Friday, December 19, 2008


Norwegian wooden bowl (Bowl painted in rosemaling form by Synneva Rutlin.)

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.

2016 into 2017

Moon and Gidge took to family life with ease. Both of them were deferential to the cats and patient with the mauling children. Moon, in particular, let the little ones crawl all over him, licking their faces gladly and moving away without complaint when they caused him pain. Margie remarked “It's as if they knew all along they were meant to be in a home instead of a kennel.”

Ginny replied “I bet Gidge hatched a plot for them to be lousy racers, so they got adopted out faster. I bet they have hidden talents.” Which Margie would readily believe, from the look on her face.

Frances was, in fact, delighted to have two dogs, and Myra felt a little jealousy at how immediately Moon claimed Frances as his own. To compensate, she wrote a story for the children about the dogs, out on an adventure with the mysterious Warrum Arsenica which involved Moon racing the moon. Ginny used this as her pretext for making small color drawings of Gidge. Allie got into the act when Myra wrote a song for her and the children to sing, based on the tune to “Moon River”:

Moon Doggie, how I love your smile
Come sit with me a while and smooch
You sweet puppy
Yo what's uppy
Let's both wag our tails
At the same rhythm, pooch

Two drifters off to take a stroll
Perhaps we'll dig a hole
Or pee
We're after the same hunting ground
My huckleberry hound
I'll keep you from the pound
Moon Doggie and me

Allie's watercolor of the two dogs wagging their tails in rhythm to a baton-wielding Warrum Arsenica spawned the Moondoggie Dance, created by Ginny, which included flamboyant smooching and hiking up a leg to pee. Eventually, Myra mentioned the fun to her agent, Mai, who demanded a manuscript to peddle. “Myra, you need to realize, you could earn your living simply from children's books” Mai said emphatically.

The only family members who had reservations about the canine additions were Eric and Carly. Eric said “Don't take it personally, but I'm not going to risk introducing them to Dink and Usagi. I mean, rabbits are what they train them to chase, you know.”

“They don't use real rabbits -- “ began Margie.

“Nevertheless” interrupted Carly. “When you come through that side gate with them, I ask they be leashed unless you know for a fact there are no bunnies on a visit.”

Ginny backed up Carly with a stern expression, and Margie agreed, a little petulantly.

As the holiday season began, Jane announced their family was going to continue a Leichty tradition of celebrating Lussenisse, or the feast of Santa Lucia on December 13th. Frances beamed and said her grandparents, too, had festivities that night. Apparently Santa Lucia had originally lived in Sicily, but her influence had spread to Norway, where one or two of Jane's ancestors had originated.

Jane's sister Lucy of course drove up with her husband Seth, Peter (the same age as Mimi), and the new baby John. Thad was there as well. He and Jane collaborated on making saffron buns and julgröt, the porridge which their family ate as dinner this holiday. Gillam was unable to only offer carbs for a meal, and also had baked a ham, braised cabbage, and fried cod cakes.

“What, no lutefisk?” joked Myra. Gillam whispered “Even Jane doesn't like it.”

Jane and Ginny had worked the week before to create crowns from thick foil and long white gowns for the children, belted at the waist with silver cord. All of the crowns except Lucy's, which was a family heirloom she would be bringing with her, were illuminated by bright white LED lights.

Everyone except the children and the Leichty siblings gathered expectantly in the family room. Mimi led a procession down the wall toward them, singing Santa Lucia with a radiant face. She was followed by Peter, then David, then Jane carrying Leah and Thad carrying John. Resplendent in the rear was Lucy with real lit candles in the crown circled her curly blonde hair -- “A parent's nightmare” Ginny whispered to Myra. Myra, however, was watching Frances weep, clutching Margie's arm, her knee in contact with a slightly worried Moon.

The children handed out saffron buns to everyone and continued singing loudly but not off key – Leichty children knew how to hit their notes. Lucy sat in a place of honor, away from possible overhanging flammables, and lasted half an hour in the crown until she complained it was making her head hot. Mimi begged to try on “your fire hat”, and Gillam said “Only people named Lucy can wear the saint's attire.” Which, remarkably, Mimi accepted. Lucy did allow the children to blow out the candles, enduring spittle with humor.

Next, they all paraded into the back yard to set out food for the wild animals. In addition to filling the bird feeders of both yards and strewing nuts at the base of the squirrel tree, Ginny handed out fish food to everyone and the pond surface was soon pitted with eager fish mouths. Moon and Gidge were given treats, mackerel was placed in cat bowls, and baby carrots were pulled up for the rabbits to have after Carly and Eric went home to them.

Back at her house, Jane finished the fluffy white porridge with a pool of melting butter in a center divot and a zigzag of maple syrup across the top. Thad spooned it into wide wooden bowls painted in gorgeous colors. Ginny examined them closely, and Jane said “My parents just sent them – they're based on ancient designs from Scandinavia.” Filled with porridge, they were appetizingly beautiful, and Jane refused to insist the children eat anything else if they didn't want to – which they did not.

Lucy explained that somewhere in the porridge was a single almond, and whoever found it would get an extra treat. Gillam had pureed a small helping of porridge and was busy feeding it to Leah, who couldn't seem to eat it fast enough. Jane kept telling Mimi to not rake her porridge with her fingers in search of the almond, laughing and glancing at Thad – apparently he had done the same thing as a child. Only Myra noticed when Carly's eyebrows shot up and he stopped chewing, then surreptitiously lifted his napkin to cover removing something from his mouth.

After a few seconds of thought, Carly turned to David in the highchair next to him and said “Hey, buddy, you're down to the butterless part, aren't you? Let me add a little more.” David waved his spoon in agreement and nobody saw when Carly slipped his almond into David's bowl. Myra found she was holding her breath, waiting for David's discovery, which didn't happen until almost the last spoonful. Even then, David didn't at first recognize it as the mystery object they were all looking for, instead saying “Wat's wrong wif my porj?”

Jane leaped to her feet, shouting, and pulled David from his chair to dance around with him. Thad went to the kitchen and returned with a small marzipan pig. Protests came from two directions – Mimi screaming she wanted candy, too, and Ginny muttering to Myra “More sugar?”

Mimi and Peter were mollified with small marzipan snowflakes, given to the adults as well. David ate his pig greedily, and Myra blew a kiss at Carly, making his red cheeks flame.

Lucy insisted the table not be cleared, because the leftover food was going to be eaten by “the little people”. They all returned to the family room to make music and, thankfully, encourage the children to dance and wrestle in an all-out effort to work sugar highs through their system. When they walked home that night, Ginny commented to Myra “That didn't seem very christian at all.”

“I don't think it is. Not originally, despite the saint add-on” said Myra. “I hope we do it every year.”

“Me too” said Ginny. “And let's ask Frances if there's something more we can add from her culture. Plus Eric.”

“Japan is not a Christian culture” said Myra. “And I know New Year's is the biggest holiday there, shogatsu. But yes, let's ask him what his family does.”

Ginny's show in January was another success. Myra's poetry volume “did as well as poetry books can be expected to do”, as she put it. The new Warrum Arsenica book was immediately snapped up by a publisher, forcing Allie to delay working on her current graphic novel to finish artwork for the children's book. Leah began talking clearly at eight months, beating out everyone in the family. Margie and Frances' civil union party had 200 attendees, and Margie chose to borrow chairs from Myra and Ginny rather than “rush to buy furniture – I want every piece to be specially chosen, if not refinished by Mom herself.”

They reached spring and the “birthday season”, kicked off by Jane's 26th, then Mimi's 3rd, David's 2nd, and Leah's first. On the Fourth of July, Gillam let David hold a roman candle and one blazing ball went over the fence to land in Ginny's compost pile, setting it briefly on fire.

The next day, Jane went into labor, and after only seven hours, she gave birth to Charlie Gillam Bates-Josong, another brown-eyed blonde, only Charlie's hair was sunny yellow instead of David's gossamer white. Charlie had Gillam's wide forehead and sturdy build. Mimi greeted him sweetly, saying “I like brothers.”

Jane and Gillam decided to keep Leah's crib in their bedroom for the time being, adding another crib for Charlie and leaving Mimi sharing a room with David. Myra said to Gillam “I always have a baby I can hold now, it's glorious.”

“There also always a diaper needing changing, a nose to be wiped, or a squall to be dealt with” said Gillam.

“You know, if Myra had had her way, we'd have had at least one more child when you were around three” said Ginny. Margie laughed at the expression on Gillam's face, as Myra said “That's not entirely accurate” in a tone which did not convince.

That night she began work on the adventures of Barley Seed, with of course a cameo appearance by the Warrum Arsenica. It made a tonic diversion from the soul-wrenching final edit of her first volume of memoirs, shaved into near poetry by Qiana's ruthless badgering. The manuscript was due at her publisher's the day after her birthday. When all other distractions failed, Myra went next door and borrowed the dogs for a walk. They always stopped at a small bench where Myra bent over to whisper into their ears the grief she felt at telling the truth about her family of origin.

“Offer me absolution, Moon” she'd urge. He looked at her quizzically and leaned his forehead against hers. “That's it” she replied. “Thanks.”

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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