(Actual Lives at H Street Theater in Washington, DC, June 2004: L-R, Danny Saenz, Franky Ramont, Maggie Jochild, Mike Burns, Laura Griebel, Cindy Massey, Terri Stellar, and Rand Metcalfe)
I've got a new post up at Group News Blog concerning my writing of Crip Ward Tango for Actual Lives.
But just for Meta Watershed readers, I've located a short video online taken by Gene Rodgers which has small excerpts from our/my performance at the 2004 VSA International Arts Conference mentioned in my post. Adam Griebel doing his "Frankenstein" part of Crip Ward Tango is near the end; also included is a small segment of my "Dignity" performance, the text of which can be found here.
Unfortunately, during the opening where we are performing the "Good Cripples' Oath", Gene is narrating and you miss the dialogue. Still, it's a fun view.
Friday, September 5, 2008
(Actual Lives at H Street Theater in Washington, DC, June 2004: L-R, Danny Saenz, Franky Ramont, Maggie Jochild, Mike Burns, Laura Griebel, Cindy Massey, Terri Stellar, and Rand Metcalfe)
Thursday, September 4, 2008
(Women's Music pioneers: Alix Dobkin's Living with Lesbians, cover photo by Ginger Legato; Meg Christian and Cris Williamson, photo by JEB (Joan E. Biren); and Holly Near's Simply Love, cover photo by Mike Rogers)
Myra plays music often in her study. I've taken the liberty of raiding the songs she plays more frequently and copying them into a Box.net file so you, too, can listen to what Ginny hears from around the wall. Click on this Myra's Faves link and choose your song to play.
The selections include (click on images to enlarge, though not all will enlarge much):
"Sweet Lullaby" by Deep Forest -- sung by an old Solomon Islands woman, the lyrics are part of an essential myth from their culture about the nature of death, sung by an older sister to her younger brother
"Family of Woman" by Linda Shear, originally on her Lesbian Portrait album, but this version from High Risk, a benefit album of performance by Chicago women for the Lesbian Resource Cancer Center
"The Old Woman Song" written and performed by Michal Brody (this was released in the 1970's by Linda Shear on her Lesbian Portrait album, but this version was sung by Michal for High Risk, a benefit album of performance by Chicago women for the Lesbian Resource Cancer Center)
"Summertime" by Janis Joplin (written by George Gershwin)
"Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida" by Holly Near, with Adrienne Torf on piano and Enrique Cruz on zambona
"This Is To Mother You" by Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt from the Western Wall/Tucson Sessions album (written by Sinead Oconnor)
"Western Wall" by Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt from the Western Wall/Tucson Sessions album
"Having Been Touched/Emma" performed by Holly Near; "Having Been Touched" was originally written and performed by Margie Adam, a women's music pioneer, and "Emma" was made famous by Therese Edell and Betsy Lippitt, but I don't have those versions available and this cover is excellent, with Adrienne Torf on piano and Nina Gerber on guitar
"Here Comes The Sun" by Nina Simone
"Get Right With God" by Lucinda Williams
"Show Some Emotion" by Joan Armatrading
"I'm Lucky" by Joan Armatrading
"The Woman In Your Life is You" -- this was written by Alix Dobkin and used by Liza Cowan as a theme song on her WBAI radio show, but I don't have that version in MP3 format, so I'm using the Holly Near cover of it, with Nina Gerber on guitar
"Testimony" sung by Holly Near, although it was Ferron who made it famous, a women's music classic
"Down to the River" by Allison Krauss (this brings up Myra's childhood religious memories in a good way; Ginny just rolls her eyes when this comes on)
"Waterfall" written and originally performed by Cris Williamson on the biggest-selling women's music album of all time, The Changer and the Changed -- I don't have an MP3 of that, so I'm using the cover performed by Holly Near live at the 1985 Michigan Women's music Festival, with Rhiannon adding her vocals, Adrienne Torf on piano and Carrie Barton on bass
"Russian Song/Ode to Joy" by Pete Seeger (Myra is attached to the "Ode to Joy" version done by Pete)
"How Can I Keep From Singing" by Pete Seeger (this is often sung at Quaker Meeting)
"Mountain Song/Kentucky Woman" by Holly Near -- the "mountain song" lyrics were a staple not just in women's music but as rhetoric in the movement itself; Meg Christian on guitars, Barbara Cobb on bass
"Old Blue" performed here by Cisco Johnson, but Myra prefers to sing this very slowly and mournfully as that's how she heard it growing up
"On Children" by Sweet Honey in the Rock
"Little Potato" performed by Metamora, written by Malcolm Dalglish (Myra sung this to both her children when they were babies)
"A Woman's Love" by Alix Dobkin (originally on Lavender Jane Loves Women -- written about and for our own Liza Cowan)
"Gulf Coast Highway" written by Nanci Griffith, performed by her and Willie Nelson (this song reminds Myra so much of her parents' marriage, it always makes her cry)
"Oregon Mountains" by Woody Simmons (huge women's music hit in the 1970s when dykes were forming land collectives all over Oregon)
"Love Is All Around" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (otherwise known as the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song)
"The Road I Took To You" written and sung by Barbara Keith, but it was the Meg Christian version on one of the first women's music albums ever which Myra and Ginny sang to one another in the Arboretum which helped launch and define their relationship
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
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.
When Margie had not called back by 11:00, Myra turned off all the lights in the back except for her desk lamp so Ginny could lie down to sleep on her daybed. Myra knew she couldn't get to sleep, and she was sure Margie would call when she could. The delay was not good news -- it must mean tests were being run and results awaited. She wrote a small piece about Narnia, all the best memories of her she could muster, but decided not to post it at her blog for now.
At almost midnight, the phone rang and Myra answered it before it rang again. "Where are you? How is she?" she said without asking who it was.
"I'm sitting in the Cerebellum in front of the vet's. Frances is here but she needs to drive her motorcycle home and I -- we -- thought I shouldn't make you wait any longer. Plus, I just wanted to talk with you." There was a long pause. Margie sounded colorless.
Ginny was forcing herself awake, her eyes showing a lot of white, her face puffy. She picked up the extension as Margie said "The kidney results were not good. It's not a total crash, but it's bad. Plus her glucose was high, and they're not sure which came first, like, what caused what. She's dehydrated but giving her fluids with bad kidneys is tricky. They're keeping her overnight. The best case scenario is that she had diabetes, which can be controlled and theoretically her kidneys will bounce back a little. They also think she has pretty severe arthritis and is in constant pain..." Margie began crying. "I can't believe I missed all this, I'm such a fucking bad parent!"
"No way, no way Marjorie Rose. If you missed it, we all missed it" said Myra. She could hear Frances saying something similar.
"But she's been hurting, and I didn't know it! And I've hardly been home, she must've given up on me!" Margie was in agony, Myra could tell.
Ginny said thickly "She didn't give up, that's crazy. If she'd given up, she'd be dead. The fact is, her life is so good that she pushed herself to keep going instead of staying in bed or giving other signs of what was going on. She wants to be with you, and she just proved it."
"Mama, I don't know if I can bear it if -- I don't think I can make it without her! I know that's awful for me to say, given that we've lost Zayde and Uncle Michael and I'm still hanging on, but this is different" Margie wailed.
"I understand" said Myra. "She's your familiar. Like Alice was for me. You'll find a way to bear it, when that time comes. I don't think it's right now, though. She's getting help and she's tough, she came from trailer trash, remember? She'll pull through."
Margie gave a single laugh in the middle of her sobs.
"We can come down tomorrow morning" said Ginny.
Margie said "Hang on" and they heard indistinct conversation between her and Frances. After a couple of minutes, Margie said "Wait until we know more. If it is diabetes, she'll have to get shots twice a day, I think. And probably a different feeding schedule. I may have to switch my work hours, go in early and be home by 5:00, so for most of the day me or Frances are with her. I wish I could take her to work with me, but a restoration clean environment and dog fur are simply incompatible. I'll call you in the morning after I come back and talk with the vet again."
"We can come stay as long as you need, to help work things out" Ginny said again.
"Okay. We may need that. Thank god I called you earlier, instead of just crashing in front of the TV" said Margie.
"Animals are very stoic. They accept hardship, including feeling like crap, without complaint" said Myra.
"Yeah, that's why we're supposed to pay better attention" said Margie, returning to her guilt.
"Listen, baby girl, can you leave Frances' bike there and drive home together? I'd feel better about both of you. She can pick it up tomorrow" said Ginny.
"Yeah...Okay. We should let you get some sleep, we'll be up early. I'll call, I promise. Will you pass on the news to everyone else?" said Margie.
"E-mail coming up" said Myra. "I love you. Narnia will fight to stay with you, for every right reason in the world."
"I love you, too" said Ginny. When they hung up, Myra slid over next to Ginny, who said "Are you really that optimistic?"
"I am for right now. But this is the beginning of the end, old age takes animals fast, and I swear, Ginny, I feel almost like Margie -- I love that dog more than I can hardly stand." Myra began crying, too. They curled together under the quilt, and Myra fell asleep a minute before Ginny did. They woke up early. Myra peed and went to their bedroom with its drawn shades, while Ginny, bleary, decided to stay up. She promised to get Myra when Margie called. Drinking her second cup of tea, she realized Myra had not sent out an e-mail and she went to the computer to draft one. She was heading back to the kitchen after this chore when the phone rang again.
"It's me, honey, what's the scoop?" she said, walking with the cordless to the bedroom door.
"She's doing better, they said. Her urine this morning was definitely improved. But they, both vets, agree it's diabetes. They're about to teach us both how to give injections. Then we're taking her home, and I'm going to work to talk with my supervisor about my schedule. I'll take the rest of the day off, or bring home one piece, actually, that I can do outside the lab. So, I don't know what to tell you yet about you coming down here."
Myra had picked up the phone and said in a froggy voice "That's okay, you figure it out and tell us where to plug in, and we will. Tell Narnia how much I love her, okay?"
"I will. But this will mean no more sneaking scraps from the table" said Margie.
"I'll rub her belly, that's as good as bacon" said Myra.
Margie laughed, a welcome sound to her mothers. "Okay, we'll talk later today. Wish I could sit down to some of your oatmeal right now."
"We have fresh cherries, we'll bring you some for your own oatmeal when we come" said Ginny.
Myra stayed up now with Ginny, pulling out a Coke to go with her fried egg sandwich. Ginny cleaned the sink, filled it with water and began washing cherries. When Myra was done, she took a bowl to the table to start pitting.
By the time they broke for lunch, they had 8 quarts ready for freezing. Ginny dug some potatoes and pulled greens while Myra sauteed two hake filets in black bean sauce and butter. They steamed the potatoes and topped them with the fish, sauce, and chopped scallions, surrounding it with salad on big plates. Both of them had fingers stained red to the first knuckle, and they entertained themselves by conjecturing lascivious causes for the coloration.
Margie called at 2:00 to ask if they could possibly come that evening and Narnia-sit for the next three days; she had managed to alter her schedule but her boss wanted her to start it the following Monday. Myra looked at the train card by her desk and said yes, they'd catch a cab to her house that night. When they hung up, she and Ginny went into overdrive. Nika was called and happily agreed to housesit. A group e-mail was sent to the rest of the family, and Myra made reservations both for the train and a hotel in Portland. Ginny, meanwhile, packed her painting gear plus triple-sealed bags of cherries and other recently preserved goodies. She asked to add her clothes to Myra's bag, and Myra agreed since it was likely they were going to spend most of their time in the hotel room during the day, only needing "outdoor" clothes for visits.
They just made the train. As they were pulling out of downtown, Allie called and said she wanted to see Margie and Frances, too.
"Hell" said Myra. "You can come in on tomorrow morning's train, we'll grab you a room."
"No, at this point I'll wait on Edwina, we'll come down together Friday evening. If ya'll are still gonna be there."
"We'll make a weekend of it" said Myra. "You can teach me how to give injections."
"I hope your entertainment plans offer more than that" said Allie.
As tired as they both were, they went to Margie's from the station and stayed two hours, holding Narnia across both their laps on the couch and watching Margie gobble vanilla gelato with cherries on top. When they finally checked into the hotel, Ginny let Myra unpack while she stretched a canvas and slathered on gesso. The easel and drop cloth were put in place. Myra pre-ordered breakfast from room service, intending to use that as a wake-up call. She fell asleep almost instantly, and never noticed four hours later when Ginny got up to pee and stayed up in front of the easel.
It was a small canvas, and Ginny was done by Friday evening, though not yet rested. Myra had been picking up Narnia each day at noon and bringing her back to the hotel along with take-out for herself and Ginny. She wrote at their desk for two hours at a stretch, took Narnia on a walk, and resumed, putting in eight-hour days until Narnia was returned to her own home, contented by constant company and being allowed to sleep on the divan in the hotel room.
The six of them had a grand visit, with lots of nature walks or sitting at outdoor cafes with Narnia. Myra suggested the older women leave on Sunday afternoon to give Margie and Frances a night alone, because from then on their schedules would only overlap on the weekends or during sleep hours. On the ride back, Myra said "If they lived in town, it would be so much easier to help 'em out."
Allie snorted. "You got two already in close orbit, count your blessings."
"It's not about that. Well, not completely about that. I'm worried about her and Frances spending even less time together than they already do" said Myra. "Plus, I don't want to lose that dog of dogs."
"She'll call us again if she needs help" said Ginny. "She pushes us away but she calls us back in when trouble strikes. They all do. Which is more than I consistently did with Daddy. I think we need to give ourselves an A and look in the catalogue for the next life lesson."
Myra looked at her for a long while. "Okay. I hear ya."
Edwina said, "Speaking of which...My brother's youngest daughter is graduating from high school next spring and she wrote me about the possibility of her coming out to attend Udub or Evergreen. If she does, and chooses Seattle, Allie and I are talking about offering for her to live with us in the spare room."
"Holy moly" said Myra. "A teenager in your very own house?"
"Yeah, and she a hard-ass" said Allie with a grin. "Talking about being a lawyer."
"Is this Alisha?" Ginny asked Edwina.
"Yes. Reminds me of myself at her age" said Edwina.
"We could use a young lawyer" said Myra. "Alveisa's talking about retiring in a year or three, and Glo's made noises about switching to some other kind of law where she'd be in a practice with low hours. We're going to outlive the careers of our helpers, seems like."
"I just need for Nancy to never retire" said Ginny.
"Hear, hear" echoed Myra. "By the way, Al, did Chris ever talk to you about her session with Nancy?"
"Like if she had, I could pass that on to you" said Allie. "No. Only that she went."
"I find it really hard to imagine" said Myra.
"I don't" said Ginny. "They both like blunt honesty, and they're both intensely spiritual."
Myra had to think about that for a minute. Allie broke into the silence to say, "Actually, me and Chris are facing losing our meeting."
"Your AA meeting, you mean?" said Myra, dismayed.
"Yep. The numbers have dwindled to only four regulars, and all of us there have moved beyond the need to deal with wanting to drink. Which I wish AA would just own up to, that long-standing meetings which aren't welcoming new members have transitioned to another level. You really can get over being a drunk. People who don't believe that stay in meetings where relapses and newcomers keep reinforcing the illness" said Allie.
"I wish they'd get over the line that if it doesn't work for you, it's because you didn't make it work" said Edwina. "Not every treatment is right for every single human being on the planet."
"What will ya'll do?" asked Myra, having a new thing to worry about.
"We talking about it" said Allie. "Maybe we'll form a support group led by Nancy." Myra didn't realize it was a joke until Ginny began laughing.
Allie bumped her knee against Myra's and said "I don't hear you talk much about you Al-Anon meeting, I don't think you going every week."
"No" said Myra with a tinge of guilt. "When I do, it's to see Sima, mostly. I get more actual internal movement from seeing Nancy. I guess I should talk about that with Sima, see if she's looking for a change as well."
Carly and Eric were at the train station to pick them up. They dropped off Allie and Edwina and went home, where Jane and Gillam were at the dining table, studying. A wonderful chicken stew was on the stove, with squash muffins to dip into its broth. Myra was deeply touched. She and Ginny filled wide bowls and ate tiredly. Just as they were rinsing their dishes, preparing to walk back to the easel so Ginny could show her new painting, the phone rang.
"Mama? Mama, she just died in my arms" came Margie's voice, high and unearthly.
"Narnia." Margie began shrieking in sobs. "She had some kind of seizure -- they're saying it was a stroke -- and we rushed her here but she just died, Mama, she DIED."
"Oh no, no, no, no" Myra said. She slumped into a chair and began crying, too. Ginny grabbed the extension but Margie couldn't talk for several minutes. Carly and Gillam sat down on the couch together, crying as well. Eventually Frances got on the line, choked and stunned.
"I don't know what to do" she said.
"What about, sweetie?" asked Ginny.
"They're asking us...what do we do with her? I don't...our yard isn't really our yard...they say there's a cemetery, or cremation -- "
Ginny heard Margie's voice say "No, not that", then something else Ginny couldn't make out.
"She wants to bring here home, she says" Frances relayed. "To Seattle, I mean. She wants to bury her in your yard."
"Of course" said Ginny. "But I don't think you're safe to drive right now, should we come -- "
"No, I'm okay. I'll be okay" said Frances resolutely. "We -- I'm not going to work tomorrow, no way. And neither is Margie. We'd rather be there. We'll go get a bag and hit the road. They have her -- she's wrapped up in a blanket, the blanket we put around her. We'll -- the traffic won't be bad, this late."
Myra had stopped to blow her nose so she could talk. "Frances, honestly, stop at any point you get wonky in any way. Call us as you hit the freeway, will you? We'll be right here, waiting."
"I can't believe this" said Frances numbly.
"Frances, honey, you're in shock. Can you remember what to do for that? Get something with sugar or carbs in it, and a smidgen of protein, and take lots of deep breaths" said Ginny.
"Yeah. Okay" said Frances, sounding a little more connected. "I can do this. I'll be careful, I know I have to be extra careful."
Margie took the phone again and said "Will you wait up?"
"Of course we will" said Myra and Ginny together.
"I don't know how...I'll just get there, that's all I can manage" said Margie.
"That's all you have to do" said Ginny.
After they hung up, they all talked and wept some more. Gillam said "I want to stay here, see her and help -- bury Narnia." He broke down again.
"Me too" said Carly.
"I think that would be wonderful" said Myra. Jane offered to go home and get work clothes for Gillam, and Eric went with her to do the same for himself and Carly. After a few minutes, Carly said "We have to dig a hole. Let's do that for her."
He and Gillam turned on the floodlights outside and went to the shed for shovels. Myra made sure the sheets in the back bedroom were clean and left the door open to the hall. Ginny went out front to cut masses of roses, some of which she made into an arrangement for Margie and Frances' room, the rest of which she put in water to lay on the grave. After Frances called to say they were officially on their way, Myra and Ginny got on their cell phones to call Allie and Sima. Since the burial would be around 1 a.m., the aunties decided to stay home and come over for dinner the following evening.
After she hung up, Myra put on Pete Seeger and a chorus singing "The Water Is Wide". This restarted her grief, and she sat on her daybed crying with Ginny until the boys came in with dirt-stained hands to join them.
[NOTE: If you'd like to listen to the song Myra and Ginny did, click here and then play or download "The Water is Wide".]
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
I've got a new post up at Group News Blog, Your Children Are Not Your Children.
As a special treat for readers of this blog only, you can hear the song by Sweet Honey in the Rock which is the title of the post, "On Children", by going to my Box.net page here and downloading or playing.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
(The Pop Vs. Soda Map from Strange Maps.)
When I was growing up, the generic name for a carbonated beverage was a coke, whatever brand it was. If you wanted the original, most folks called it Co-Cola. I personally preferred RC Cola, when I could get one, which was not reliably until I was 12 and could scrounge money to buy it myself -- they were still a dime then, plus bottle deposit if you left the premises with it. Canned soft drinks you opened with a church key. Pull-tabs didn't come out until after we returned from Brazil, when I was 13, and they were the pull-it-off variety that tended to fail if you weren't careful, making you search the kitchen drawer irritably for the church key again.
We moved often when I was a kid, and in addition to packing up everything in the trailer, getting us kids settled into territory in the back seat (my older brother tortured us relentlessly if we were in reach, which of course we were while trapped in the car), and boxing up cats/trying to keep dogs from urping, my poor mother also had to pack enough grub to keep us fed along the way. We sometimes had a cooler, sometimes did not, and easy-fix options were extremely limited. I mostly remember egg salad sandwiches with pickles the first day, peanut butter on crackers after that, with water to wash it down.
We absolutely did not eat out: Far too expensive. The first drive-in we ever tried was when I was seven and it was because we were visiting my aunt and uncle, who paid. It was a McDonald's, back when they were just starting out, the menus weren't yet standardized, and there really were golden arches out front. I remember liking that the burgers were small, kid size, and the paper straws had red and white stripes like a barber pole. But most of the towns we lived in had only one drive-through place, and that was not a McDonald's.
If we were crossing the desert, parched and whiny, and my parents felt flush, when we stopped for gas my dad would allow us to get cold drinks from the coke machine. These were the old fashioned kind of machines, which came in two main varieties: An upright with a glass door that you opened to view the ends of the bottles, and a horizontal chest variety where you lifted a massive lid and looked down on rows of bottles, again identified by their caps. In both cases, you put in your dime and pulled hard on the bottle (in the chest, you had to position the right bottle by sliding it along tracks to the exit bay). If your hand slipped, the bottle stayed in and you lost your money, so we were never allowed to pull out our own bottle.
We also were not allowed to choose our beverage, at least, not me and my little brother Bill. Our teenaged older brother probably did get to make his choice, and he got a bottle all to himself. Mama liked Pepsi, Daddy got Coke in those little bottles, and Bill and I were forced to share a Delaware Punch because Mama thought (unlike most people of her day) caffeine was bad for children and Delaware Punch had a strong grape juice component. It was sour, we thought, but we didn't complain after Daddy said "Would you rather not have anything at all?" "No sir" with downcast eyes and a meek face.
The best thing about those machines was how extraordinarily cold they kept the drinks. This may have been helped by the syrup mixture of the times, which was vastly superior to the taste of them now. Even in the blast furnace summer of West Texas, there would often be a plug of sweet, crunchy ice in the neck of the bottle, absolute heaven.
Sharing with Bill, however, was problematic. For a long time, the issue was simply how to divide the contents. Mama's usual method was to let one of us decide on the dividing line and the other get first choice, but that didn't work on the squat, bottles of Delaware Punch. She settled on making us take turns at sipping. I was at a disadvantage with this because my habit was to eat and drink very slowly. I was generally anorexic, trying not to eat at all. With Delaware Punch, of course, I was quite willing to partake but I preferred to drag it out. However, if I didn't take a big gulp, Bill would and he'd wind up with much more than his share. One or the other of us often choked on our too-greedy swigs of the slightly tart, barely carbonated brew.
Then, one trip, Bill figured out if he dropped a wad of spit into the neck of the bottle where I could see it, I wouldn't want to drink any more from that bottle. He got the entire Punch to himself. It only worked once because I raised holy hell, shrieking I was going to take the bottle and lay it across his skull repeatedly. Mama had to intervene and after that, I got first dibs on the drink, Mama drawing a line in the condensed moisture outside to indicate where I was to stop drinking. I have to admit, I pushed it as far as I could.
When I was 17 and became lovers with the woman who was the mother of my daughter, she completely cracked me up by referring to cokes as pop. I thought that was an old-timey Western term, kinda like sarsparilla. She had been raised in Michigan, and took exception to my laughter, informing that coke was a brand name but of course hicks didn't know the difference. Later, when I moved to California in my 20s, I had to adjust to everybody calling them sodas -- coke meant one brand only to folks in Cal-i-for-ni-yay.
Thus, when I found the map above, I was gratified to find how the terminology really does have regional genes. I'd love to know the actual origins of why different regions went with different names -- like when I read that the reason New Yorkers say "on line" instead of "in line" is because non-English-speaking immigrants used a different kind of grammar, I think Germanic, which altered the meaning in their original language and it got transferred over to English. Clearly, "in line" is accurate -- you're not ON a line, i.e., standing atop it, you are IN it. And coke is coke, dammit. Unless you want a Co-Cola.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
(Jewelle Gomez and Carmen Vázquez)
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.
June - September 2013
The following week, Jane and Gillam began classes at Udub while Carly and Eric were both job-hunting assiduously. Ginny made breakfasts, Myra packed lunches, and dinner was left for the kids to prepare. By Friday, Carly had a job offer and Eric was on a second interview, not at the same hospital but they were going to take what they could get. All four left on Saturday morning to drive to Olympia, rent a large moving truck to share, help each other load it and clean their respective apartments, and bring the furniture back to stash for a week in temporary storage. The weekend after that was spent moving into their new apartments.
The next weekend, Jane's parents Anton and Jemima arrived from California and were persuaded to stay in the back bedroom with Myra and Ginny after dinner together proved them to be more congenial than either pair had secretly expected. Wedding plans turned out to be more than Myra could stretch for, however, and she retreated to her study, claiming a deadline. Ginny had finished the blanket chest and started a canvas the second week, so she took extra time to rest. Myra did find it interesting to watch Anton try to "dad" Gillam in a manner that he clearly used with his sons but which frequently missed the mark with Gillam. They kept circling back around, however.
After four days of talking music selections, menus, fabrics and seating, with Lucy making a two-day visit to add her excited ideas to the mix, enough had been decided that Jane's family felt they could return home with tasks divided up among them. Myra kept pulling Ginny aside to ask questions like "Why on earth do they need to rehearse the wedding, I mean, isn't it standard? And an expression of emotion, not a performance?" or "We just bought him a perfect suit, why does he need to rent a tuxedo?" Ginny's reply was always "I have no idea", sometimes followed by "I guess a penis won't fit in a vagina afterward if the protocol is out of whack", which always made Myra laugh.
Because of their summer course load, Gillam and Jane had opted to have a honeymoon in stages. They were being married on a Friday evening. That weekend, they'd shack up (as Myra put it) in a fancy hotel downtown. The following weekend, they were flying to Hawaii for three days. Myra, Ginny, Allie, Edwina, Carly, Eric and Margie were leaving for the Gulf Coast the third week in August. The final weekend of their time there, Jane and Gillam were flying into Houston, renting an RV and driving it to the beach. They'd all come back together. Gillam would have two days to get ready for his new job and enroll in night classes for the fall semester. Jane was hoping to match his schedule with substitute teaching and her own set of evening classes.
For decades, Myra had been in the habit of writing quotes she especially liked on the cover of whatever small notebook she was carrying around in her back pocket. Sometimes there was none, especially if a notebook filled up fast. Sometimes there were two or more. Ginny long ago had realized these quotes were the ones that Myra, for whatever, reason, didn't feel comfortable printing out on cardstock and pinning to the wall above her desk or pasting to the refrigerator -- they were guideposts to inner conflict she was having at that point in time.
Thus, when Myra handed Ginny her notebook to share a page of notes on potato varieties she'd read about in an article about Peru, before Ginny returned it, she closed the notebook and read the cover: She didn't think this violated Myra's rule about not rummaging through the notebook itself.
There were two quotes written in Myra's elegant, spare handwriting, both of them longer than usual. The first read Jewelle Gomez -- "The instinct to say, 'See, we're just like you,' is frightening. It means we accept the lie that the world is okay if only we can get in on the goodies. If they'll give us insurance, let us have babies, and wear red ribbons at the Academy Awards, all is right with the world. That instinct to meld into the mainstream has to be consciously fought in order for social change to really be profound."
Somehow she'd found enough space below this to write in Carmen Vazquez -- "We must stop pretending that our assimilation into this culture will tame the hate-filled hearts. We must stop pretending that laws alone can end oppression and systemic, institutional discrimination."
Ginny chewed on this for a couple of days. She understood Myra well enough to know this was not referring to something she was covering in her book -- if it had been, she'd have put them over her desk, or dropped them into her manuscript notes. Finally, one morning when Myra had sat at her desk with a bowl of kashi and dates, and Ginny was down on her knees in her studio with a bucket of ammonia-water trying to get up paint splatters from the tile, she had a moment of revelation. She wiped her hands on a towel and came to sit on Myra's daybed. Myra was reading comments at her blog as she chewed, but stopped to look over at Ginny.
"You smell pretty strong" she remarked.
"I'll mop your floor later with Murphy's if you're willing to get out for ten minutes" offered Ginny. Myra nodded, waiting. That wasn't what Ginny had come in for.
"Despite my smell, will you come sit beside me?" said Ginny. Myra obliged. Ginny looked at her tenderly and said "I think maybe you're having a really hard time with Gillam and Jane getting married."
Myra swallowed the bite that was in her mouth, but set the bowl on her desk and looked at Ginny with wide eyes. "I think I am, too."
"Then let's talk, girlfriend. Is it problematic enough that you'd like to pull out of the wedding?"
"No. Definitely not that. Although, I have to admit, I wish he hadn't asked her. I wish they weren't getting married" said Myra.
Ginny waited. Myra took one of Ginny's hands, ammonia reek and all, and traced Ginny's fingers with her own.
"I simply don't see what difference it makes, not to them. It doesn't mean they love each other any more, or that the commitment in their hearts is any stronger -- if it does, it's a false commitment, or represents being forced by law. He grew up in this house, where our connection and honor to one another is as strong as anything has ever been, I'll stake my life on it. So why did he think he needed to offer marriage to Jane? Was it what he really wanted or was it because he thought she'd expect it from him? That's a few of the questions I don't know how to answer." Myra met Ginny's eyes again.
"And you don't think you can ask him?"
"Oh, Gin, no. Not now. I can't show any doubts to him at all right now. He's earned my support for his choices, to reveal anything else would be shitty parenting on my part" said Myra.
"Yeah. I can see that" said Ginny.
"And -- I don't know if this is fair or not, but I wish he'd have not kept everything quite so secret until it was all etched in stone with Jane. Part of it is how much it proves he's independent of us, and that I just need to get over, I know. But...I hate it when he's sneaky. I know it's how he learned to cope with being surrounded by so much surging estrogen. But I don't like it, all the same" said Myra.
"Perhaps that will change, as he gets his own territory and is encouraged to be different by Jane" said Ginny. Myra grimaced and said "Rub it in, why doncha", then managed to half-laugh at herself.
"But the bigger thing, Ginny, is -- marriage is bogus. It was created by men for their own interests, it was shaped by patriarchal governments and Christian churches, neither of whom have a good track record for creating cultural institutions that don't fucking suck in overt and covert ways. Our generation managed to get some reforms shoved through, but not enough. I don't think it's salvageable. I think part of the glory of lesbian relationships is how we exist outside that frame. I think our model insists on a different kind of connection, a reciprocity that marriage doesn't necessarily mean. If he refers to her as his wife, I may smack him one" said Myra. "She's not his anything."
"You call me your partner" pointed out Ginny.
"That doesn't have millenia of white boy assumption behind it" said Myra. "And also -- the arrogance of a wedding, where two people, usually who haven't known each other that long, get to demand that everyone else in their lives spend a huge amount of money and time so that couple can say 'None of our relationships with the rest of you are nearly as important as this one, come worship us for discovering we want to fuck each other more than just a few times', I mean, it's obnoxious."
Ginny had begun giggling. "Fuck each other, and buy crap together, and accidentally breed which is when we'll find out how ill-suited we are to raise children" she expounded.
"I mean, yes, Ginny Bates, I love you in a particular way that has turned into a force which probably helps govern the tides, you know? But I loved Allie and Chris before you, and I've been lucky, or smart enough. to hang onto those relationships -- what right would I have to send out an invitation to them saying 'You two are second string, come buy into the myth that what I have with Ginny is most important of all'? You know, Carly's loved him all his goddamned life, where is that friendship represented in all these wedding plans? Best man is just a sop, if you ask me." Myra's anger was coming out.
"Did you feel like a second banana at Allie's wedding?" asked Ginny, trying to ignore the small wrinkle of jealousy which had appeared in her with Myra's words.
"No. But she told us she was going to marry Edwina before she asked her, remember? And they didn't do all this hoo-ha. Margie says this wedding is modest, in terms of cost, and I certainly can afford it better than Anton and Jemima, but there's still a lot of bother and expense for things that are simply symbolic. Empty symbolism, if you ask me" said Myra. "And if this is all to make Gillam feel more mainstream, well..."
"Like Margie's designer outfit?" asked Ginny.
"Or her desperate wish to wear pink" said Myra. "I mean, set your sights higher, for god's sakes." She was chewing her lips.
After a minute, Ginny said "What else?"
"Those hideous invitations with that STUPID font. They could have asked you to design an invitation which would be a fucking work of art, but no, they have to have it typeset and all boring, with Jane's chosen 'colors' -- as if ten different names for white and medicinal-looking pastels have the right to be called color" ranted Myra. "I'm really hoping that snotty place doing the printing spells Gillam's name with an extra i in the second syllable, it'd serve 'em right."
"So...I'm thinking you're not going to be sobbing in the front row on that glorious day" said Ginny, grinning.
"Nope" said Myra. "More likely I'll be trying to keep my knees from aching, having to sit in a crappy folding chair."
"Let's make sure you're right next to Chris, her running commentary will be good for you, I bet" said Ginny.
"Ah, Gin. It's good to get this out of me. I was counting on him finding a life-love who was his real match, and when I'm not worked up, I can see that she is. But I hold even that against her, sometimes. Like, who is she to fall for the best boy who was ever born?"
Ginny mused, "It makes me wonder, for the first time, if your mother would have adored me quite as much as you've always insisted she would." Myra was caught off guard by this, but had to giggle at Ginny's perception.
"Maybe one of the grandkids will decide to live with us forever" she joked.
"Don't ask for trouble" said Ginny. "He's probably not being independent enough, as it is."
In fact, Myra did not cry at the wedding. She was deeply moved by the light in Gillam's face, and functioned as a good hostess at the reception afterward. But she never stopped noticing the ludicrous ornamentation of what she called "het overlay", and she allowed herself one evil moment, when she answered Jane's great-uncle's question about whether Gillam's father had been invited with an unnecessarily detailed description of how she and Ginny had conceived him. The man kept the entire room between him and Myra after that.
Myra and Ginny met Eric's parents when they came to town for a visit and had them to dinner. Carly was as happy as Myra had ever seen him, and had resumed a goofy playfulness she remembered being his habit when he was a toddler but not often since then. Once a week, he picked up Beebo at Gillam's place and walked him over to spend the evening with Myra and Ginny. It was his main chance to hang out with Beebo as well -- Gillam had offered shared custody, but Eric had an elderly bunny named Welsh who went into a panic the one time Beebo was introduced to him.
Myra spent most of her daytime hours that summer at her desk, writing and rewriting chapters of her book. Nika was often at the table behind her, compiling the other two volumes on disk. Ginny alternated between painting a piece of furniture or a canvas, but she stashed the canvases and her agent reported the rumors were everywhere that Ginny was no longer going to be offering paintings for sale. "We'll sell the furniture at whatever ridiculous prices they'll pay for it -- except for the pieces I send to Liza's gallery, I'll leave those up to her -- and I'll plan for a real show in a year or two" said Ginny happily. "They'll be so happy to have more paintings on the market, they'll forgive the deception, my agent is sure of it."
When one of the young couples stayed for dinner, conversation on Jane and Gillam's side of the table focused mainly on educational theory or Gillam's heady, exhausting days as a beginning teacher. He was bonding heavily with Ginny around his job. If it was a Carly and Eric night, conversation was lighter, full of wild laughter, as the two of them gossiped about people they knew or current events. But Eric also gardened as a hobby, having been introduced as a child by his grandmother, so Ginny found ground there to join in as well. If all four of the youngsters were at the table, Myra still increasingly felt like all she had to offer as topics were recipes or women's herstory events. It wasn't that way when her own friends were present; she couldn't figure out why she was feeling like such a fuddy-duddy all of a sudden.
In mid September, Myra took a week away from writing to help Ginny with canning and jam-making as harvests rolled in from their own garden and organic farmers who called the house daily. After a couple of days, Carly and Eric, Gillam and Jane began appearing every evening for dinner, even if they didn't stay long afterward to visit -- the lure of fresh apple pies and corn on the cob was too strong. Ginny learned a way of dousing kale leaves with garlicky olive oil and baking it just to the point where it crisped, creating a kind of crunchy green that they all ate as compulsively as potato chips.
When Myra returned to her book, she had lost the daily use of Nika, who was embroiled in Chris's dictionary now. Chris told Myra she was beginning to have entire dreams in Nimipu, which, she said, made her probably only the 201st person on the planet who could claim such, the native speakers had reached such a low level. When Myra got off the phone with Chris that day, she wept in furious grief.
On Yom Kippur, the four young people fasted and went to services. Myra had prepared a feast for them afterward, and they were all sitting down when Margie called. Myra waved them on and picked up the phone -- she felt like Margie wasn't calling as often these days, and she worried it was because she felt left out.
"Did you make brisket?" asked Margie.
"I did. And goose. Plus a coconut cream pie" said Myra. "Did you fast?"
"No, it was too hectic. I've hardly been home for weeks, it feels like. Narnia has peed on the floor twice in the last few days, and I don't have the will to punish her, I figure it's because she's not getting walked enough."
"Is she eating and drinking okay?" asked Myra.
"Same amount of food is going into her, but she's thinner, I noticed. I don't know about the drinking, since Frances and I are both compulsive about refilling her bowl" said Margie.
"How much thinner?" asked Myra.
"Like I can feel the bones of her haunches. And her coat is a little gummy. Why, what are you thinking?" Margie suddenly sounded worried.
"Well, when did she last have a physical and blood work?" asked Myra.
"Uh...February" said Margie.
"I'd take her in. She's old enough, you need to keep close watch on her kidneys and her blood sugar" said Myra.
"Juju was what, 15 or 16 before she began having problems, right? Narnia's only 11" said Margie, her tone combative but from fear, Myra could tell.
"Juju was a little dog. It's different for big dogs" said Myra gently. Ginny had turned her face toward her, listening.
"Ah, fuck, Mama. Her regular clinic just closed, otherwise I'd get her in there tonight" said Margie.
"Portland will have an all-night vet place" said Myra. "If this is going to keep you from sleeping, or if she looks low energy, you can take her to an emergency clinic. It''ll cost the earth but we'll pay for it."
"I'll pay for it, she's my puppy" said Margie. "Listen, I'm going to get online and find out where it is. I'll take her temperature, too, then call Frances. I need to not catch up with you right now, after all."
"I understand. Will you call us later and tell us what you know?" asked Myra. The whole table had gone silent.
"Yeah. Thanks, Mama, later." Margie clicked off, sounding stressed.
Myra sat down in her chair and filled in the rest of the family. Ginny's eyes were pale. She said "I can put that flat of cherries in the fridge if we need to go to Portland tomorrow."
"All right" said Myra, feeling sick inside. "We'll see what the vet says. I wish she was here with us."
"Narnia or Margie?" asked Gillam.
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.