Friday, November 7, 2008


Tribade toast
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.

November 2014

After three days in Chicago with Myra, Allie and Edwina came home while Ginny flew to join her, not yet rested from her recent painting. They rented a car and drove to Myra's readings in Iowa City, Lincoln, Lawrence, and Denver. The weather was becoming steadily worse, and Myra was relieved to finally reach their hotel in Denver. They had two days to visit with Cathy and her family, then Myra read in the early afternoon before she and Ginny caught a plane back to Seattle.

When they came into their house from the airport shuttle, Myra thought it smelled odd. She finally identified it as “unused”, without linseed oil, recent meals, brewing tea, or baby diapers giving clues as to who had been here. A long note for Gillam was on the kitchen counter, saying Margie was arriving the day before Thanksgiving but Frances had to work through Thursday night, Mimi had a cold, he and Jane had done a grocery shopping for them and put it in their fridge, and he wanted to host Margie's birthday party the day after Thanksgiving at his house.

Ginny played back messages and made notes while Myra opened their suitcases in the front sitting area to pull out dirty laundry. After she started a load, she carried the bags upstairs while Ginny went out with a flashlight to check on the pond and garden. They met again in the kitchen, Ginny carrying a basket of about-to-bolt broccoli and burly purple carrots.

“There's dust everywhere” Ginny commented. “I'll wipe and vacuum if you'll make us soup.”

“Deal” said Myra. She sliced the carrots thin and put them in the steamer while onions, celery and garlic sauteed in the All-Clad dutch oven. Once the mirapois had caramelized, she added chopped broccoli for a few minutes, then frozen chicken stock she defrosted from their freezer. She didn't find potatoes in the crisper, so she tossed minute rice in with the stock, a leaf of basil and sprig of thyme, and a handful of peppercorns. She mixed a tablespoon of frozen orange concentrate with one each of Ginny's brown mustard and melted butter as a drizzle over the steamed carrots. She sliced the loaf of rustic bread Gillam had bought for them and toasted four pieces, putting them on a plate with an artisanal cheese made on the Olympic peninsula. She poured half the simmering soup into a blender and pureed it, making a thick pale green cream that she added back to the soup for a final mix and heat-through.

“Oh, god, home food” said Ginny appreciatively as they sat down across from each other. Ginny got up an instant later to light a candle, saying “It's supposed to maybe freeze tonight. We'll find out how well the pond heater works. Which reminds me, I want to invite Kip to do Thanksgiving with us.”

“Good” said Myra. “Annie's joining us, and Nika.”

“One of the messages was from Thad, he wants to eat with us as well. I couldn't tell if he understood we cook first, I'll ask Jane tomorrow.” Ginny was using the serving spoon for the soup to eat her own bowl, instead of her soup spoon. It went down faster that way, Myra figured.

Over the next few days, Myra made bread, updated her blog, and babysat Mimi who was cranky and congested. Ginny transplanted new starts, packed some rows in mulch for cold weather, mopped the entire house, and met with her agent twice about income arriving from her show's sales. They had a session with Nancy, took Beebo for his annual shots, and met Allie at the bank to open an education fund for Mimi with the checks they had all three received from the publisher who was about to print their Poppyseed children's book.

Cathy flew in from Denver on Tuesday night, and the next morning Margie drove up from Portland. Myra had located a manufacturer who could replicate the seats originally made for the Cerebellum, and as her and Ginny's birthday present to Margie, her car was getting all new upholstery in a fabric of her choosing. Margie dropped the Cerebellum at Sadie's and went with Myra to a last minute shopping run at an extremely overcrowded Pike Market.

Back at the house, Jane was sitting with Ginny and Cathy while Mimi crawled around the floor. Margie abandoned helping Myra put away groceries in favor of joining Mimi. Jane gave her a lesson in using a bulb to extract snot from a protesting baby's nose, which Margie faced bravely and with necessary humor. Ginny got up to help Myra, saying “We need a nap this afternoon before going to make pies.”

“Hear, hear” said Myra. After lunch, they excused themselves and curled together under a quilt on their bed. Cathy followed their example, but Margie opted to go back home with Jane and Mimi.

Jane sat out of the cooking duties of the next 24 hours, not only to hold Mimi but also because she felt like she was coming down with Mimi's crud as well. She was deft in keeping Mimi from being handled too much by strangers. Margie strapped the Snugli to her chest and declared she and Mimi to be the pie-serving team behind the counter. Carly positioned himself beside them as “Whipped Cream Uncle”, and a photo of them dispensing dessert while trying to keep Mimi's hands out of everything in range was destined for the wall over Myra's desk.

The next morning, Myra slept in an extra half hour but forced herself up because it was Margie's birthday. However, when she got to the table, she was told Margie had borrowed one of their cars to pick up Frances at the train station. Ginny was making tribade toast, and Allie was grinding coffee beans.

“We going to eat over at Jane and Gillam's” Allie told her. “Put on your outside clothes. Carly and Eric already over there.”

Myra changed and grabbed a Coke from the storage room before walking alone to the back gate. From there on, she was escorted by Beebo, who smelled the package of maple-cured bacon she carried. Mimi looked and sounded much better, but Jane was having to blow her nose frequently, and every time she did, Mimi laughed gaily.

“Margie still not here?” said Myra.

“Yeah, I'm thinking there must have been a delay with the train” said Ginny. Myra arranged bacon on the microwave tray and set it to cook. There was also smoked salmon and home fries in warming trays in the oven. Edwina was juicing oranges while taking sips of fresh coffee.

An hour later, Myra was about to go call the train station when Margie and Frances finally came in the front door. Frances looked very tired, and Margie was tense, Myra could tell immediately. Ginny lit a candle atop the stack of tribade toast slices and Margie smiled as she blew it out, but her shoulders remained squared off.

They served themselves buffet style and sat down at Jane and Gillam's newly painted table to eat. Gillam was sitting sideways in his chair to keep Mimi's hands off his plate. He looked at Jane, they communicated something between them, and he cleared his throat.

“We've decided this is going to be the first day Mimi gets to eat real food. I mean, real besides what Jane's been making for her. At our dinner tonight, maybe we can put our heads together and decide what's appropriate for her to sample as her first excursion in the gastronomic cornucopia that is this family.”

There were exclamations, and Myra said “I was thinking about making a pumpkin custard. If I use only a tablespoon or so of molasses, no sugar, will that be all right?”

“You know as much as we do about it” said Gillam. Ginny nodded and said “It's consistency that matters most. We could puree spinach, maybe with some of this hand-made mozzarella that Frances brought, and that would be safe for her, too. Add a strained fruit and she's covered.”

“She'll be in ecstasy” said Gillam, craning sideways so he could catch Mimi's eye and grin with her. “At least, we're hoping for it. Because the bad news is, Jane is also going to wean her beginning tomorrow.”

“What?” said Myra and Ginny in unison. “Not so soon!” continued Ginny. “I thought you wanted to go a year, not six months.”

“I did. But other factors have intervened” said Jane froggily. “I need to conserve my nutrients for another life just commencing.”

It took them all a few seconds to decipher this statement. It was the look on Gillam's face that tipped off Myra as much as Jane's words.

“You're pregnant again!” she shouted. “My god, even while nursing her full-time?”

“Yep” said Gillam with rueful pride. “We got chemistry, apparently.”

“Bates fertility” responded Myra, looking at Ginny. Carly had leapt to his feet and was doing a cheer sans pom-poms, to Mimi's utter delight.

“You been tested yet?” asked Allie.

“Just the pee-stick version” said Jane. “Our best guess is that I'm, well, likely to deliver around Mimi's first birthday.” She reached out her hand to cup Mimi's cheek.

“You – you can't be serious” said Margie, her tone cutting through all the glee. She stood, also, looking down at Gillam with a scowl. “You couldn't even fucking keep it zipped for a year, to give her a full year with her mother?” She reached for Mimi.

Gillam's face was stunned. Unconsciously, he pulled Mimi away from Margie's reach. It hit Margie, and everyone else, like a blow – a blow in answer to her harsh words. After a few frozen seconds, Margie strode out the back door toward her mothers' house.

Ginny looked at Frances and said “What the hell just happened here? Do you want to go after her, or shall I?”

Frances looked extremely uncomfortable. “I – she won't want to talk with me right now. Not after – the owners of Simpatico last night offered me a chance to buy into the restaurant, become a partner. I waited to tell her until she picked me up. We've been fighting about it, only stopped because we knew you were here waiting on us.” She ran a hand through her sweat-stained hair.

“Ah” said Ginny. She said to Gillam “Doesn't excuse her crapping on you, but it is her birthday. I'll be back.” She went out the door after Margie.

Myra saw pieces falling into place on the faces of others. Except Jane, who said thickly “So, what? She's blaming Gillam for being born in the first place, and insinuating he's dissing Mimi by having more than one child?”

Allie stood and lifted a very still and silent Mimi from Gillam's arms. “We going upstairs to look at the mural and tell stories” she announced. Mimi's uncertain expression melted back into gladness as she strolled away with Allie. Gillam watched them head upstairs and said quietly “I didn't notice how...I'm sorry, I was focused on my own shit.”

Myra said to him “It's always going to be Allie who looks out for the babies first. It's her gift. But we'd have been on it in another minute, don't beat yourself up about it.”

Carly said to Frances “What was your fight about?”

“I want this chance. We can still open another restaurant in a couple of years someplace else. But it means committing to life in Portland” said Frances.

Portland's better than L.A. or New York Myra thought to herself. Everyone was trying to sort out the implications and there was a long silence. Misinterpreting this, Frances said “You know what? I need a break. I'm going for a walk, to clear my head.” She started for the front door.

“But it's raining” said Myra. Frances grabbed an umbrella from the stand by the door and didn't pause, shutting the door behind her a little too emphatically.

“Peas in a pod” said Eric not quite to himself. Carly stifled a laugh. Myra said to Gillam “It's not about you and Jane. She's attacking your actions because it's easier than facing her own.”

“What else is new” said Gillam with residual bitterness. He faced his plate directly and began eating. After a few seconds, everyone else followed suit. Edwina finished most of her portions, stood and said “I'm checking on Allie.” In a few minutes, they were back at the table with Mimi, who sat in Edwina's lap while Allie ate. Conversation was not quite normal, although they were all trying. Allie kept leaning toward Mimi and saying “You gonna eat tonight. Chew and swallow. Never gonna be the same, baby girl.”

They cleared the table together, saving three plates in the fridge. Gillam looked at Myra and said “Now what?”

“She'll need to come apologize to you, I think” said Myra. “I'm going home to check in. And make baby pudding.” She looked questioningly at Cathy.

“We going with you” said Allie. She turned to Jane and said “You get some rest. We bringing ribs for dinner, let everybody else do the work.” She, Edwina, Cathy and Myra walked back through the slackening rain to the second house. Once inside the back door, they could hear a murmur of voices from upstairs, in Ginny's studio. Myra called up the air well “We're home.”

Margie's face appeared above her. “We're still talking. Where's Frances?”

“Out in the rain somewhere” replied Myra. “Come down when you want to be with us.”

Allie and Edwina went into the kitchen to begin assembling a rub for their ribs. Myra joined them to cut apart three small pumpkins for steaming, while Cathy made a pot of tea. Myra said “I guess Poppyseed is going to have a little brother or sister. I'm going to name this second character Cotton, I think.”

Edwina laughed. “She got parents, our Poppy?”

“Yeah. A traditional pair, named Flax and Cara Way respectively. Allie, you draw an idea of what Cotton looks like and I'll use that as my blueprint for describing him or her.”

Allie had returned from the pantry with a jar of Ginny's tomato paste and said briefly to Edwina “I'm thinking wet sauce as opposed to dry rub.” She leaned toward Myra and said quietly “They gonna break up over this?”

Myra thought for a minute. “No. If they were, they wouldn't be so sparky. They fight things out, it's how it works for them.” She saw relief on Cathy's face.

“She'll fall in love with the second baby just as much” predicted Edwina. Allie and Myra looked at each other. Myra wondered if that was true.

“They gonna have two in diapers at the same time. Two needing to be mostly carried everywhere, fed, most things done for 'em” said Allie. “And Jane's body pushed to max, no matter what kinda German farmer grit she come from.”

“A golden opportunity for Margie, if she gets over her crap” said Myra, following Allie's train of thought.

Half an hour later, Myra had pulled out one of her mother's cookbooks and was reading out loud what it had to say about making crackers for babies. “I could adapt this to whole grain” she said. “Give Mimi something to gum. If I use rice syrup, I could skip any other form of sugar to activate the yeast, I bet.”

The front door opened and beyond the counter they saw Frances coming toward them. “We're talking about bread for babies” said Myra. “You need something hot to drink? Your cheeks look chapped.”

“I'll get it in a bit” said Frances. “She here?”

“Upstairs with her mom, go on up” said Myra.

“Don't forget about durum” said Frances over her shoulder. “Full of protein.”

A few minutes later, Ginny joined them in the kitchen. “They're in the spare bedroom up there” she said.

“It's not soundproofed” commented Myra.

“We'll put on music, if need be” said Ginny.

“Anything you can share with us?” whispered Edwina.

“Nothing you won't have guessed” said Ginny. “She's already sorry. One interesting thing, she said she's got more friends left in Seattle from ten years ago than she's made in Portland. Why is that, I wonder? She never had trouble making friends before.”

“Being a grownup means making youself as vulnerable as the folks you ask to love you forever” said Allie. “She keep dancing on that fault line.”

“And now it's come up with Mimi” said Myra. “Gillam says when they talk to her about Aunt Margie, Mimi sometimes makes the sign for 'more', like, you know, 'Where the fuck is she? Produce her, please.' I think that's really unusual in one so little.”

“Babies are black holes” said Ginny. “They suck up everything you can give them and still want more.” Cathy laughed abruptly and said “They should print that on receiving blankets.”

Ten minutes later, they heard footsteps on the front stairs. Margie called to them from the front door “We won't be here for lunch, see you later.”

“Well” said Ginny. “That was quick.”

“Or maybe they want privacy to duke it out” said Cathy. Ginny asked “How do Nate and Noah handle things in their relationships?” They began comparing notes.

Because Cathy could never get enough West Coast seafood, Ginny steamed clams and mussels for the birthday potluck. Sima and Chris brought salmon, and Myra knew Carly and Eric were making jerk chicken. In addition to the pumpkin custard, Myra made mashed potatoes and braised brussel sprouts. Frances had insisted the cake be left for her, but Myra baked a blueberry pie on the side.

Just past 4:00, Margie called to say she and Frances were next door and dinner prep could begin in earnest. Ginny asked her if she had made up with Gillam, and Margie said “Duh. Where am I calling from, again?” The older women walked over through the now clear air, burdened with pots of food and presents. Thad, Davonn, and a few of Jane and Gillam's friends were there, with loud music playing and Mimi sequestered in the bedroom for a nap.

Frances was beating eggwhites in a copper pan. Margie said “Can you take a break?” and Frances shook her head, saying “Let me get the batter into pans first.” Myra noticed not just a renewed connection between them, but a buzz of excitement. She moved her chair to sit next to Ginny.

A few minutes later, Frances emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands. Myra said “Could we turn down the music, please?” Gillam switched off the stereo as Margie stood beside Frances, both of them grinning.

“Well, not to steal Jane and Gillam's thunder, who apparently are making a tradition of momentous announcements on my birthday” said Margie, her tone sweet enough to reassure everyone no sarcasm was intended. “But we have news, too.”

She looked at Frances, who said “It's yours to say, I think. At least, to begin.”

Margie slid her arm through Frances' and faced them. “Okay. I...I don't want my niece – niece and nephew, or nieces, whatever it turns out – I want them to grow up with me around all the time. I don't want to buy a house in Portland, I don't want – I need my family. I'm sorry it took me so damned long to figure it out. And – well, Seattle is one of the most highly regarded foodie cities in America, especially for seafood. And Capital Hill needs exactly the kind of Italian cuisine Frances can provide. So...we, well, Frances found out today that Aux Delice is about to be put on the market. The old man who owns it wants to move to the Bay Area, and none of his children want to take over the business. We're going to make a bid on the building, which will have the first Carminati's on the ground floor and our apartment on the second floor. If it goes as we hope.”

The screams were loud and sustained, making Margie gloat with happiness. They talked over each other for a long time, pulling from Frances the story of how, once she had cooled off, she'd stopped in at Aux Delice for a cup of coffee and got into conversation with the owner who had to work that day, filling in for staff off for the holiday. She and Margie drew an outline of the building as it was now, then a second sketch of Frances' planned renovations. Eventually Mimi woke up from her nap and joined them, and shortly afterward the timer went off to signal the cake being done.

Myra sat pressed against Ginny, who had not stopped trembling since Margie's announcement. Once Ginny murmured “More than a birthday” and Myra nodded at her. When the group cooking effort began, Myra stayed with Ginny. They joined Jane on the couch, passing Mimi around and silently trying to absorb this shift in their family's configuration.

Allie came to them to ask about pureeing spinach for Mimi. She whispered “This means no more Imani. I can see it on Margie's face.”

“Indeed” said Myra.

At the table, Margie asked if she could be the one to give Mimi her first spoonful of food. Gently, Gillam said it needed to be Jane, to retain her as the provider of sustenance for Mimi with the end of breastfeeding arriving the next day. Mimi was allowed to hold the spoon for herself before any food was loaded on it. She waved it around dangerously and dropped it several times in her excitement, a small treasure Gillam had bought for her with a fat handle in the shape of a giraffe. Eventually, Jane scooped it into the pumpkin and helped Mimi guide it toward her mouth. Her face registered utter astonishment as the taste hit her tongue, and orange slobber cascaded over her chin. They laughed nonstop as she struggled to get as much of the new wonder inside her body as on it. She approved of the spinach and the applesauce just as vigorously. Eventually Gillam took a turn feeding her, handing the spoon to Margie for a couple of forays.

It was a giddy meal. Carly videotaped much of it, swearing he could use the footage to blackmail Mimi during her adolescence. After cake and presents, Ginny looked over the formula options Jane had amassed in the cupboard while Gillam burped Mimi and blanched a little at the new colors and texture of her urp. “Her poop is going to change smell, too” warned Myra.

“The fun never stops” replied Gillam, as Margie got up to dance with Frances, handing Mimi over to Cathy.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

Once a month treat, and also requested by the kids for birthday breakfasts. Serves 4.
Loaf of unsliced bread -- leftover challah is great for this
2 brown eggs
1/2 cup raw milk
Teaspoon of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 bananas
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup butter
Apple butter or confectioner's sugar
Cut the bread into 2-inch thick slices. Carefully cut into each slice from the top to make a pocket big enough to hold half-pieces of banana; do not tear all the way through.
Peel bananas and cut each into half. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 slices. Stuff two slices into each bread pocket.
Beat the eggs together with the milk, cinnamon and salt.
Heat oil and butter together in a non-stick skillet to medium heat. Dip each bread pocket into the egg mixture, then place into the skillet. Cook for one minute or until golden brown. Turn and fry the other side until done. Put on plate and spread with apple butter or, as a rare treat, confectioner's sugar.


Cowboy Diva said...

a friday that begins with the word tribade. It's gonna be a great day.

Jesse Wendel said...

My four children are six years and eleven days apart.

we had THREE in diapers at once. Oh, joy. < /sarcasm > *laughs*

We would have made a ceremony out of getting rid of the diaper pail, but neither of us could stand being around the damn thing any longer than we had to, even for ceremonial purposes, so we just threw it in the dumpster.