Saturday, October 11, 2008


Adzuki beans sprouting
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

The next morning after breakfast, Myra and Ginny visited Jane and Gillam for an hour, mostly for their chance to hold Mimi. Jemima was reading magazines, Jane was sleeping, and Gillam was baby-worshipping. Anton looked antsy, and when he asked Ginny if there was something he could do in the garden, Myra said if he wanted, he could come over to their house and plant starts for the next round. He accepted instantly and managed to muscle his wheelchair down the unpaved path on their side of the fence. Ginny set him up with seeds and potting soil at the bench inside the back door before she hightailed it upstairs to her easel.

Myra got on the phone with Mara to talk pond and barbecue area design for a while. She then got online and looked through baby car seats, bassinets, and playpens, coming up with a range of possibilities. She interrupted Ginny long enough for her vote, and placed an order to be delivered in a couple of weeks: Mimi wouldn't need furniture right away, she'd be held while she was in their house.

For lunch she made sandwiches of smoked ham, watercress, and paper-thin slices of cucumber for her and Anton, substituting cream cheese for the ham in Ginny's. He was very chatty over the meal, and while Myra ordinarily liked him quite a bit, she wanted a chance to stay in her own thoughts. As soon as they were done, she fled back upstairs and answered mail for an hour. He eventually ran out of things to do and called up the stairs to say he was going. She came to the railing and said he was welcome to visit any time, hoping to herself he wouldn't push it too far.

Since other family were most likely to visit after work, Myra and Ginny went over before dinner with a ham, cabbage, potato and cheese casserole. Jane was lying on the couch, her eyes closed but not asleep. Gillam was walking back and forth with Mimi, who was crying steadily and with as much volume as newborns can muster.

"What's wrong?" said Ginny, going to him.

"I don't know. We've done everything" he said desperately.

"Is it okay if I run down the list?" asked Myra. "Hungry, wet, cold, hot, clothes fitting wrong, fever, any part of the body that responds to touch as if it's hurt?"

"We've checked everything three times" said Gillam, letting Ginny take Mimi. Mimi continued to wail.

"You haven't tried giving her some formula" said Jemima sharply.

"I have milk, Mom" said Jane. "She's full, she doesn't want to nurse."

"Then she just needs to cry" said Myra. "You can't really stop that need, any more than you can stop her from peeing."

"But why, Mama? Why should she need to cry?" asked Gillam, unconsciously wringing his hands.

"I don't know. I don't remember what it was like to be new to the world, nobody does" said Myra. "It's a massive change in environment, even when everything around us is good and interesting. Crying is something we do as automatically as blinking, and there's a lot of studies that show it helps brain chemistry to cry -- that is, as long as you're not experiencing an ongoing real pain of some sort. Margie did this, several times a day. You didn't. And I'll swear before god that she was not treated worse than you. She simply needed to cry in a way you didn't."

Ginny was speaking quiet phrases of acknowledgement, gazing at Mimi calmly as she swayed slightly on her feet. Myra could hear Mimi's crying shift -- not in volume or intensity, but without any edge of panic to it. Gillam heard it, too. "What did you do?" he asked Ginny.

"I'm not worried" she said. "Babies come out able to read other people's emotions, it's a survival skill. When you react with fear or upset, it makes her feel those things, too."

"Are you saying my feelings make her cry?" said Gillam, clasping his hands behind his neck as if to surrender.

"No, no, definitely not" said Myra. "She begins crying on her own. But when you get stressed about it, it takes her longer to achieve release. That's if you don't shut her up entirely in some other manner." She hoped she wasn't being too blunt about Jemima's formula suggestion.

"I don't know how to not react with concern, I mean, that sounds completely psycho to me" said Gillam. Jane's eyes were open and she was listening alertly.

"Yep" said Ginny softly, maintaining eye contact with Mimi. "Baby crying is the number one attention getter for a reason. We're physiologically not able to ignore it, not if we're undamaged. But, perversely, what she needs from you is relaxed witnessing. After you've eliminated all the reasons she may have as an actual need, of course, because crying is also the only way she can tell us something is wrong."

"She's asking you to set aside your feelings as a parent and listen to her express some kind of frustration, disappointment, whatever it is" continued Myra. "Welcome to the world of being that ultimate of adults, a parent. It never ends, that kind of demand. But where else can she go to get her needs met?"

"She doesn't need to even think about going elsewhere" said Gillam fiercely. "I'm hers, body and soul. How do you know this?"

"Years of practice" said Ginny cheerfully. "Plus I was part of a damned good team. You and Jane have that going for you; in fact, you probably have an edge on us, you had better childhoods than us." Myra looked at her gratefully: Way to reel Jemima and Anton back into the circle.

"We tagged each other when we began running out of juice" said Myra. "Which, honestly, Gillam, was about five minutes for me when it was this kind of crying." She moved in and took Mimi from Ginny, who wiped her brow and went for a glass of water. Gillam shook out his shoulders and sat down. Myra said quietly "I tended to leave the room when I wasn't doing the actual holding, because I couldn't turn it off." He looked at her tiredly and said "I'm not leaving. Not right now."

After five minutes, Jane stood with a wince and came to Myra, reaching for Mimi. She kissed her cheeks and said "I hear you, my darling daughter. Mommy's right here, always." A minute later, Mimi began to quieten. The shift in the room's atmosphere was like a fresh wind. Gillam said to Jane "You think she felt the difference in you?"

Jane looked jubilant. "I don't know, could she?"

"She's bound to be brilliant, coming from you two" said Myra. Mimi hiccoughed loudly and everybody laughed in profound relief.

Ginny said "She'll be really serene and in better shape for a few hours now. Shall we set the table for dinner?"

Late the following afternoon, Ginny and Myra returned to find that Anton and Jemima had gone out shopping. Jane was playing something bluesy on her cello, and Gillam sat with a sleeping Mimi. Myra put her cedar-plank salmon a la Ginny in the oven to stay warm, and left her coconut cream pie on the breakfast bar. Ginny settled in next to Gillam on the couch to Mimi-watch.

"She sneezed today" he said. "First time. It was hilarious. She looked utterly shocked."

"I put it in the baby book you made us" said Jane, lifting her bow for a minute. "Gillam's taken a photo of her in the same spot by our bedroom window every day since she got home. If we can keep it up, after a year we'll make a movie of all the pictures, one after the other."

"She's going to seem giant in a year compared to her size now" said Ginny. "I'd forgotten myself until we pulled out Gillam's baby clothes. And when Myra brought home those newborn diapers and we set up our changing table yesterday, I realized all over again that I cannot actually comprehend how much we grow."

"Speaking of baby clothes" said Jane, "We've decided to use the same outfit Gillam wore to his naming ceremony for Mimi's big event. It looked like new when I washed it in Woolite."

"It was only worn the once" said Myra. "And crafted by Belva, her garments always held up beautifully."

"She'll be stunning in it" murmuring Ginny, gently touching Mimi's dark red cheeks. She said to Gillam "Your Aunt Cathy arrives on Saturday morning. She's sleeping in the spare room upstairs; we're giving the downstairs bedroom to Frances and Margie."

"Lucy and Seth are staying upstairs in the kitchenette room. We'll put the big crib in there for Peter" said Gillam. "That still leaves one extra room for anyone else from out of town."

"Frances is making a lobster brodetto and her tiramisu again" said Myra. "I'm doing brisket, as you requested, Gillam, and Ginny's doing her stuffed tomatoes. The rest we're leaving to the caterer that Frances recommended."

Jane resumed playing, switching to "St. James Infirmary". It sounded odd but good on a cello, Myra thought. At the shift, Mimi's eyelids flickered open. Gillam said softly "Ah, you heard that, did you? Your mommy's music is mapping your brain for you, lucky girl." Mimi tried to wave her arms, and her face grew still for a moment.

"She's pooping" he announced to Jane.

"Right on schedule" said Jane, glancing at her watch. "I think this means right before dinnertime is going to be our optimal time for her first swim on Saturday."

Ginny said "Let me change her, I haven't diapered her yet" and Gillam handed her over. Myra said "How do Anton and Jemima feel about the swimming lesson?"

"Iffy" said Jane. "For that matter, so am I. Except that pool is out there, and it's a deathtrap unless she's equipped to handle a worst case scenario. Plus, Gillam's example is reassuring."

"I was petrified with Margie" admitted Myra. "And I thought Allie was going to intervene at the last minute. David looked grim, too."

"I really think the muscle development it fostered, and hunger for body independence, is part of the reason both of you walked so early" said Ginny from the changing table. Gillam's eyes had never left Mimi.

"I tell you what I'm dreading" he said so softly that only Myra heard. "Going back to work tomorrow. The idea of seven hours away from her -- she's never been separated from me yet."

"It's only three more days and then you'll be done for the school year" said Myra, without really thinking. She was listening to Jane riff. Gillam turned and looked at her. Myra felt momentarily scorched.

"Erase that" she said. "It's brutal, you're right. It's not what we're meant to do with new life, tear ourselves away from it."

Ginny walked Mimi over to Jane so she could see the motion of her mother's arms. Mimi was very intent. Gillam asked, still soft-voiced, "Did you automatically see me as the man, the father, whose presence was somehow more expendable?"

Ginny's head swung around, her expression surprised. She'd heard that much, then. Myra considered for a few seconds.

"I don't know. I don't think so, because I don't generally see you in that light. I was probably just avoiding how unfair it is for you, wishing I could make it not necessary."

Jane stopped playing, now listening as well.

"I don't think I can face taking classes the first summer semester" said Gillam. "I need to be here, with her and Jane. It'll fuck up my graduation plans, perhaps affect my job -- I'll have to talk with my principal, see if I can get an extension. But the idea of leaving the house every day for six weeks makes me physically ill. I'll never have this time of her life again." He was vehement and flushed.

"I hear you, Gillam. I support you, and we'll do whatever we can to help." Myra scooted close to him. He linked his arm through hers and sighed heavily.

"Now I'm blazing trail for more than me" he said.

"Not alone, you're not" said Jane. He met her eyes and they looked at each other, slowly grinning. He reached for Mimi and Ginny came to return her to him as Jane resumed playing.

The following morning, Ginny finished her painting. Mimi stood wearing a ragged pair of black shorts, her chubby calves and dimpled elbows brown from the sun. She stared directly out of the canvas, blue eyes a little smudgy, face serious but contented. Her right hand was wrapped around a cornstalk which stretched down to a mound from which also sprouted a bush of squash leaves and a vigorous tendril of bean vine spiraling up the cornstalk to beyond the canvas's view. All of the three-sister crops were ripe. Between dark green leaves at the bottom the mound peeked striped squashes in a starburst shape. The bean pods were thick, and in Mimi's left hand she held one she had twisted open, revealing maroon and white speckled legumes about to spill from her palm. The play of light in the field behind her, the moist earth she was squeezing between her bare toes were so real that Myra imagined she could hear cicada, smell the sweet aroma of fresh corn. After a moment, she realized how much it reminded her of the painting Ginny had done decades ago of Rosa, her grandmother, harvesting beans as well in a garden. She thought about how Rosa must have looked like this as a child, like Ginny, like Mimi now, and she began crying from pleasure at this brush with time travel.

Ginny held her and said "I'm giving it to them. I can't not."

"Of course" said Myra. "Shall we save it for the naming ceremony?"

"That's a good idea. I'm grabbing a cashew butter sandwich and lying down, I can't handle anything more right now" said Ginny. "This one was extremely hard."

When Ginny finally got up, it was late afternoon. She shuffled into the kitchen where Myra was shredding spinach into a wooden salad bowl.

"What's that savory smell?" she asked, leaning against the counter.

"Lentil and carrot stew. I have roasted walnuts and chopped leeks to go on top of this salad, and there's several big Yukon golds about ten minutes from being baked" said Myra. "I thought we could top our potatoes with feta."

"That's my kinda meal" said Ginny appreciatively. She tried to slide her ass onto the counter, but couldn't quite make the hop.

"Here, allow me" said Myra. She pushed a button at the edge and the counter lowered six inches. Ginny shifted back onto the dark green surface and Myra returned the counter to its original position.

"Pretty impressive" said Ginny, pulling Myra toward her. Myra put down her knife and slid between Ginny's legs, wrapping her arms around Ginny's waist. They grinned at each other, their faces very close.

"Ya know" said Ginny lazily, "We haven't made love yet in this new house."

"That's crossed my mind. We've been rawther busy, what with birthing babies and all" said Myra.

"I think we broke in, carnally speaking, almost every room of our old place" said Ginny. "Besides our bedroom, there was the living room -- "

"Several times" said Myra.

"The daybeds in our studio and study" continued Ginny, "too numerous to count. The counter in the kitchen, which I think also includes the dining room since I was kinda spread out across the border, there."

"I remember vividly" said Myra. "The upstairs bedroom when the kids were babies, but not their room, I don't think -- "

"Oh yes we did, right after the mural was done, while it was still empty" corrected Ginny.

"Oh, yeah. You were Honey Wheeler to my Trixie Belden. That was especially perverted, Ginny-O."

"On the stair landing" said Ginny, wrapping her thighs tighter around Myra's. "Our bathroom. But not the back bedroom, right? Or the store room?"

"Yes to the store room -- well, we began there, when the old washer was unbalanced and had a spin cycle that made it bounce around the floor?"

"Lordy yes, how could that have slipped my mind" laughed Ginny.

"And definitely the back yard, but never the carport" said Myra. "Gillam would pass out if he knew."

"Like he and Jane aren't doing the same thing" snorted Ginny. "Well, not this week, but..."

"This house has even more rooms for us to inaugurate" said Myra provocatively. "I don't even know how to count some of them, where one space flows into another."

"Well, and we've people coming and going at all hours of the day now" said Ginny. "We'll either have to confine ourselves to late night or -- "

"Risk discovery" whispered Myra, finally giving in to her need to have her mouth on Ginny's. After a couple of minutes, Ginny murmured "I have to eat first. I mean..."

"I know what you meant" said Myra. "Yes, let's make sure we both have stamina."

"And that all the doors are locked" added Ginny.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, October 9, 2008


Black River outside Andrews, SC
I heard this song tonight on Bones. Really excellent.

River of Sorrow - Antony and the Johnsons


Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Kaigyokusai {Masatsugu}, Japan 1813-1892, pair of rabbit netsuke in ivory with inlays (Kaigyokusai {Masatsugu}, Japan 1813-1892, pair of rabbit netsuke in ivory with inlays, photo by Marshall Astor)

Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

May 2014

Myra went to sleep very shortly after they got home, her emotions worn to a whisper. Ginny went to her easel, and Beebo curled up on Ginny's daybed within line of sight of Ginny. Myra woke up after five hours, wondering where the fuck she was for a minute until she recognized their new bedroom. After another minute, she remembered that Mimi had been born. That shoved her out of bed, down the wide hall into Ginny's workspace where Ginny was asleep under a quilt, Beebo now beside her head looking down into the yard. Breaking every rule, Myra stepped to the canvas and looked at it. There were fields of color and strange shapes atop them, but nothing recognizable yet.

Myra pushed in behind Ginny, whispering to Beebo "Go check downstairs or something". Ginny shifted and put her hands over Myra's arms. Myra breathed into her ear "Can you wake up, or do you need sleep too badly?" She waited. After half a minute, Ginny shifted again and said "What?"

"Will you hold me?"

Ginny rolled over, her eyes bloodshot and wide as she looked at Myra. She pulled Myra into her embrace and Myra burst into tears.

"It's a baby. A baby that's a direct descendant of you and Gillam. A new human being, and I love her with all my heart already" she sobbed. Ginny patted her back and said "I know, I know." Myra cried for a few minutes before she realized Ginny had fallen back asleep. That was all right, it was enough. She closed her eyes and slept, too.

She was awakened an indefinite amount of time later by the phone ringing. She had another period of disorientation, but at least this time Ginny was beside her. Finally she found her way to her desk around the corner and answered. It was Carly, saying they were heading for the hospital, did she and Ginny want to accompany them?

"We're just waking up. Yeah, come by for us" said Myra.

"Don't eat, I'm buying a bunch of breakfast burritos" said Carly.

Ginny was lying on her back, staring at Myra blearily. She got up and showered while Myra dressed and went downstairs. Carly was already in the kitchen making coffee to put in a thermos for Gillam, while Eric filled a plastic bottle with cream. "He'll want sugar, too" said Myra.

She emptied their fruit bowl into a canvas carry-wall, adding a loaf of her bread already sliced and a round of cheese. She pulled carrots and celery from the crisper and lay them on top of the rest. By this time, Ginny was downstairs. They got into Carly's back seat together and Myra sent text messages to Allie and Chris saying they would be at the hospital.

When they walked into the birthing room, Myra's gaze went immediately to Gillam, sitting on the edge of Jane's bed with Mimi in his arms. He looked like he had not slept at all. Even so, his face was diffuse with wonder. Mimi was asleep. But Ginny said "Why do you have an IV?", and Myra noticed Jane then, curled on her side, paler than ever, with a line in her arm.

Lucy, at her side, said "Her blood sugar isn't normal." Gillam added "She didn't have any diabetic results during the pregnancy, but they're talking about it now. We're waiting on the latest urine test." He released one hand from Mimi to put it on Jane's hip. He hasn't slept for two nights, then thought Myra.

Jane spoke in a faint voice "If I don't even out, they won't let me nurse her any more." She sounded close to defeat.

"When did this come up?" said Ginny, moving to Jane and cupping her cheek.

"About 4 this morning, they did a set of tests" said Gillam. He had turned so Carly and Eric could look down on Mimi.

Anton and Jemima, on the couch with pillows, began rousing themselves. Myra said to them "We brought breakfast. Well, Carly, mostly. Why don't you set it up for them on the table over there?" When Carly and Eric carried the bags over, Myra said to Gillam "You should eat. I want to hold the baby anyhow." As he stood, she took his place on the edge of the bed: Jane needed Mimi nearby, she guessed.

Ginny went to the cafeteria and returned with cartons of milk and juice. Lucy had joined her parents to eat. Ginny ate two plums and a wedge of cheese, then came to ask for a turn with Mimi. While Myra was unwrapping a burrito, Dr. Plakovic came into the room.

"Looking better" she said to Jane right away. "We're going to keep you n.p.o. until noon, then do another set of values. But your glucose is almost in normal range, everything else is normal, and if you return to a regular diet by this evening, we'll let you go home tomorrow."

Gillam was at Jane's side instantly, still chewing. "With Mimi, yes?" he asked.

"She's in perfect condition" said the doctor with a smile. She noticed the crowd at the other end of the room at that point. Myra said "Would you like some coffee or a burrito?"

The doctor declined and said "Jane should rest." After she left, Myra said to Anton and Jemima, "If you want to go home and sleep, we'll take watch for you." They conferred briefly and accepted. Lucy seemed torn; she had a baby at home with her husband. Finally she decided to wait until noon and Jane's next test results before going home. Carly and Eric offered to drive Anton and Jemima to Jane and Gillam's house. Myra nudged Ginny and said "You need more sleep. Or -- whatever. You can go, I'll call you if something changes here."

"You sure?" said Ginny.

"Yep. Call the aunties and ask them to not come until noon. We're going into sleep mode here, if we can" said Myra.

After everyone but Myra and Lucy had gone, Myra urged Gillam to stretch out next to Jane. "Unbuckle your pants, take off your shoes, and cover yourself with a second blanket" she said. Jane groaned as she curled into Gillam. "My stomach feels like someone punched me in it for hours" she said. He put his arms around her and whispered something only they could hear.

Lucy pulled the blinds and turned off the lights except for a lamp at the end of the room. "What if she gets hungry?" said Jane, reaching for Mimi.

Myra gave her the baby but said "I can tell if she needs you and I'll give her to you right away. If you'll sleep better with me holding her, I'd be thrilled." After kissing both cheeks, Jane returned Mimi to Myra. Gillam's eyes were already closed. Myra moved to the armchair, motioning Lucy toward the couch. Five minutes later, everyone in the room was asleep except for Myra.

Nurses interrupted the peace regularly but briefly. Gillam didn't wake at all. Not just dead on his feet, but sure of me, thought Myra. Since he was born. She whispered to Mimi, "You'll have the same security, won't you? You get to have him as your rock, even better than me."

Mimi woke up once to nurse and have her diaper changed. After she was back in Myra's arms, Myra talked to her almost inaudibly about how glad everyone was to have her join their family, about what she was going to see in this glorious world she had entered, how perfect she was. She got to look her fill at her granddaughter's face, familiar on a cellular level and yet somehow unique.

Ginny was the first to return, right before noon. As Myra gave Mimi to her, she whispered "Did you sleep?"

"No" said Ginny. There was a streak of pale yellow on her wrist and green underneath two fingernails. "But I'm okay. What about them?"

"Soaking in accomplishment" Myra answered. Ginny began singing to Mimi the same Yiddish lullaby about raisins and almonds that she'd sung to their own babies. Mimi woke up to listen, trying hard to focus on Ginny's face. Myra felt tears well up behind her eyes.

A few minutes later, a nurse came to draw more blood from Jane and escort her to the bathroom for a urine sample. Gillam, groggy but much more responsive than earlier, came to take Mimi from them. He gave her up to Jane for another feeding. He walked to the table and chewed a slice of bread between bites of banana.

"It's Saturday, right?" he asked the room.

"Yes. Shabbat shalom" said Ginny. He grinned at her and said "She was born on shabbos?"

"A sacred child" replied Ginny. He stood up on his toes briefly in jubilation, drank down a carton of orange juice and went to the bathroom before returning to Jane's side. When Margie called on Myra's cell a few minutes later, Myra handed it over to Gillam and he described Mimi to his sister with reverence that made Myra well up again. As he returned the phone to Myra, he said "She'll be here for the naming ceremony next Sunday. Her and Frances both."

"We'll get the invitations out tomorrow" said Myra.

Allie and Edwina arrived a couple of minutes after Dr. Plakovic had come to tell Jane her blood sugar was normal and she could eat. A nurse brought her soup and juice. Jane asked for a slice of Myra's bread instead of crackers. After finishing her soup, she asked for cheese as well, which Gillam fed her morsel by morsel as Jane resumed holding Mimi. Eventually she lay back down, groaning with each movement, and allowed Allie and Edwina to take Mimi between them.

Lucy said quietly to Myra and Ginny "She had an episiotomy, too." Ginny winced in commiseration. Lucy took her leave with great reluctance, promising to return the next weekend. Jane wept her gratitude at Lucy's steadfast coaching through the birth. Lucy said "I'll tell little Peter you gave him his favorite cousin."

Carly and Eric showed up with chicken salad and iced tea. Gillam ate some more, sitting on the couch close to Carly as Carly had a turn holding Mimi. Carly said "Will her eyes stay this color?" Gillam looked at Ginny, who answered "Hard to tell. If they stay blue, they probably won't be this shade. But they don't look like Gillam's did, so I think yes, they'll be blue."

Myra added "I hope her hair stays this dark. Margie's was like this but went to brown quickly. Gillam's was always brown." Ginny said "Hers will be brown, too. I mean, if my vision was correct." Gillam said sharply, "What vision?" Ginny told him about the painting, and Gillam's face flooded with awe.

"How did she look? I mean, was she happy?" he said hoarsely.

"Extremely. She was around three or four, sturdy, brilliant, and utterly confident" said Ginny. "You'll see." Gillam turned and looked at Jane, whose expression had a trace of fear in it.

When Anton and Jemima came at 2:00, Ginny and Myra went home, promising to return after dinner. At the house, Ginny said she would lie down a while now and Myra decided to join her. They woke again at 6:00, picking up cheeseburgers and fish tacos on the way to the hospital. Gillam greeted them with "I was hoping you'd bring food" and ate a cheeseburger with fries. Jane ate some fries in addition to her hospital meal. Mimi thrilled Myra by making a small sound when Myra took her, an exhalation that Myra was certain meant recognition.

By 11:00 the next day, Jane, Gillam and Mimi were home, along with Beebo who was introduced to Mimi as "her big brother". He sniffed of her with astonishment on his face -- clearly, he didn't know humans came in miniature sizes, Myra said. In addition to the soup and meatloaf, she and Jemima created reheatable favorite dishes for the new family while aunties and uncles passed around the baby. At 5:00, Myra suggested everybody not currently living there go home. She remembered how she and Ginny had just wanted to doze with their newborns for unlimited amounts of time. Gillam had the next two days off, and Jane's parents were around for urgent requests.

Still, it was agonizing to leave Mimi behind. She was already integral to their existence.

The aunties and uncles decided to follow Myra and Ginny to their house. Ginny excused herself swiftly and climbed the stairs to her easel. Myra put lasagnas in the oven and let Carly decide what kind of salad to accompany it. She and her friends sat around the table, looking at the collection of Mimi photos they already had and finalizing plans for the naming ceremony. Chris went outside to check on the new cherry tree, and on her return she said "One heavy rain and that yard will be a bog. You need to get grass begun."

"The problem is", said Myra, "We have more construction to do out there -- the fish pond, the herb garden plus canopy, the barbecue area, putting in a shed, and even the flower beds aren't decided on yet. And Ginny'll be painting for another couple of days, I'm guessing." Sima asked about some of these ideas, and eventually Myra called Annie to see if she was free for dinner. Annie agreed to come by. She sat between Ginny and Sima, and by dessert they had a preliminary sketch of the metal framework over the herb garden.

"I'll see if I can get Mara to come some time this week, too" said Myra.

"For the shed, you should just go buy one prefab" said Chris. "I'll help you lay a concrete pad once you know the dimensions you're getting, and they can deliver it and set it up. Way easier than getting your contractor back."

"Yeah, we'd considered that. I'll add that to my list this week" said Myra. "When I'm not Mimi-watching."

"How's your book going?" asked Allie.

"Not" said Myra. "I'm too caught up in other stuff at the moment. Another week or two and I'll be able to focus on it again. How's yours?"

"I need one more research trip, which we're thinking about taking in July" said Allie. "In the that Mimi's here, I want to finalize the Poppyseed book." Allie had drawn a series of illustrations for the main body of the book. Poppyseed was a brown child with orange eyes. Her Grandma Bran was a lovely pale green and her white hair had tinges of pink.

"Go for it" said Myra. She asked Ginny, "Have you worked on a cover yet?"

"I think this painting should be the blueprint for the cover" said Ginny. "Except I'll use Allie's color scheme for the characters."

Allie cleared her throat. "We still have to hash out percentages with our respective agents, but I want to donate my share of any income from the book to Mimi's education fund."

Myra high-fived Allie, saying "Brilliant! Me too!"

"Me three" said Ginny. "And with all three of our names on it, this book will sell, you know?"

"Don't tell 'em yet" asked Allie. "I want us to all hand over the bank book together."

"Listen, over the next few months, I want you all to think of this house as a coming and going point to visiting baby-land next door, if necessary. Feel free to grab meals here, hang out, whatever" said Myra.

Eric asked shyly "Would it be all right if I did one of your new flower beds?"

Ginny said "Absolutely. I know I'm going to be taking cuttings from the other rose garden and starting one here, inside the front fence. Otherwise you have a free hand."

Carly looked at him expectantly, and when Eric didn't say more, Carly nudged him. Eric finally said "Uh...Once there's grass and the pond is in, I was wondering...would it be all right if I brought over Welsh sometimes to get fresh air, run around in a safe environment?"

Chris and Sima looked blank, and Myra reminded them "Welsh is his elderly rabbit." To Eric she said "I'd love that. I'll even babysit for him if you can't be here the whole time."

Ginny said "He won't eat flowers, will he?"

"He might" said Eric. "That's why he has to be watched, directed toward what's all right for him to consume. But if you're weeding, say, dropping some of those in his direction would be a treat for him."

"We'll get rabbit-savvy" said Myra firmly. "I'm honored to have the chance. Just think about how Mimi's going to adore seeing a bunny sometimes."

"Which reminds me, I need to research the best species of fish for my indoor tank as well as the pond" said Ginny. Chris turned out to have knowledge in this area, and they went upstairs to Myra's computer to look online for ideas.

"She won't be back down" predicted Edwina, watching Ginny disappear.

"Nope. Probably will paint most of the night. You all wanna do something?" asked Myra.

Allie stood and said "I want to go home and help Edwina get ready for the week. I'll be by tomorrow, though. Every day I can to see the baby."

"Yeah, us too" said Carly. Myra said to him "Take lasagna for your lunch tomorrow."

Annie left at the same time as Chris and Sima. Myra went upstairs and stood at Ginny's elbow to get her attention. "I looked at it yesterday" she confessed. "Can I look again?"

Ginny stood aside. The difference was startling. It was as if something alive was slowly emerging from the flat surface -- no facial features yet, but the body of a girl in a garden was coming forward.

"Wow" said Myra softly. She kissed Ginny lingeringly and said "I'm going to create the ceremony invite on my computer. As much as I can manage -- will you look it over later and make it perfect, then hit send?"

"Yes" said Ginny. Then, another first, she stopped Myra from leaving and said "Do you like it?"

"What -- the painting? Oh, Ginny, it's spectacular, incomplete as it is. It makes me tremble to look at it." She was touched at Ginny asking reassurance. No wonder she had always kept other eyes off her work until she knew it was the way she meant it to be.

"Wake me when you get up" said Ginny, hugging Myra again. "I want to go with you to see our granddaughter in the morning."

"Remember what it was like, our first night at home with Margie? And Gillam?" said Myra.

"In that very house. In that bedroom" said Ginny. "Our little boy has created his own immortality and his own family."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Sunday, October 5, 2008


(Montmorency sour cherry tree)

Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

May 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is the soup done?"

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

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

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

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

"Oh my god" said Myra.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is somebody filming the birth?" asked Allie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jemima added "And JJ was vetoed by Jane."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let's call Margie" said Ginny.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.