to your neck in concrete crack."

"Apologize for what? For feeling taken for granted, for unreasonably pushed? Or for being honest about it?" She and Ginny glared at each other.

"You just said you agreed with my perspective -- "

Myra cut her off. "But you didn't know that. You didn't give me any chance to talk it over with you in advance, you barreled ahead with your fucking agenda. What is it about this house shit, Ginny? Are you so bored you have to do a geography to deal with something lacking in your life? Redoing a new house is so exciting you can ignore me in the process? Or is it that you bought this house in the first place without me, and I'm still butt ignorant about real estate, the ignorance of my class, so I don't really deserve an equal say in the disposition of property?"

Ginny was seriously offended. In her way, though, she also heard the subtext of what Myra was saying, and stopped to think, Myra could see it on her face. And that got through Myra's rage. It always did. She took a deep breath and another drink of Coke.

"Wow" said Margie softly. "Never occurred to me."

"Live and learn" said Myra, a little more shortly than she would have wished. "And, Ginny, about the apology -- have you never have moments of wishing you weren't partnered, of noticing it felt confining?"

Ginny looked at her steadily. "Honestly, I don't think I have."

"Huh. Well, let's take that back to Nancy along with the other issues we just raked open here. Because that smells like a power imbalance to me." Myra knew how brutal she could be when she was mad and articulate at the same time, but at the moment, she didn't care. A flicker of uncertainty crossed Ginny's face for the first time.

Margie said "This may be bad timing on my part --" Knowing Margie, it almost certainly was -- "but, Mama, when I asked you if you ever thought maybe you'd picked the wrong partner...Doesn't what you just said negate what you told me?"

Myra was finishing her sandwich and swallowed first. "No. I never have doubts about the partner I chose. I sometimes have doubts about being partnered, as a state of being. But not about Ginny. Even when she's an asswipe." Ginny let out a burst of laughter, and Myra had to grin. Margie looked pleased with herself, as if she had negotiated the point of connection.

Myra stood up. "I need to start grating potatoes. Margie, if you're done with Architectural Digest here, you can pull out my baked doughnut recipe and begin on those."

"I'll do it with you" Ginny said, gathering her sketches. "And I'll call Nancy to see if we can get in sooner than in ten days."

"Great idea" said Myra.

Two hours later, a massive bowl of latke batter sat in the fridge waiting to be fried for dinner, Ginny had fresh applesauce simmering in a pot with an aroma that blended intoxicatingly with roast turkey, and Margie was brewing herself a cup of coffee to "counteract" all the doughnuts she'd eaten. Myra was walking by the breakfast bar to go dust the living room when the phone rang and she picked it up.

"Hey, Nancy, thanks for calling back...Yep, little blaze-up today. What did she tell you?..." Myra's eyebrows went up appreciatively and she glanced at Ginny, who was openly eavesdropping. "Well, that's a pretty fair description...Sure, I got time..."

Myra sat down on a stool and leaned forward with her hand cupped over her forehead, listening for a couple of minutes. Finally she said "Okay, I can see that...Yeah, hang on." She said to Margie "What time you leaving tomorrow?"

"By ten a.m." said Margie. Myra said to Ginny "She can see us at noon sharp, that good with you?"

When Ginny nodded, Myra said in to the phone "We're on. What about those supplements? Oh...Okay, give me his phone number, I'll make an appointment..." There was another long silence and Myra's face went very still. "All right, I will. Yes, I promise. And I'll tell her. I swear. See you tomorrow, then."

Ginny turned off her applesauce and crossed her arms over her chest, waiting. Myra appeared to be organizing her words. She began slowly.

"About the house stuff...Nancy said it's common for people making a big change in their world view or major relationship to want to alter their physical environment as well, and it's not a cop-out if they are actually doing the emotional and spiritual work concurrently. Which she says there is no doubt about either one of us doing. Or Jane and Gillam." Myra paused and swallowed. "Plus...She said how much I was moved around as a kid and the fact that my family never owned where we lived, except for trailers which are by definition impermanent and fragile, will of course have made me less able to be flexible about choosing what I might really need in the way of environmental evolution. She mentioned I have not changed the orientation of my desk, for instance, in 25 years. She didn't discount the possibility that classism is playing a role in some of Ginny's attitude, but it's probably playing just as much of a role in my own..." Myra swallowed again. "And -- whether we move to another house or stay here, she recommends we feng shui the shit out of the place and make some changes not driven by either art or practicality. I quote her directly."

Ginny said softly "I continue to be amazed at what you can hear from her and nobody else."

"Well, that's true of everybody I trust, including you, Ginny Bates" said Myra. "Anyhow, she said it's great, as usual, that it's bubbled up so we can work on it."

Margie laughed. "Bubbled up as in Mount St. Helen's, more like it."

Ginny had not relaxed, however. "What else did she say? That's not what you promised to tell me, is it?"

Myra looked directly at her. "She talked to her own Chinese herbalist, and he thinks it would be better if he examined me himself for the joint issues, so I'm going to see when I can get on his schedule" she said slowly. "But he reminded her -- reminded me, too -- that....that uterine cancer, when it recurs, tends to show up as bone metastases. So he wants me to go to my doctor and have a full body scan as soon as possible."

Ginny was around the breakfast bar and leaning against Myra before Margie could take it in. "Son of a fucking bitch" Myra said under her breath, turning to push her face against Ginny's shoulder. "Tell me this isn't what my freakout was about a week ago."

Ginny lifted Myra's face to hers and said "I can't tell you that. But if it was, it's because you have an early warning system that saved you once and will save you again. I'm not letting you go."

They wrapped around each other silently. After a minute, Margie came and was pulled into their embrace. She was fighting crying, Myra could tell.

"Let it loose, baby girl" Myra whispered. "We'll all take turns, but you get to go first."

Margie opened her mouth wide and gave a cry of anguish. "Oh, god, no, not this!"

I wish god listened in ways we understood thought Myra.

"Mama, when I was little and you'd talk about how much you missed your mother, sometimes I'd make fun of you behind your back" choked out Margie. Not so much behind my back, thought Myra. "I was such a brat, I want a chance to make it up to you!"

"You have nothing to make up, Margie, nothing. You were and are the daughter of my dreams, that's how it works when it's basheert, and you are basheert for me" said Myra.

Half an hour later, with faces dried, Myra said "Of course, if you really do want to make things up to me, I can't find anyone who has the time to see the newest James Bond movie with me..."

Margie burst into wild laughter. "You know what? I'm taking an extra day off, work will understand. We'll do a matinee after your Nancy session tomorrow."

Myra face lit up. "Really?"

"And let's get your appointments made with the herbalist and our doctor" said Ginny. "We need to have those in place before Gillam and Allie get here, you know how they panic until it's clear what the next step should be."

"Neither one of them actually ever panics, per se" mused Myra. "But yeah. I'll go to my desk and make the calls. It's ten minutes early, but that turkey smells done, will you check on it?" She picked up a doughnut on her way to her study.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild

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