Saturday, October 11, 2008


Adzuki beans sprouting
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.

May 2014

The next morning after breakfast, Myra and Ginny visited Jane and Gillam for an hour, mostly for their chance to hold Mimi. Jemima was reading magazines, Jane was sleeping, and Gillam was baby-worshipping. Anton looked antsy, and when he asked Ginny if there was something he could do in the garden, Myra said if he wanted, he could come over to their house and plant starts for the next round. He accepted instantly and managed to muscle his wheelchair down the unpaved path on their side of the fence. Ginny set him up with seeds and potting soil at the bench inside the back door before she hightailed it upstairs to her easel.

Myra got on the phone with Mara to talk pond and barbecue area design for a while. She then got online and looked through baby car seats, bassinets, and playpens, coming up with a range of possibilities. She interrupted Ginny long enough for her vote, and placed an order to be delivered in a couple of weeks: Mimi wouldn't need furniture right away, she'd be held while she was in their house.

For lunch she made sandwiches of smoked ham, watercress, and paper-thin slices of cucumber for her and Anton, substituting cream cheese for the ham in Ginny's. He was very chatty over the meal, and while Myra ordinarily liked him quite a bit, she wanted a chance to stay in her own thoughts. As soon as they were done, she fled back upstairs and answered mail for an hour. He eventually ran out of things to do and called up the stairs to say he was going. She came to the railing and said he was welcome to visit any time, hoping to herself he wouldn't push it too far.

Since other family were most likely to visit after work, Myra and Ginny went over before dinner with a ham, cabbage, potato and cheese casserole. Jane was lying on the couch, her eyes closed but not asleep. Gillam was walking back and forth with Mimi, who was crying steadily and with as much volume as newborns can muster.

"What's wrong?" said Ginny, going to him.

"I don't know. We've done everything" he said desperately.

"Is it okay if I run down the list?" asked Myra. "Hungry, wet, cold, hot, clothes fitting wrong, fever, any part of the body that responds to touch as if it's hurt?"

"We've checked everything three times" said Gillam, letting Ginny take Mimi. Mimi continued to wail.

"You haven't tried giving her some formula" said Jemima sharply.

"I have milk, Mom" said Jane. "She's full, she doesn't want to nurse."

"Then she just needs to cry" said Myra. "You can't really stop that need, any more than you can stop her from peeing."

"But why, Mama? Why should she need to cry?" asked Gillam, unconsciously wringing his hands.

"I don't know. I don't remember what it was like to be new to the world, nobody does" said Myra. "It's a massive change in environment, even when everything around us is good and interesting. Crying is something we do as automatically as blinking, and there's a lot of studies that show it helps brain chemistry to cry -- that is, as long as you're not experiencing an ongoing real pain of some sort. Margie did this, several times a day. You didn't. And I'll swear before god that she was not treated worse than you. She simply needed to cry in a way you didn't."

Ginny was speaking quiet phrases of acknowledgement, gazing at Mimi calmly as she swayed slightly on her feet. Myra could hear Mimi's crying shift -- not in volume or intensity, but without any edge of panic to it. Gillam heard it, too. "What did you do?" he asked Ginny.

"I'm not worried" she said. "Babies come out able to read other people's emotions, it's a survival skill. When you react with fear or upset, it makes her feel those things, too."

"Are you saying my feelings make her cry?" said Gillam, clasping his hands behind his neck as if to surrender.

"No, no, definitely not" said Myra. "She begins crying on her own. But when you get stressed about it, it takes her longer to achieve release. That's if you don't shut her up entirely in some other manner." She hoped she wasn't being too blunt about Jemima's formula suggestion.

"I don't know how to not react with concern, I mean, that sounds completely psycho to me" said Gillam. Jane's eyes were open and she was listening alertly.

"Yep" said Ginny softly, maintaining eye contact with Mimi. "Baby crying is the number one attention getter for a reason. We're physiologically not able to ignore it, not if we're undamaged. But, perversely, what she needs from you is relaxed witnessing. After you've eliminated all the reasons she may have as an actual need, of course, because crying is also the only way she can tell us something is wrong."

"She's asking you to set aside your feelings as a parent and listen to her express some kind of frustration, disappointment, whatever it is" continued Myra. "Welcome to the world of being that ultimate of adults, a parent. It never ends, that kind of demand. But where else can she go to get her needs met?"

"She doesn't need to even think about going elsewhere" said Gillam fiercely. "I'm hers, body and soul. How do you know this?"

"Years of practice" said Ginny cheerfully. "Plus I was part of a damned good team. You and Jane have that going for you; in fact, you probably have an edge on us, you had better childhoods than us." Myra looked at her gratefully: Way to reel Jemima and Anton back into the circle.

"We tagged each other when we began running out of juice" said Myra. "Which, honestly, Gillam, was about five minutes for me when it was this kind of crying." She moved in and took Mimi from Ginny, who wiped her brow and went for a glass of water. Gillam shook out his shoulders and sat down. Myra said quietly "I tended to leave the room when I wasn't doing the actual holding, because I couldn't turn it off." He looked at her tiredly and said "I'm not leaving. Not right now."

After five minutes, Jane stood with a wince and came to Myra, reaching for Mimi. She kissed her cheeks and said "I hear you, my darling daughter. Mommy's right here, always." A minute later, Mimi began to quieten. The shift in the room's atmosphere was like a fresh wind. Gillam said to Jane "You think she felt the difference in you?"

Jane looked jubilant. "I don't know, could she?"

"She's bound to be brilliant, coming from you two" said Myra. Mimi hiccoughed loudly and everybody laughed in profound relief.

Ginny said "She'll be really serene and in better shape for a few hours now. Shall we set the table for dinner?"

Late the following afternoon, Ginny and Myra returned to find that Anton and Jemima had gone out shopping. Jane was playing something bluesy on her cello, and Gillam sat with a sleeping Mimi. Myra put her cedar-plank salmon a la Ginny in the oven to stay warm, and left her coconut cream pie on the breakfast bar. Ginny settled in next to Gillam on the couch to Mimi-watch.

"She sneezed today" he said. "First time. It was hilarious. She looked utterly shocked."

"I put it in the baby book you made us" said Jane, lifting her bow for a minute. "Gillam's taken a photo of her in the same spot by our bedroom window every day since she got home. If we can keep it up, after a year we'll make a movie of all the pictures, one after the other."

"She's going to seem giant in a year compared to her size now" said Ginny. "I'd forgotten myself until we pulled out Gillam's baby clothes. And when Myra brought home those newborn diapers and we set up our changing table yesterday, I realized all over again that I cannot actually comprehend how much we grow."

"Speaking of baby clothes" said Jane, "We've decided to use the same outfit Gillam wore to his naming ceremony for Mimi's big event. It looked like new when I washed it in Woolite."

"It was only worn the once" said Myra. "And crafted by Belva, her garments always held up beautifully."

"She'll be stunning in it" murmuring Ginny, gently touching Mimi's dark red cheeks. She said to Gillam "Your Aunt Cathy arrives on Saturday morning. She's sleeping in the spare room upstairs; we're giving the downstairs bedroom to Frances and Margie."

"Lucy and Seth are staying upstairs in the kitchenette room. We'll put the big crib in there for Peter" said Gillam. "That still leaves one extra room for anyone else from out of town."

"Frances is making a lobster brodetto and her tiramisu again" said Myra. "I'm doing brisket, as you requested, Gillam, and Ginny's doing her stuffed tomatoes. The rest we're leaving to the caterer that Frances recommended."

Jane resumed playing, switching to "St. James Infirmary". It sounded odd but good on a cello, Myra thought. At the shift, Mimi's eyelids flickered open. Gillam said softly "Ah, you heard that, did you? Your mommy's music is mapping your brain for you, lucky girl." Mimi tried to wave her arms, and her face grew still for a moment.

"She's pooping" he announced to Jane.

"Right on schedule" said Jane, glancing at her watch. "I think this means right before dinnertime is going to be our optimal time for her first swim on Saturday."

Ginny said "Let me change her, I haven't diapered her yet" and Gillam handed her over. Myra said "How do Anton and Jemima feel about the swimming lesson?"

"Iffy" said Jane. "For that matter, so am I. Except that pool is out there, and it's a deathtrap unless she's equipped to handle a worst case scenario. Plus, Gillam's example is reassuring."

"I was petrified with Margie" admitted Myra. "And I thought Allie was going to intervene at the last minute. David looked grim, too."

"I really think the muscle development it fostered, and hunger for body independence, is part of the reason both of you walked so early" said Ginny from the changing table. Gillam's eyes had never left Mimi.

"I tell you what I'm dreading" he said so softly that only Myra heard. "Going back to work tomorrow. The idea of seven hours away from her -- she's never been separated from me yet."

"It's only three more days and then you'll be done for the school year" said Myra, without really thinking. She was listening to Jane riff. Gillam turned and looked at her. Myra felt momentarily scorched.

"Erase that" she said. "It's brutal, you're right. It's not what we're meant to do with new life, tear ourselves away from it."

Ginny walked Mimi over to Jane so she could see the motion of her mother's arms. Mimi was very intent. Gillam asked, still soft-voiced, "Did you automatically see me as the man, the father, whose presence was somehow more expendable?"

Ginny's head swung around, her expression surprised. She'd heard that much, then. Myra considered for a few seconds.

"I don't know. I don't think so, because I don't generally see you in that light. I was probably just avoiding how unfair it is for you, wishing I could make it not necessary."

Jane stopped playing, now listening as well.

"I don't think I can face taking classes the first summer semester" said Gillam. "I need to be here, with her and Jane. It'll fuck up my graduation plans, perhaps affect my job -- I'll have to talk with my principal, see if I can get an extension. But the idea of leaving the house every day for six weeks makes me physically ill. I'll never have this time of her life again." He was vehement and flushed.

"I hear you, Gillam. I support you, and we'll do whatever we can to help." Myra scooted close to him. He linked his arm through hers and sighed heavily.

"Now I'm blazing trail for more than me" he said.

"Not alone, you're not" said Jane. He met her eyes and they looked at each other, slowly grinning. He reached for Mimi and Ginny came to return her to him as Jane resumed playing.

The following morning, Ginny finished her painting. Mimi stood wearing a ragged pair of black shorts, her chubby calves and dimpled elbows brown from the sun. She stared directly out of the canvas, blue eyes a little smudgy, face serious but contented. Her right hand was wrapped around a cornstalk which stretched down to a mound from which also sprouted a bush of squash leaves and a vigorous tendril of bean vine spiraling up the cornstalk to beyond the canvas's view. All of the three-sister crops were ripe. Between dark green leaves at the bottom the mound peeked striped squashes in a starburst shape. The bean pods were thick, and in Mimi's left hand she held one she had twisted open, revealing maroon and white speckled legumes about to spill from her palm. The play of light in the field behind her, the moist earth she was squeezing between her bare toes were so real that Myra imagined she could hear cicada, smell the sweet aroma of fresh corn. After a moment, she realized how much it reminded her of the painting Ginny had done decades ago of Rosa, her grandmother, harvesting beans as well in a garden. She thought about how Rosa must have looked like this as a child, like Ginny, like Mimi now, and she began crying from pleasure at this brush with time travel.

Ginny held her and said "I'm giving it to them. I can't not."

"Of course" said Myra. "Shall we save it for the naming ceremony?"

"That's a good idea. I'm grabbing a cashew butter sandwich and lying down, I can't handle anything more right now" said Ginny. "This one was extremely hard."

When Ginny finally got up, it was late afternoon. She shuffled into the kitchen where Myra was shredding spinach into a wooden salad bowl.

"What's that savory smell?" she asked, leaning against the counter.

"Lentil and carrot stew. I have roasted walnuts and chopped leeks to go on top of this salad, and there's several big Yukon golds about ten minutes from being baked" said Myra. "I thought we could top our potatoes with feta."

"That's my kinda meal" said Ginny appreciatively. She tried to slide her ass onto the counter, but couldn't quite make the hop.

"Here, allow me" said Myra. She pushed a button at the edge and the counter lowered six inches. Ginny shifted back onto the dark green surface and Myra returned the counter to its original position.

"Pretty impressive" said Ginny, pulling Myra toward her. Myra put down her knife and slid between Ginny's legs, wrapping her arms around Ginny's waist. They grinned at each other, their faces very close.

"Ya know" said Ginny lazily, "We haven't made love yet in this new house."

"That's crossed my mind. We've been rawther busy, what with birthing babies and all" said Myra.

"I think we broke in, carnally speaking, almost every room of our old place" said Ginny. "Besides our bedroom, there was the living room -- "

"Several times" said Myra.

"The daybeds in our studio and study" continued Ginny, "too numerous to count. The counter in the kitchen, which I think also includes the dining room since I was kinda spread out across the border, there."

"I remember vividly" said Myra. "The upstairs bedroom when the kids were babies, but not their room, I don't think -- "

"Oh yes we did, right after the mural was done, while it was still empty" corrected Ginny.

"Oh, yeah. You were Honey Wheeler to my Trixie Belden. That was especially perverted, Ginny-O."

"On the stair landing" said Ginny, wrapping her thighs tighter around Myra's. "Our bathroom. But not the back bedroom, right? Or the store room?"

"Yes to the store room -- well, we began there, when the old washer was unbalanced and had a spin cycle that made it bounce around the floor?"

"Lordy yes, how could that have slipped my mind" laughed Ginny.

"And definitely the back yard, but never the carport" said Myra. "Gillam would pass out if he knew."

"Like he and Jane aren't doing the same thing" snorted Ginny. "Well, not this week, but..."

"This house has even more rooms for us to inaugurate" said Myra provocatively. "I don't even know how to count some of them, where one space flows into another."

"Well, and we've people coming and going at all hours of the day now" said Ginny. "We'll either have to confine ourselves to late night or -- "

"Risk discovery" whispered Myra, finally giving in to her need to have her mouth on Ginny's. After a couple of minutes, Ginny murmured "I have to eat first. I mean..."

"I know what you meant" said Myra. "Yes, let's make sure we both have stamina."

"And that all the doors are locked" added Ginny.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Jesse Wendel said...

When my ex-wife and I used to go shopping for new homes, we'd get the real estate lady to leave us alone for a little bit -- if we liked the place -- and break in an upstairs room or a downstairs basement, just for a moment.

Because otherwise, we told each other, how could we know if we were really a match for the home? *smiles sweetly*

I love that our women are such a perfect, um, fit, yeah, fit for each other... after all these years. I feel happy over how happy they are with their passion for each other.