Monday, October 13, 2008


(Four Mothers Tallit from IsraelCraft.)

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

When Myra got up Friday morning, Ginny was baking granola. "This will be ready in fifteen minutes, if you want to wait" she said. Myra nodded and opened the fridge. "I already made some fruit salad" added Ginny. Myra took yogurt to the table, along with her bowl and spoon, and sat, staring out the window at their churned up yard. She couldn't remember the dream she'd had, but it felt emotionally demanding despite remaining hidden.

She was still lost in thought when Ginny dumped the fragrant, hot granola into a large container and brought it to the table. "Margie and Frances are here. Their car's out front and the note I left for them is gone" said Ginny.

"Oh, that's right" said Myra. Ginny went back to the kitchen to grab a pot of tea as Myra assembled her breakfast. After a few bites, she said "I was researching more about ponds. We need to have one part that's at least three feet deep, preferably four feet. For winter and general fishie sanctuary."

"I read that, too. But depth will mean a child risk" said Ginny.

"A baby or toddler can drown in two inches" pointed out Myra. "Either we destroy the landscaping, meditational aspect of the pond by enclosing it with a high fence, or we have a rule about constant adult presence if a child is outside."

"I vote for the second option" said Ginny. "Plus a slope toward the shallows that even a small lizard or beetle can use to crawl to the lip and escape."

"We're going to have overhang around all the deep end anyhow, right? Let's make a grotto at the round bulge near the bench, that goes under the bricking back at least a few feet, and have that be the four feet deep section" suggested Myra.

"We can see what the pond woman says." The pond woman was someone Ginny had located through her reptile friends at the store where she bought food and sought advice about her geckos. "She advised us to have a kind of grate with a cover to get in to where the pump and filter will need to be. And a heater, if we think we need one."

"Like a hole under the bricking as well?" asked Myra. "Then let's ask Sima to design that cover -- it'll be metal, right? I mean, she and Annie could collaborate, if they want. And since Annie is already willing to accept payment for her services, it'll be easier for Sima to take money for her art from us, too."

"Okay. Let's have them to dinner when Mara's going to be here, so we're all brainstorming together. Next Wednesday, right?"

Myra nodded, adding another banana to her bowl. "This isn't crystallized ginger in this granola, is it?"

"No. I know you get queasy from it. I used pineapple instead" said Ginny. "Listen, since Annie's making us a harsh-weather canopy for the herb maze, do you think it would be possible to build a similar open cover that could be converted into a winter shelter for an avocado tree?"

Myra raised her eyebrows. "I don't know, but I like how you think. When mature, they produce 400 avocados a year, if they're healthy."

"Yowza" said Ginny. "I'll call the organic nursery and run the idea by them."

"We could put it at the back corner next to the generator" said Myra. "Ask them if the extra carbon dioxide if we had to use the generator would harm the tree?"

"Is it carbon dioxide or monoxide that comes from generators?" asked Ginny.

"I can't remember. Chemistry was not my passion" said Myra.

Margie's voice said "At least not chemistry divorced from culinary arts". She was in the kitchen, looking at them from the pass-through.

"Hey, you're up!" said Ginny happily. "Fresh-made granola and fruit in here."

"I'm getting coffee, be there in a sec" said Margie. "Frances is still dead to the world."

As she joined them at the table, she said "How long do we have to wait until we can crash in next door and meet my niece?"

"After you eat" said Ginny, glancing at the clock. "We call first, though."

Margie fished out blueberries from the fruit salad and loaded her granola with them. Myra asked "How was the drive?"

"I slept most of it. Light traffic leaving Portland. Frances said the engine is knocking again, but in a different way." Margie was eating rapidly.

"Do you want to take it in to the shop?" Myra asked.

"Uh...Yeah, if we could borrow one of yours while we're here. I want to go shopping at F.A.O. Schwartz for Mimi before Sunday."

Myra grabbed the phone on the counter and called Sadie's garage, arranging to drop off the Cerebellum by 10:00. After hanging up, she said to Ginny "Maybe we could do that for them, let them stay at Gillam's? We need to do a shopping at Pike anyhow."

"Anton and Jemima want to go with us, I think" said Ginny. Myra didn't think her face registered any change, but Margie said "What? Are you getting tired of them?"

"A little. Anton retired in January and he hasn't figured out who he is now, in this new stage of life. Jemima seems determined to not give up any of her territory to him" said Myra.

"How long are they staying?" Margie's bowl was clanking from final swipes of the spoon.

"They're riding with Lucy to Tacoma Monday morning" said Ginny. Margie stood and said "I'm going to brush my teeth and grab my shoes, then can we go?"

"I'll call" said Myra as Ginny went to put on pants. When Gillam answered, he said "Bring 'er on! I browned some sweet Italian sausage, if you're still hungry. And I have a carton of RC Cola in the fridge."

"You are my hero, have I ever told you that?" said Myra. "We have still-warm granola and Ginny's yogurt from yesterday."

"Yes to the yogurt, Jane can't seem to consume enough calcium right now. See you soon" said Gillam, hanging up. They left a note for Frances and Margie let the way, pausing for a second to look at Narnia's grave and picking up Beebo, who had emerged from the house as their escort.

"You're getting chunky, Beebie-Jeebie" she remarked. "Old bachelor kitty."

"Not so old" said Myra defensively. "He's got another decade to go."

Margie gave her a wounded glance, which bewildered Myra. She wasn't able to figure it out, however, because Gillam stepped from the back door in sweatpants and a T-shirt, carrying Mimi with her face toward them. Margie literally jogged toward them, reaching for Mimi, then stopping herself to say "Is it all right?"

"This is your wild Aunt Margie" said Gillam, putting her in Margie's arms.

"My god, she's a looker!" exclaimed Margie. "Your pictures don't do you justice, movie star" she said down to Mimi, who gazed at her raptly. Margie was nudged on into the house by Myra. She had perfunctory hellos for everyone else, not noticing Jane's offer of a hug, because she was so focused on Mimi. When she finally looked up, she said to Ginny "These Bates genes, they're not just dominant, they're Borg." Jane and Gillam laughed, though not Jane's parents.

Margie said to Mimi "I intend to be your favorite aunt. I'll buy you air rifles and take you bungee jumping, I'll teach you how to argue with your PC grandmas and sneak boys upstairs using the fire escape ladder. Your first perm is on me."

Gillam was laughing nonstop. Myra looked at Ginny at the mention of the fire escape ladder. Mimi flexed her body, opened her mouth and began to cry loudly.

"Oh, shit, did I freak her out?" said Margie urgently. Gillam took her from Margie, still laughing, and said "No, she's been tuning up for an hour. She'd like that air rifle right away, I think." He walked back and forth in the hall, saying "I hear ya, it's a big noisy world, ain't it?" in a calm voice as Mimi roared.

"Look at him" said Margie, marveling. She switched her attention to Jane. "And look at you, the mother goddess! How are you holding up?"

Jane beamed under Margie's attention. "Better and better. I'm eating anything I want and still my belly is disappearing."

Gillam said "You have no idea what she went through. I still can't believe that's how reproduction is supposed to work. As far as I'm concerned, this one is the only child I'll ask of her."

Jane giggled. "You keep feeling that way, boyfriend." She confided to Margie "The drugs they wound up giving me were primo. And it's already a blur."

Myra ate her sausage and RC, sitting next to Anton who was trying to explain how one of the futuristic aircraft in her Skene books might actually have been powered, theoretically speaking. Ginny went out to harvest their garden. After ten minutes of crying, Jane spelled Gillam who came to chat with Margie.

"She does this every day?" Margie asked.

"At least once" said Gillam. "We're grateful when it's not during sleep hours."

"You cried three or four times a day like this" said Myra, cutting through Anton's digression into black hole reality states.

"Oh, let me guess -- but not Gillam, right? Gillam the cherub, Gillam the perfected baby model?" said Margie. But she was grinning playfully. He said, with an equally light tone, "The benefits of having a scrotal sac, I'm sure."

Ten minutes later, Mimi was done and actually tried to look around. Jane said "I think she wants her Margie again" and returned her to Margie's lap. Margie was consumed with her, talking to her in various voices that would have made Mimi laugh if she knew how to do that yet. After an hour of this love fest, Frances joined them, bags under her eyes but as eager to interact with Mimi as Margie.

Eventually Ginny said "We need to skedaddle if we're going to drop off your car." Frances borrowed paper and wrote a detailed list of what she needed for her part of the naming ceremony menu in her small, precise handwriting. Eventually she said "Hell, I can't leave this to you" and folded the paper into her own pocket. She kissed Mimi and Margie both, saying "I'll be back as fast as I can."

Myra said to Anton and Jemima "We'll drive up front and pick you up there, save you the slog through dirt". They took the Volvo, to fold Anton's chair int he back and hold the rolling cart for the major shopping they had planned. Three hours later, they found Margie asleep in an Ikea version of a recliner, Mimi slumbering on her chest, Jane and Gillam in their bedroom behind a closed door. When Margie woke up, she whispered "I changed her diaper!" with pride. She declined to come home with Myra and Ginny, and Frances was urged to stay as well, they'd put away her groceries.

An hour later, Margie and Frances came back so Margie could ride with Ginny to pick up Cathy at the airport. Frances took a nap and Myra did laundry while roasting lamb and chicken for shabbos dinner. She made wild rice stuffing, new potatoes and peas in cream sauce, and a three-layer fudge cake on which she placed a single candle: Mimi would be one week old right before midnight.

Ginny made a salad while Cathy and Margie sat on stools at the pass-through, the three of them very alike in looks and talking over one another. By sunset, their friends had arrived and everyone carried food over to Jane and Gillam's for shabbos. Jane had been practicing the prayers and led them this night, but Ginny held Mimi and pulled flame toward her face, a shawl covering both their heads, Mimi's eyes huge and dancing with reflected light. Myra wept hard, standing between Gillam and Margie.

They made an early night of it. It was going to be a busy weekend. Ginny, however, sat up with Cathy in the small sitting area at the front of the house on the second floor, curled on the settee facing each other to talk. Margie put on a movie and invited Myra to join her and Frances. Instead, Myra pulled out her neglected book and began writing again. She forced herself to stop and go to bed when Ginny did, to conserve her energy.

The next morning after frica and muffins made by Frances, everyone except Myra traipsed over to Jane and Gillam's house. As Myra continued to work at her desk, slowly people dropped in, talked with her briefly, then made their way to Jane and Gillam's: Edwina and Allie, Chris on her own, Carly and Eric, and Sima. Myra joined the throngs for lunch, which was take-out Vietnamese from Aux Delice, but returned home to write more. At 5:00 she walked over to see Mimi take her first swim, in the same tub where Margie and Gillam had learned. Mimi appeared to approve of this activity with every fiber in her body. Afterward, as Jane nursed her, Carly and Eric fired up the barbecue to make burgers and dogs, while many cooks crowded the kitchen and created a potluck without Myra or Gillam's help.

A card table had to be found to seat everybody, using every one of Gillam and Jane's dishes from Target. Thad had come over, and Davonn who stopped by to meet the baby was persuaded to eat with them. After pie and ice cream, Margie reclaimed Mimi for her first time doing the Electric Slide. Anton demonstrated some very smooth dance moves with his chair, and they quit after a few rounds to start two tables of poker. Davonn decided to hang around instead of going on to his usual clubbing. At one point, Myra whispered to Gillam "Do you need us to move all this hubbub to our house? You've been de facto host all day."

"I'm tired, but I like it" he said. "You taught them good manners, this bunch."

"Well, when you or Jane want to book out, go ahead. We'll take over." As she was dealing the next hand, it occurred to her that all of Gillam's groomsmen, now present again in this room, had been gay. She wondered why she'd never noticed that before.

The following morning, Myra got up with Ginny again and ate quickly so she could join Jane, Gillam, Anton and Jemima in attending Quaker Meeting. Mimi slept through the entire hour on Gillam's chest. Twice Myra saw tears leak from the corner's of Gillam's eyes. At rise of Meeting, Gillam stood and introduced Mimi to her new community of worship. She woke up long enough to pee and begin crying before they headed for home. Jane and Gillam had decided to save Mimi's presentation to their temple for the following Saturday, when Jane's family would be gone.

With Sima and Chris's consent, the chair they had created for Gillam's naming ceremony, Miriam's Chair, was being handed on to Jane and Gillam. It had sat for 23 years in Ginny and Myra's bedroom. On Sunday Carly and Eric came to carry it away. Myra would have started crying anyway, but when she saw Carly wearing David's suit, his face somber and illuminated from his role in the ceremony, she went to Ginny and sobbed on her shoulder. "I miss David and Michael so much" she said. She felt someone press against her from the side and felt Cathy begin crying, too.

Cathy said "My grandkids ask me sometimes why my face is sad at birthday parties or family occasions. I can't tell them it's because I'm noticing the people who are missing as much as I see the folks who are there."

Ginny was hugging them both. "Daddy must have been aching for his mama at Gillam's naming."

Cathy added "And Michael his dad."

"We go on without them" choked out Myra. "I find that brutal, some days."

"The not-so-secret surcharge for adding new life" said Ginny.

It helped, to get grief out of the way. They washed faces, dressed up in finery, and made a procession through the yards, Ginny with her largest wet carrier in one hand and two antique silver candlesticks she was giving Gillam and Jane in the other, Myra holding a tray of brisket and in her pocket the exquisite gold baby bracelet for Mimi, Sima carrying wine and challah, Chris with her flute, and Cathy transporting Ginny's stuffed tomatoes, Michael's tallit over her dress. Everyone else was already at Gillam's house.

When Myra saw that both Gillam and Margie also had on their David suits, she was glad of her recent cry: She was able to simply glory in it without sadness. But it was Mimi, sitting in Jane's lamp in that beloved chair, wearing the dark rose velvet onesie in which her father had been named before g*d, who stole all the light in the room. She was struggling with all the stimulation, the frequent doorbell and streams of Jane and Gillam's friends arriving. After a few minutes, Margie quietly asked Jane if she could have Mimi for a bit. She carried her outside and they stood under the sycamore, listening to a slight breeze and letting the gorgeous sunlight calm Mimi into peace.

Gillam was everywhere, greeting people, answering questions, acting as if he had been in charge of this house for years, not weeks. His hair was rumpled and there was Beebo fur on his slacks, and Jane kept grabbing his hand as he glided by, pulling him in for a kiss. Jane had on a silk blouse and long shirt of a pink so pale it made her skin look flushed -- or perhaps she was flushed, thought Myra.

Eric ran the video camera. Jemima declared the meal ready, and Anton wheeled his chair close to Jane. Allie carried Mimi upstairs and it began.

Myra realized later she had not noticed how deep Carly's voice had become. He only faltered once, and that was from emotion when he declaimed "Yochana ben David bat Yemima ha-Kohein", looking down at Mimi. Myra felt a jolt along her spine: Jane was derived from Johanna, which meant her granddaughter had a jo-name in Hebrew. Basheert, basheert.

After challah and wine, Gillam raised his voice to ask that they view the painting before moving on to the meal. Ginny delicately pulled her canvas from the carrier and placed it on the mantle. A gasp traveled around the room. Jane and Gillam, holding Mimi, moved in close to stare at it. After a minute, Gillam said to Ginny hoarsely "And you saw all this the night before she was born? Just like this?"

"I did. She is the one you should be looking at that way, not me -- she's the one who did the spirit traveling" said Ginny, hugging him from behind. Jane held Mimi up to the canvas and said "There you are. Preserved for all time."

"Don't let her touch it!" warned Ginny. "Everybody, it's very smearable, please keep back from the surface." Myra began carving brisket, which diverted attention back to the table of food, easing Ginny's anxiety.

There was one other tense moment, when Anton was talking to his son-in-law Seth about the prayers said earlier and referred to the event as "Mimi's christening". Sima was in earshot and said without hesitation "It's not a christening. We don't give our children away to -- We name them in Yahweh's presence." She stopped herself and looked around to see who had heard her. When she met Myra's eye, Myra winked. Christ had left the building a long, long time ago.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild

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