Sunday, October 5, 2008


(Montmorency sour cherry tree)

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

Myra and Ginny's new house renovation was finally completed on May 9, three weeks behind the already one month behind schedule it had been earlier. The yard was a wreck, all the bathrooms and windows needed cleaning, and Poppyseed's due date was in a week, which meant any minute now, really. The day they got the keys, Myra called the cleaning service working for Gillam and Jane, asking them to do a rush job the following day. Ginny called a university-area moving service which was rather fly-by-night but available immediately and arranged for the contents of their apartment to be transferred to the new house. She and Myra went to Pike and bought groceries for the new place, then went to the apartment and began packing.

Two days later, Ginny had hired the same student movers (who had managed to not break or misplace anything) to transport their furniture from storage to the house the following day. She put clean sheets on their bed, towels in the bathroom, dishes in the sideboard, and began unpacking her studio as Myra continued setting up the new kitchen. At dinnertime, Gillam and Jane walked over with a basket of fried chicken and fresh rolls. Allie and Edwina arrived shortly afterward with greens, grits, and three-bean salad. As Ginny came downstairs to make tea, Carly and Eric came in the front door with cartons of ice cream and vanilla wafers. Myra said "It's a potluck! How perfect for our first family meal here!"

After eating, everyone got the nosy grand tour. At the conclusion, back in the kitchen, Allie said "How can we help?"

"Oh, let's just sit at the table and play a game" said Myra.

"Nope. We gonna help. How about we work all-out for an hour, then we'll settle in to poker" said Allie. Ginny was more able to delegate than Myra at first, but eventually even Jane was assigned a task (sorting CDs and DVDs into a rack). When Myra's kitchen timer went off, she walked away from the box of books she had been shelving and yelled up the stairwells, "All done. Come down and buy your chips."

Of course, it took another quarter hour to find where the cards were, but Carly put on music and Edwina made iced coffee. Jane had to pee every quarter hour and used her frequent trips to "break in every toilet in the joint", reporting on "commode atmosphere" with much humor. They played until late, taking turns feeling the baby shift in Jane's belly and looking at each other with wild excitement. Ginny promised to bring Jane over the next morning and keep her company while Gillam reluctantly went to work. Jemima and Anton were arriving the following evening to sit vigil.

Over the next two days, Myra got her study and desk set up. Ginny had their art brought in from storage and hung it on the walls accompanied by heated discussion with Myra as to placement. Myra baked a double batch of bread and took half over to Jane and Gillam's. Ginny made a list of furniture they would need for the new place but could not find time to go out thrift-storing. Jane had two bouts of diarrhea, which Gillam thought might mean labor was approaching, but after switching to rice and bananas for half a day, it cleared up and the baby stayed put.

On their third day home, Myra put on battered clothes to help Ginny build their new raised beds, taking up one entire corner of the yard. They used the wheelbarrow to fill the beds with compost from Jane and Gillam's, a pile which had been years in the making, augmented by stacked bags of organic soil delivered to their new carport. As tired as they were by this, they went on to transplant Ginny's baby lettuces, cabbage, early tomatoes, kale, chard, broccoli, and marigolds. They sowed radishes, carrots, peas, beans, and squash. They planted onion sets and potatoes, started a mint bed, and filled special pots with strawberry starts.

They were now filthy as well as aching and sweaty. But triumphant. Gillam poked his head through the gate, holding Beebo, to say "This cat is spending all his time at the back fence here."

"He can't come visit yet, we've not gotten our fence cat-proofed" said Myra, coming to rub Beebo's head. "Tomorrow the security folks come to hook us our systems together, and the next day the fence will be finalized, they say."

"You smell" observed Gillam. "Of many things." Beebo's nose was twitching.

"Yeah, we're headed for -- well, our indoor hot-tub, I guess."

"You're welcome to use ours" said Gillam gallantly.

"Not with this muck on. Plus we need to be nekkid, and the in-laws might be shocked" grinned Myra.

"Then come by for dinner after. We're going to eat whenever Jane is ready, but there'll be plates set aside for you."

"You're on" said Myra. She regretted her acceptance once in the hot water, wishing she could instead drift off and stumble into her own bed with Ginny. But they dressed, groaning, and walked through the gate, met immediately by Beebo. Myra picked him up and said "You finally got us in the same general location again, but now there's a door. Cats HATE doors, don't they, buddy?"

Jane informed them "Dr. Plakovic says if I don't go into labor by Sunday, she wants to induce me."

"How do you feel about that?" asked Ginny, concerned. Jemima answered for Jane, saying "Every one of my kids was a week late, so-called, and they were all fine. I think pushing it leads to unnecessary C-sections."

Gillam looked pale at the mention of surgery. Jane, however, smiled serenely and said "I'm cruising. Wait and see."

The next day, Gillam called at noon to tell Myra that Jane's milk was starting to come in, what did that mean?

"I don't know. What did her doctor say?"

"To not break in the breast pump because that first colostrum should be fresh for the baby" said Gillam.

Two hours later he called back to say "I'm on the bus home. She says her back is aching.

"Ah" said Myra. "Now that I recognize."

"That's that Jemima said, too. Will you go sit with her until I get there?" Apparently Gillam's faith in his mothers far surpassed Jemima's extensive herstory as a breeder.

"We're on it" said Myra. When Gillam came in his front door, Jane was having her feet rubbed by her mother, Anton was talking with Ginny about how color was expressed on a particle level, and Myra was heating one of her lasagnas in the oven while constructing a salad.

"Lucy is on her way" Jane said, her pupils a little dilated, he thought. "Does the corner room upstairs have sheets on the bed?"

"I'll check after while" he said, beginning to rub her other foot.

"I need to pee again" she said, pulling her feet from both their hands. Gillam went with her. Myra called after him "Bring some towels back with you for Jane to sit on, just in case."

Ginny and Myra finally left at 10:00. Jane was still achy but not clearly in labor. Gillam called at 2 a.m. to say Jane's water had broken and she was starting to feel "spasms". "They said to come in at 8 a.m. instead of now, is that safe?" he asked.

"Yep" said Myra. "Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and get some sleep now if you can, it'll be your last chance for years."

"As if" said Gillam. "When are you coming to the hospital?"

"When you call and tell us she's in active labor, approaching transition. Unless you need us sooner" said Myra. If they weren't going to be in the room with the main action, sitting and waiting would be easier done at home.

"Okay" he said distractedly. "Anything else I should know?"

"Daddy is as easy for babies to learn to say as Mama if you work with them on it" said Myra. He laughed abruptly and hung up.

Myra was able to go back to sleep once she'd made sure the land line and both cells were in fact turned on. She got up with Ginny and they walked over to Jane and Gillam's immediately. Jane was walking back and forth in the hall, holding her back. A bag sat by the front door. Gillam's hair had not been combed. Jemima was putting eggs on the table.

"Come eat, son" said Myra. "I'm pouring you some milk. Do you think you could drink some milk, Jane?"

"No" she said shortly. She continued her pacing, her usually pale cheeks very flushed. She said to Anton "There's another wave, I guess you'd call it." Anton looked at his watch and said "Eight minutes plus a few seconds."

Myra buttered toast and added jam, setting it on Gillam's plate. "Eat" she said again. "You need the reserves, stoke up." He looked at her and complied. Ginny put on water for tea and conferred quietly with Jemima in the kitchen.

Gillam said "I didn't call Carly yet."

"I'll notify everybody" said Myra. "Do you want them to text you or divert messages through me?"

"I don't know" he said, watching Jane.

"Through you" said Anton. "And you can call me, you have my number, right?"

Gillam finished wolfing his meal and stood up. "Go brush your teeth and take a leak" advised Myra. "Then you can go, it's all right if you're early."

"Should we take our own car?" Anton said to Jemima. Gillam said over his shoulder, "I'm driving Jane. I'm the driver." His voice was high.

When he emerged from the bathroom, he went to Jane and took her hands. "You ready, love of my life?"

Jane leaned against him. "I don't honestly think so, but I don't have a choice, do I?"

Myra and Ginny came to hug them goodbye. "We'll take care of everything here" assured Ginny. Myra said "You are going to have a good birth, I know it in my gut. Enjoy as much of it as you can." Gillam looked at her with hope and disbelief mixed.

After the four of them left, Ginny cleaned the kitchen and Myra fed Beebo, saying "You're gonna have a new kitten in the house." They locked up and went home to eat fruit, write e-mails, and wait. Ginny took her cell upstairs with her as she began cleaning the overdue gecko habitat. Myra began a soup simmering, then got online at Williams and Sonoma, adding items to her new kitchen. Ginny walked by and saw what she was doing, and said "Don't send that order in yet, I want to look at the yard stuff first."

At the two hour mark, Myra called Anton to hear if there was any news. "She's progressing, they say. She's still walking, Gillam with her now. Her stomach definitely looks different."

Myra sent this out as text updates and put the finished soup into two containers, one for the new parents. Ginny took a bath, rubbing her hair dry by the upstairs window as she stared down into the yard. She called downstairs to Myra "I want a knot garden. I've always wanted one. We could put all the herbs in it."

"What about cold spells, or too much rain?" said Myra. "Some herbs need warm and dry."

Ginny thought for a moment. "We could build an iron frame over it, decorative, and let it slowly rust. Something to hold a plastic canopy if need be for monsoons or freezes. I bet Annie could design it."

"Sounds good" said Myra. "Ginny, I'm already in love with this house."

Ginny's face appeared at the stair railing above. "Me, too. But this is it, Myra. No more moves for us."

"Second that. What do you think, a boy or a girl?"

"I think a boy. I heard Gillam tell Carly that they're not going to observe Askenazic naming rules, and I wonder if that means Gillam plans to name his son after himself."

Myra gazed up at her. "World I cannot hold thee close enough" she quoted in a whisper.

"Is the soup done?"

"Yeah. Broccoli rice with a fish broth base. You want anything else with it?"

"Tomato sandwich. I'll come make them." When Ginny came downstairs, she had on dressy clothes. To meet her grandchild in, thought Myra. She made sure the camera battery was charged and asked Ginny to put some Swiss cheese on her own sandwich.

They ate in silence, at the same end of the table. Before they were done, the fence folks arrived. Myra carried her sandwich in her hand as she went out to explain, one more time, what they needed. The gate to Jane and Gillam's had a security lock on it, and she didn't give them the code in case Beebo slipped through. She explained they might be leaving for the hospital at any moment and told them to let themselves out the front gate when they were done.

When she went back in, Ginny was no longer at the table. Myra cleared the dishes and walked upstairs to discover Ginny stretching a canvas.

"Oh my god" said Myra.

"Don't worry, I'm not starting it yet. But it landed in my head like a tornado, and -- I never do this, Myra, but it's the baby. It's -- I was wrong, it's not a boy, it's a daughter. She appeared to me" said Ginny, looking amazed. "I can sketch it on the canvas and leave it until...I don't know when."

"If you can work in pieces, instead of one blast, we can swing it between visits to the hospital. At least for a couple of days" said Myra slowly. She had no doubt at all about the visitation, and she wanted this painting in existence, above any others Ginny had ever done.

"I'm not normal, you know" said Ginny emotionlessly.

"No, you're not, and thank you god for that" said Myra. "Take off that blouse if you're going to use charcoals."

Leaving Ginny naked from the waist up, Myra went back to the kitchen and began turkey meatloaf in three pans. She chopped Napa cabbage to add to the ground meat, which kept it moist. She spread a layer of Ginny's tomato paste on top and set it baking. She called Anton again, who said "Still going well, but not near enough for her to get her epidural yet. I'll call you, I swear, when it moves into the next stage."

She experimented with making potato galletes according to a new technique she'd seen on a cooking show, but interrupted herself to make peanut butter cookies. The fence crew finished and she gave them cookies as well as cold drinks before they left. She walked over to the old house and got Beebo, who rumbled with excitement as he finally breached the mysterious gate. She showed him their new cat door, put down a bowl of water and kibble for him, and left him to hours of exploration.

Eric and Carly came straight from work, hoping for more news. When there was none, Carly said "Are you going to plant a tree in your yard for this baby, too?"

Myra stared at him. "We hadn't discussed it." She went to the stairwell and called up. "Ginny? Come down for a sec, I gotta question. The boys are here, by the way."

Ginny had pulled on a T-shirt, so she wasn't completely gone into Painterland yet. She and Myra discussed the tree idea and decided the western fence line was a good place. Eric said "Will you let us go buy it? Can we choose it?"

Eric really missed having a yard. Ginny might have argued, but Myra said "Of course. A fruit tree, good for this climate, that will bear. Whatever you think is best." They left for the nursery with a handful of cookies.

Half an hour later, Allie and Edwina arrived, followed shortly by Chris and Sima. Myra had finished a salad and pulled the meat loaves from the oven. Chris made couscous and Sima steamed carrots while Allie set the table. Edwina baked a few pears to offer Allie instead of cookies. They began eating without Carly and Eric, who startled them by appearing outside the glass wall holding a small, burlap-wrapped cherry between them. Myra went to the door and said "We'll all dig the hole later, come eat first."

Before they had a chance to wash their hands, Ginny demanded "What kind is it?"

"Montmorency" said Carly happily. Eric added "Sour cherry, disease resistant, loves cold, and a heavy producer." Ginny smiled and said "Excellent."

They did not linger at the end of their meal. Everyone but Myra and Allie went outside to dig the hole. Myra told Allie about Ginny's premonition, and Allie whistled. Beebo accepted a morsel of meatloaf before returning to his prowling.

For the actual placing in the ground, Ginny came back for Myra and Allie. Myra carried both cell phones and left the door open so she could hear the house phone. Chris asked "What will we do with the placenta, bury it in a small hole over the roots later?"

Ginny laughed. "Jane said absolutely no to the idea of saving her placenta. So, instead, we'll bring Poppyseed out here and let her put her tiny hands on the trunk, as a blessing."

Carly and Eric stayed outside to water in the tree. Beebo had joined them, staying clear of drips. Back in the house, Ginny, Allie and Sima began talking over plans for the naming ceremony. Chris had brought her flute and went to sit by the fireplace, playing softly. Within a couple of minutes, Allie disengaged herself from the planning session and went to sit in the half dark with Chris, her eyes closed, listening. Edwina sat in front of Allie on the floor and pulled off her large collection of metal and shell bracelets, handing them back to Allie. Allie held them in her hand and began making a rhythm with them.

By the time Carly and Eric came back in, everyone was in the living room, weaving a percussion with mouth or object. Silently, the boys joined them. When the phone rang an hour later, they all jumped convulsively, jerked from a trance.

Myra clicked on. "Yeah? How are you, Gillam? Okay. We'll be there soon as we can drive it."

She faced them. "She's fully dilated and beginning to push. Gillam sounds crazed but happy."

Myra locked up as they all went out the front door. It wasn't until she was driving to the hospital that she realized it was shabbos. Nobody else had remembered, either. But they'd observed it all the same, she felt.

They were a large, attention-drawing cluster in the waiting room for another two hours. Gillam came out for 30 seconds to greet them, his face sweaty, his speech clipped. "She's not in pain any more, but we're worried about stamina" he said briefly. When he went back in, Ginny said "They shouldn't be, she's strong as a Percheron."

"Is somebody filming the birth?" asked Allie.

"Supposedly Anton, but he gets distracted easily" said Myra.

At 11:45, the door opened again and a beaming Lucy said "Will you all please come in, now?"

Jane was sitting up in bed with her hair matted to her head, a bundle held between her and Gillam. Gillam's face drew Myra's eye. He was beyond joy. He looked utterly fulfilled. He murmured to Jane, who let him have the baby with visible reluctance. He walked gingerly to Myra and Ginny, and had to clear his throat before he could say "This is our daughter, Jemima Jane Bates-Josong. Say hello to your clan, angel."

She was passed from arm to arm. Myra wept again at the expression not just on Allie's face, but Edwina's this time. Chris stopped fidgeting, and Carly and Eric held her together, Carly kissing her forehead reverently.

Gillam said "After prolonged debate, we're calling her Mimi for short."

"She's the third Jemima Jane" said Lucy, "And they felt like those names were already occupado."

Jemima added "And JJ was vetoed by Jane."

Gillam said "I lobbied hard for Trey". Anton giggled. "But it was Jane who finally came up with Mimi. And now that she's here, she's right."

"She looks exactly like you did at birth" said Ginny.

"She's got those Bates looks, she's the image of you and Margie, too" said Myra. "But yes, she's Gillam more than anything, with that wide brow and generous mouth."

"Such a mass of dark hair" said Allie. "And she's long, isn't she?"

"Long and big" said Jane in an exhausted voice.

"Born at 11:17 on May 16th, weight 8 lb. 8 oz., 21 inches long" said Gillam. "Yelling as she came out. She's already nursed once."

One of the nurses said "They really need to rest, all of them. Visiting hours begin tomorrow at 8:00."

Thad left with the rest of them, walking with them to the parking lot. "This is the niece I'll get to help raise" he said. "And she's Jane's, which makes her the most special anyhow."

The rest of them decided to head for bed and meet again at the hospital in the morning. As Ginny unlocked Myra's side of the car, she leaned in for a long kiss and said "Grandma, you never looked better to me."

"He did it" said Myra. "He really did it."

"Let's call Margie" said Ginny.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


kat said...

see, I'm crying again.....

Jesse Wendel said...


Now, it really begins.

Children are the BEST.