Saturday, January 10, 2009

DOMA AND LESBIAN/GAY FAMILIES NEWS BRIEFS

DOMA Protest flyer
Today is the National DOMA Protest organized by Join The Impact, which is hoping to collect one million signatures to present to President-elect Barack Obama asking him to fulfill his promise to repeat DOMA which he made in his Open Letter to the LGBTQ Community in early 2008.

If you have not yet signed this letter and/or want to participate in a DOMA protest in your area, here's a quick link to states and cities with planned action.

Join The Impact has this summary of DOMA:

"On September 21st, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into federal law. DOMA, wrote discrimination into the Constitution with two strict regulations:

"No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) need treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.

"The Federal Government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.

"To drive the point even further, 37 states slowly but surely adopted DOMA as a state-wide regulation further amending state Constitutions. This appalling law tells the American people that it is OK to discriminate. That it is OK to recognize the LGBTQ community as less than equal. This same law, that the California Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional set the precedence for Proposition 8. This same law has nullified many rights that come with Domestic Partnerships. This law has nullified the heterosexual rights that come with Common Law Marriage. This law blurred the lines of separation of church and state even further."

Yesterday, President-elect Obama recommitted to repealing the ridiculous "Don't Ask Don't Tell", according to John Avarosis. Let's send DOMA to the outhouse at the same time.


-------------------------------------

When I called the Campbell's Soup Line to give them positive feedback for publishing a magazine ad showing a lesbian-parented family (see my earlier post on this here), I began by saying I was calling to thank them. But once I launched, explaining that I was a lesbian parent myself, I had a grown daughter with children as well as having had a mother who was at one time a lesbian, so I was speaking for four generations of family who knew lesbians were good parents, the woman taking my call interrupted me to say, in a tone of relief, "You're calling to praise us?"

"Indeed I am, ma'am. I grew up on Campbell's soups, and at age 53 it's good to know my consumer choices have gone to a company which understands family is what we choose it be."

"Well, we're really glad to hear it." Her tone was effusive. "I'll be sure to pass this on to everybody else, I can tell you, they'll want to hear it."

So, they're still under siege over there from the organized hate of the (sic) American Family Association.. The phone line (1-800-257-8443) may be on voice mail for the weekend, but an e-mail to Anthony Sanzio, the Group Director for Corporate and Brand Communications for Campbell Soup Company (anthony_sanzio@campbellsoup.com) can be sitting there in his box waiting on him Monday morning.


Maggie with daughter, August 1977 (Maggie with her daughter, August 1977, Denton, Texas; photo by Mary Austin)

Another action you might find it fulfilling to take, from the Washington Blade:

"Have you experienced harm due to religion-based bigotry?

"Faith In America, an non-profit organization that aims to free members of the LGBT community from bigotry disguised as religious truth, is collecting personal stories from Americans from all walks of life who have in some way experienced the harm caused by religion-based bigotry.

"You can email your story to lovingus@faithinamerica.com. The organization will deliver the personal stories to Pastor Warren prior to the inauguration.


"Learn more at End the Harm."

And if you do send them a story that you'd also like to share in a post here on the topic, shoot me an e-mail with it at redredhands dot sbcglobal dot net. If I get a good selection, I'll be happy to give them a wider audience. Please note, this is NOT limited to LGBT people: Religious bigotry hurts all of us.

(Poster by Austin Cline.)

Speaking of PRick Warren -- Now, for a reality check about how Prop (h)8 came to be passed. An in-depth analysis commissioned by the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco, and released under the auspices of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute states "party affiliation, political ideology, frequency of attending worship services and age were the driving forces behind the measure’s passage on Nov. 4. The study finds that after taking into account the effect of religious service attendance, support for Proposition 8 among African Americans and Latinos was not significantly different than other groups. Through a precinct-by-precinct analysis and review of multiple other sources of data, the study also puts African-American support for Proposition 8 at no more than 59 percent, nowhere close to the 70 percent reported the night of the election. Finally, the study shows how support for marriage equality has grown substantially across almost all California demographic groups — except Republicans."

[You can download the report here -- it's a PDF file.]

"The study found that four factors — party identification, ideology, frequency of religious service attendance and age — drove the “yes” vote for Proposition 8. For example, more than 70 percent of voters who were Republican, identified themselves as conservative, or who attended religious services at least weekly supported Proposition 8. Conversely, 70 percent or more of voters who were Democrat, identified themselves as liberal, or who rarely attended religious services opposed the measure. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of voters 65 or older supported Proposition 8, while majorities under 65 opposed it.

"Since the passage of Proposition 8, much has been said about the supposed dramatic opposition to marriage equality among African Americans, fueled by National Election Pool (NEP) figures based on sampling in only a few precincts that erroneously indicated 70 percent of California ’s African Americans supported Proposition 8. The study found that when religious service attendance was factored out, however, there was no significant difference between African Americans and other groups.

"In other words, people of all races and ethnicities who worship at least once a week overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8, with support among white, Asian and Latino frequent churchgoers actually being greater than among African Americans."

When they're telling us we're being kept down by another group targeted for oppression, count on one thing: They lie, they lie, they lie.

"The study found that overall support for marriage equality has increased by 9 percent since 2000, with support increasing among every age group under age 65, across all racial and ethnic groups and among Protestants, Catholics and Jews. There are three “holdout” groups where voting patterns have not changed: Republicans, conservatives, and those 65 and older. The largest gain — up 16 percent — was among voters 45-64 years of age, followed by a 13 percent increase among voters 18-29."

“For many years, the forces of religious and political intolerance inside the GOP have used the supposed threat of ‘gay marriage’ to divide the country and energize their base. But these figures show virtually everyone else moving in the opposite direction,” said Jim Carroll, managing director of Let California Ring. “The Republican Party is clearly in crisis and the real question is whether it will realize that using the divide-and-conquer tactics of the past is harmful to the country and to the party’s long-term interests.”



[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]

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Friday, January 9, 2009

GINNY BATES: SHARPER THAN A SERPENT'S TOOTH

Western diamondback rattlesnake
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 2018

As it turned out, Myra and Ginny went for dinner on their 32nd anniversary to Carminati's, because it was a slow night there, because Myra loved how Frances made steak and Ginny wanted her cioppino, and because it was the same building where they had begun so long ago. On the walk home, they stopped at “their spot” and hugged, looking deep into each other's eyes but not kissing.


Two days later the entire clan, Frances included, left for the Gulf Coast on a chartered plane. Jane was seven weeks from her due date and wasn't sure a smaller plane would be easier on her nausea, but it definitely made handling four active children less of a nightmare.

Carly and Eric pushed two twin beds together at one end of the sleeping porch, Margie and Frances did the same at the other end, and in between a slightly wider twin was given to Mimi and David, who were thrilled to be allowed out in a perceived “adult” region. Charlie and Leah were put in the second queen bed in their parents' bedroom, which Charlie didn't mind and Leah did.

Margie rented two kayaks, for her and Frances. Their first morning, she got up in the dark with Allie and Edwina, coaxing Mimi and David awake with constant reminders to “shush” until they were in the kitchen. David was hardly drawing breath in his stream-of-consciousness commentary about being allowed to go fishing with the aunties this year.

Myra got up at 7:00 with Ginny and sleep-walked into the kitchen to begin making a monster stack of corncakes, while Ginny filled a watermelon hull with fruit salad and made enough tea and lemonade to get them all through the blistering day. Myra was still ladling cakes onto the griddle when she heard crying from the front stairs. Before she could move, Edwina came in the door carrying a wailing Mimi.

“What happened?” exclaimed Ginny, rushing to take Mimi in her arms.

“They killed them all, Bubbe!” yelped Mimi. “She hit them on the head, hard, and cut them with knives!”

“She lost it when Allie began cleaning the fish” said Edwina, wide-eyed. “We were doing it the same as always, no change -- “

“They were trying to get away, it was awful, Bubbe!” said Mimi, shaking a fist at Edwina. Ginny sat down with Mimi, cradling her face against her shoulder, and said “Yes, nothing wants to die. You're right. Fish have to die if we are to eat them.”

“I don't want to eat them, then” blubbered Mimi. “I don't want to kill anything.”

“Where's David?” Myra whispered to Edwina.

“With Margie. He's okay. I guess it's a developmental thing, comprehending death of other creatures” said Edwina. “I should go help Allie, we've got a big haul today.” Myra waved her on, setting out buttermilk and cornmeal on the counter, and putting oil in Allie's favorite cast-iron skillet.

Mimi cried less with Edwina gone, and said again “I don't want to kill things so I can eat them.”

“That's a choice you can make” said Ginny. “Is this only fish, or other animals too?”

“Like what?” said Mimi, sucking snot back into her nose.

“Well...chicken. And burgers come from cows. Bacon comes from pigs. By comes from, I mean those animals are killed and cut up to make our meat.” Ginny, blunt as usual. At least she wasn't mentioning lamb.

Mimi was dealing with a precipice, it was clear. She looked at Myra for confirmation, and Myra nodded with a regretful expression.

“Then I don't. None of them. No more killing.”

“We can do that, Meemers. You can get your protein from other sources. It means eating only veggies and fruit and grains, plus a few things like eggs and milk that we can get from animals without hurting them” said Myra. She remembered having this conversation with Gillam.

“I'm hungry” said Mimi abruptly, looking at the cakes Myra was lifting from the griddle.

“How many you want? And I could make you some eggs to go with it, since you won't be having fish.”

“Lots. And scrambled eggs, okay, Gramma?”

“You got it. Why don't you go wash your face and hands?” said Myra. As Mimi crossed the kitchen, Gillam appeared in the doorway to his bedroom, carrying Charlie and looking crabby.

“Did I hear crying?” he said, putting Charlie down. Charlie hurtled toward Ginny. From behind Gillam's hip appeared Leah, who also streaked for the kitchen in her pajamas.

“Mimi just figured out that cleaning fish kills them. She's decided to become a vegetarian” said Myra, swinging Leah up for a hug.

“Oh, god” groaned Gillam.

“Go back to bed, we've got 'em” said Ginny.

“Could I take some of those back to bed with me?” asked Gillam, scratching his balls through his boxers. Clearly not entirely awake.

Myra opened the warm oven, put a stack of cakes onto a plate and surrounded them with fruit salad as Gillam poured a giant glass of milk. He took the plate without thanks, shuffling back to his bedroom.

Ginny got Leah and Charlie dressed while Mimi ate. Allie came in the front door, looking a little cautious, with a foil-wrapped heap in a pan.

“You doing better, scout?” she asked Mimi. Mimi nodded, saying “I'm going to be a vegebalarian now.”

“Is that so?” said Allie. Margie and Edwina appeared, and all three of them went to clean up. Myra transferred fillets to buttermilk and turned on the burner under the skillet before returning to her corncake assembly line. Ginny had sippy cups filled with milk and fruit salad set before Leah and Charlie.

Half an hour later, the smell of frying fish pulled the sleeping porch folks out to eat and even persuaded Jane up, walking flat-footed back on her heels in a shapeless cotton shift. Gillam was the lone hold-out until 8:30. There was only one fillet left over for lunch. Myra put two cut-up chickens into a stock pot, to make broth plus picked chicken for lunch's salad. She filled a second stock pot with potatoes, and decided Mimi could eat pimento cheese for that meal's protein.

Allie, Ginny, and Edwina were already on the porch. Carly and Eric were doing clean-up, Margie and Frances were portaging kayaks toward the beach, and the children were impatiently waiting on Gillam to get dressed so they could go swim. Myra sat at the far end of the table and turned on her lap-top. Leah immediately came to crawl into her lap and say “Wat are you writing?”

“First, I'll answer some e-mails. Then a post for my blog, and then – I think maybe some more on my Skene book. One of the teenaged grandchildren reminds me a lot of you, maybe I'll write about her” said Myra.

“I wish we all lived together like this, all year” said Leah. “We could do that, your house is big enough.”

“Don't give her ideas” said Carly, laughing.

Leah's hazel hair was already looking gummy, Myra noticed. Leah insisted on wearing her hair long and femmy, messing up the good lines of her face, Myra thought. And David was constantly pushing his own flaxen hair back from his brown eyes, a maddening habit. At least Mimi wanted her glossy dark locks cropped. And Charlie's yellow waves had already had a trim, courtesy of his Uncle Carly, without any complaint on his part. But Charlie didn't complain much.

Gillam emerged from the bedroom in baggy shorts and sandals. “You have the sunblock?” he asked Jane.

“I've already given them all a coating” she said. “Turn around, I'll do your back, then you can do mine.”

“Where's my bucket?” yelled David. He kept repeating this, despite the fact that the bucket and shovel were right where he'd set them, five feet away. Myra said “Hey!” and pointed. When the beach crew finally headed out the door, she gave an audible sigh and Carly giggled.

“They could all move into your house and the little ones could all sleep with you and Ginny. Getting up early would be so much easier for you” he teased.

“What are you two doing?” she asked.

“Oiling our manly muscles and lying where a breeze can hit us while reading trashy magazines” he replied.

At 4:00 that afternoon, Myra had not been down long for a nap when Ginny opened the bedroom door and said “You need to come look at this, something's crawling up the bird feeder.”

The entire family was clustered on the back porch, children lifted into adult arms, exclaiming. Leah said “I think it's Warrum Arsenica!” and Ginny replied shortly “It is not.” Myra pushed to the front for a view. A long, sandy sinuousness was wrapped around the silver pole in the back yard which was topped by a large birdseed platform, with roof and suet compartments. As the climbing head slid onto the level at the apex, the tip of its tail angled around to their side. Myra could see rattles there.

The snake investigated the platform and lapped itself neatly behind one glass hopper. As it stilled, it became nearly invisible.

“Clever girl” breathed Myra, thinking of the scene with that line in Jurassic Park. She turned to Allie and said “The mockers and scrub jays will see it, I bet, but not the littler songbirds. It's found itself a buffet.”

“It's at least five feet long” said Allie, an undercurrent in her voice.

“I know. We have to deal with it” said Myra. She felt short on sleep at the moment.

“There's that pole we use to lift down the platform for refills” said Gillam. “Maybe we could -- “ He stopped.

“Yeah, anything we do is going to result in air full o'snake” said Myra.

“What do you mean, buffet?” asked Mimi. Jane said “It's gone there to catch birdies. Snakes eat birds, as well as mice and frogs, anything littler than them.”

Ginny was focused on the “air full o'snake” comment. “Let's call the wildlife service, they can handle it.”

“Services are stretched so thin around here” said Myra. “We're a house full of ten competent adults, I'd rather brainstorm about this first.”

Ginny glared at her. Margie said “That big canopy we have stretched over the wading pool, it's like a portable umbrella. We could hold that over our heads as we – what, lift the feeder down?”

Myra looked at Allie. “The umbrella is a good idea. But I want more control over it before we start moving things. Maybe I could rig a noose at the end of the pole.”

“Snare it snug before you bring it down” agreed Allie.

“We need wire, not rope” said Myra. “Like, a long length of baling wire.”

Allie chuckled. “Waal, now, head on down to the barn and look in the tack room, and while you're at it, grab me some axle grease and a razor strop.”

She and Myra giggled. David looked at them as if they had stopped speaking English.

Myra turned to Ginny and said “Flexible wire? Strong enough to not break, you have something like that?”

“Annealed wire for sculpture – yeah, I've got a roll or two in the art cupboard” she admitted. “But I think this is monumentally stupid.”

“I'm aware of that” said Myra. “I'd really rather not wait for a wild kingdom gulp-down in front of little eyes, however.” Mimi was looking at intently, trying to decipher that sentence.

“You're no Marlin Perkins” muttered Ginny, heading into the house for the wire. Myra said “I'm going down under the house for the pole, cover me, Ripley” to Allie. When she returned, Carly had gotten pliers and duct tape as well. “There's always a use for duct tape” he commented, eliciting wild giggles from Eric.

Myra began experimenting with wire loops. Allie said quietly “We gonna need something else.” Myra looked at her before comprehending. “Oh, yeah.”

“Well, you cover me now, I'll go to the shed” said Allie. She returned with a machete and took it into the kitchen, where one drawer held a whetstone. Mimi's eyes followed her suspiciously.

With Margie and Carly's bickering assistance, Myra was finally satisfied with a lasso contraption on the pole. She tried operating it a few times out into the space from the back porch. She turned to Allie and said “You wanna be the canopy holder?”

Allie glanced at Edwina, who looked grim. “Actually – I don't.”

“I'll do it” said Gillam immediately. Jane sucked in her breath and Ginny said “No way.” Gillam ignored her. “I need to gear up” he said, handing Leah to Eric and going into the house. Myra followed, changing her sneakers for boots over thick socks. Gillam emerged from his bedroom in long pants tucked into boots, a long-sleeved jacket, and one of Margie's kayaking helmets. He took the roll of duct tape from Carly and taped his pants cuffs to the boots. “Are there gloves in the store room?” he asked.

Myra laughed in spite of herself. “You're gonna roast in that get-up.”

“You need to do the same” said Ginny, and there was no give in her voice. Gillam handed her the other kayak helmet with a grin, and Myra went to her bedroom for more layers.

Once they were in the yard, approaching the pole, Myra whispered to Gillam “If I change my mind now, will I ever live it down?”

“Doesn't matter” he said tensely. “We can call for help.”

“No...I'm going to at least try” she said. “Where's the machete? Okay, leave it there, it's on a run path to the stairs. Listen, you holler 'snake' if you see it, that word, not anything else, got it?”

She turned to Allie, part of the rapt audience on the porch above them, and called “Give me a running commentary, will ya?”

“It ain't moved. Try banging on the pole first, with just the umbrella over you. Maybe it'll dive off.”

Myra exchanged her lasso for Gillam's canopy and approached the pole. She grabbed the machete and used its handle to clang against the metal three times, scuttling backward while resisting the urge to look up.

“What's it doing?” she yelled, once out of drop-on range.

“Not a damned thing” said Allie. “Like it an obelisque.”

“Okay” said Myra, trading with Gillam again. “I'll wave this around up in its face, see if it jumps for it. I like that idea better, somehow.”

“Stay under the edge here, Mom” he said in a high voice. “If Allie yells snake, don't you dare break out in the open.”

She took a deep breath and extended the aluminum lifter beyond the periphery of Gillam's canopy. She'd turned down gloves because it would impair her dexterity, and suddenly her hands felt incredibly vulnerable. She used the thick pole of the feeder as a compass point upward and yelled to Allie “Have I cleared the top yet?”

“Yeah, you about six inches above. You need more play, and go to you left. It still ain't moved.”

With Allie calling directions, and the children being steadily shushed, Myra blindly zeroed in on the snake. Suddenly Allie yelled “Whoa! It striking at the noose! There it goes again. Myra, it's raised up, you can get around it's neck easy right now. Move two inches to you right and rotate that stick maybe 90 degrees. No, back the other way a hair. I'm gonna yell 'yank' if it strikes again, you pull for all – yank, yank!”

Myra jerked the wire downward and felt a jolt travel down to her hands, a fleshy percussion which made her stomach turn over.

“Holy fucking god, you got it!” shouted Allie over the children's screams.

“Don't look up!” said Gillam.

“Keep it taut, keep it pulled tighter'n a miser's purse” yelled Allie. “Lean to you left and start lowering it.”

Myra felt the muscles in her arm rigid with strain as she slowly lowered her rod to the ground 15 feet away. As the end came into view under the canopy's edge, she heard Gillam gasp: The snake was partly wrapped around the rod but was heaving itself violently from side to side. The lasso wire was a few inches back from its gaping mouth. Once it was on the ground, she stood uncertainly for a minute. Her bladder needed emptying as soon as possible, she realized.

Allie appeared beside her. “You want me to do it, or give me that lariat?” she asked Myra.

“It needs to be me, I think” said Myra. As she painstakingly transferred the twist of wire from her hands to Allie's, she realized she was drenched in sweat, including her fingers. “It's slick” she warned.

Gillam had backed away to set aside the canopy, and now was heading up the stairs – to be with Mimi, Myra thought. She wiped her hands on the sides of her jeans and picked up the machete.

The snake's motions became wilder as she approached. She wished she knew a prayer that fit this occasion. She heard Mimi starting to yell “No!” as she lifted the blade and swung it at a point below where the snake's head was tethered to the rod by cruelly tight wire. It took three hacks before the severing was complete, partly because the rod was in the way at first. When it was done, the snake's body kept flopping around, and she stepped back, revolted.

Allie walked around her to the shed and returned with a shovel. Myra loosened the wire and pried it from the rod with the tip of the machete. Allie dug a deep hole, and Myra scraped the head and wire into it while Allie shoved in the body. As Allie covered everything with sandy earth, Myra was aware of silence from above. She looked and saw that everyone had gone inside.

Good she thought. She cleaned the machete, first in damp sand, then with water from the hose, before drying it on a rag in the shed and hanging it back on the wall. Allie joined her to put away the shovel. They walked back upstairs together, Myra shedding her drenched jacket and blouse, down to an undershirt.

When she came in the door, Mimi hurled at her “I hate you! You didn't have to kill it!”

“I did, though” said Myra. “I very much did not want to. But it had come to include this yard in its territory, which means none of your children would have been safe outside. Because it would bite you, if you surprised it, and as little as you are, a bite could kill you.”

“I don't care, don't you say it was for me!” shouted Mimi. She was quivering with rage.

“If she hadn't done it, I would have” said Allie quietly. Mimi was going to wheel on her, but Gillam said “Me, too.” Mimi stared at him in disbelief.

Myra looked at him. He was pale, his jaw set. Sucks to be a parent sometimes, she thought.

Ginny said to Myra “I want a search of every square inch tomorrow, when it's full light.” Which meant Myra and someone else doing the searching, Myra knew. Myra nodded.

Mimi wouldn't come near her the rest of the evening. Leah was clingier than ever, but Myra wondered if she was doing so partly to antagonize Mimi. Tension was finally relieved at the campfire, when Carly and Eric stood up and did a disco version of “It's raining snakes” that made them all helpless with laughter.


© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

A FEW THINGS TO DO

(Cartoon from the fabulous xkcd)

Here are some actions you can take, if you are so inclined.

Democracy for America has started an online petition to send a message to Governor Tim Kaine, newly appointed chair of the Democratic National Committee, requesting that he continue the 50 State Strategy. As implemented by Governor Howard Dean, the 50 State Strategy "will go down as one of the most successful long-term programs the Democratic National Committee has ever implemented. Not just for Barack but for candidates up and down the ballot all across the country.

"For example, only three years ago, Gov. Dean was mocked by party insiders and Washington Democrats for spending DNC resources in Alaska. This week, Alaskans watched Mark Begich swear in as their newly elected Democratic Senator.

"But while there has been a lot of talk about keeping it alive, all of the original DNC 50 State Strategy organizers have been let go.

"With special elections, local mayor and city council races all coming up soon, this is one decision that can't wait any longer. Call on Tim Kaine to immediately renew the 50 State Strategy and we'll make sure he gets the message." Click here to go to the petition page.

(Swanson ad featuring lesbian parents with a son -- click for larger view)

PFLAG is asking folks to take the time to thank Campbell's Soup for standing up to anti-lesbian/gay pressure from the (sic) American Family Association. Their request states:

"Recently, a LGBT-affirming ad ran in The Advocate for Swanson brand broth, which is owned by the Campbell Soup Company.

"The ad is part of Campbell's Home for the Holidays campaign and featured a lesbian couple with their son. Unfortunately the anti-LGBT American Family Association urged its members to contact Campbell's soup and criticize them for showing LGBT families in their advertising.

"Please take the time to counter their anti-gay message and thank Campbell's for their support of the LGBT and ally community! Let's give kudos to Campbell's for showing that all of our families are worthy of respect.

"We especially wish to thank Campbell's because they are a corporate sponsor for our upcoming 2009 Straight for Equality Awards Gala to be held February 5, 2009 in Times Square, New York City!

"Be sure to email Anthony Sanzio, the Group Director for Corporate and Brand Communications for Campbell Soup Company (anthony_sanzio@campbellsoup.com) and follow up with a phone call showing your appreciation as well (1-800-257-8443)!"

(From SomeECards)

And, another reminder to cast your vote for Driftglass for Best Individual Blogger in the 2008 Weblog Awards. As reported earlier at a post at Group News Blog, as well as many other progressive blogs, Drifty is still way behind a right-wing fanatic. You can go vote every 24 hours by clicking here.

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GINNY BATES: IMAGINARY PONIES

Stick horse
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 2018

Mimi turned four, at a birthday party where her cousins and a couple of kids from First Day School attended. She wept when there was no pony forthcoming, and Ginny's stick horses were not seen by her as consolation until the other children snatched them up and began galloping around. Myra later heard Margie earnestly explaining to her why they could not have a horse in the city, and felt a sense of time messing with itself.

During the latter stages of the party, Allie had pulled Myra aside and said “What we doing this year about going to the Gulf?”

“I don't know. I mean, I'm not even sure how to celebrate my anniversary with Ginny, except perhaps just the two of us going out to dinner. After a session with Nancy, probably” said Myra with a resigned laugh.

“Well, I know Gillam don't want his kids to miss a year, and Jane said that idea you had about hiring a private plane to haul us all was do-able for her. Nine adults plus maybe Frances, and four kids. And all our crap. You still think it's cost effective?”

“I do. And it would be way safer for Jane, wouldn't it? Let me – I'll have to talk to Ginny. The thing is...we're not sleeping together.”

“You mean that literally?”

“Yeah. Not in the same room, even.”

“How come?” Allie's dark eyes were troubled.


“At first, it was just I needed the room to not deal with anything at all. That's not really the case any more, but it feels – weird, to bridge that gap. Especially since sex is definitely out of the question right now.”

“Well, you two could sleep out on the sun porch with Carly and Eric. Give you bed to Margie and Frances, if she come.”

Myra hated that idea. “Look, I'll talk to her tomorrow. Will you make sure it's a go with Gillam and Jane?”

“When I can get them away from little ears, yeah” said Allie.

That night, Ginny and Myra stayed after guests had left to help clean up the wreckage. David had gone to bed chanting “20 days, 20 days”, which is how long it was until his birthday. Gillam said “My version of that is two weeks – two weeks until summer break is here.”

“Amen” said Jane. “What will we do with ourselves next year if we're not having a baby in the warm months?”

“Sleep” said Gillam instantly.

“I'll need to update my certification, may need some more classes” said Jane consideringly. Gillam wiped his forehead wearily and said to Myra “We're going to put Mimi and David both in preschool in September, that Montessori place we told you about. I can drop them off before work and Jane will go get them right before 2:00. I hope they're not disappointed, I doubt it'll be as much fun there as it is at home and the gramma academy of dance and mystery.”

Myra laughed. “There'll be other children to introduce them to the wickedness of the world. They'll revel in it. And Leah and Charlie will have a chance to be the big kids for part of the day.”

On their walk home through the back yards, Ginny said “I had a dream last night about that painting. The unfinished one. I think I know how to get back to it – I'll have to redo a big portion of it. It's never come to me like this before, a considered approach rather than a visionary one. But I want to try.”

“Tomorrow, then” said Myra.

“Have you been writing?”

“No. Only a few occasionals for the blog. But I want to start on the next Seed book – I think I'll call the last child Piñon.”

“Lovely” said Ginny. “Let me know when you have a draft and I can start sketches for a cover.”

They'd reached the awkward part of the evening again. Keller was waiting by the bedroom door on the first floor. Myra hugged Ginny and said “Happy descendant birthday, Bubbe.”

“Back at ya” said Ginny, kissing Myra's cheek. After the door shut, Ginny brushed her teeth and thought about sitting by the pond in the dark for a while. But it looked damp out there. Finally, she trudged upstairs and crawled under her quilt on Myra's daybed. Franklin joined her, restless for a few minutes before he settled down.

Ginny dozed off. Some time later, she woke up suddenly. She tried to clear her mind, and heard the chime of her studio clock indicating it was 11:30. Then she heard an electrical sound. By the time she realized it was the elevator, the doors had closed. She didn't hear footsteps, but suddenly Myra's silhouette was in the doorway to her study, staring her direction.

"Why are you still out here? Why aren't you in our bed?" said Myra.

"It stopped feeling like our bed. I can't sleep in there."

"You've been out here on my daybed ever since -- ?" Myra's voice was gentle.

"Yes." Ginny felt defiant.

Keller yowled down below. "Up here" called Myra. She looked at Ginny, gathering her resolve, then said "I realized tonight, talking with Allie, that I don't want to sleep away from you any more. But – well, you know the limits. If you don't want to..."

Ginny was on her feet in an instant.

"Better grab your pillow, I left mine downstairs" said Myra. Keller had reached her ankles.

"Why did you use the elevator?" said Ginny as she followed Myra.

"My joints are hurting something fierce. I'm getting old, Ginny."

The bedroom smelled odd, musty. Ginny left the door open to air it out. They had not made the bed after the last time they used it. "Should I change the sheets?" asked Myra.

"Not for me."

Keller climbed up the comforter onto on the bed. Myra looked at Ginny apologetically.

Ginny said "It's okay. She waited years get to sleep with you. But Franklin has been my boon companion, I have to let him come in here, too."

"Let's just leave the door open" said Myra.

"We may wake up with six cats in the bed" said Ginny. Her laugh was still cautious.

"It's a big bed, and we'll only take up the middle. There's room" said Myra. She had laid down, and pulled the cover back so Ginny could lie down beside her. Ginny thought about what Nancy had said. She slid under the covers, but pushed close to Myra right away, resting her face on Myra's shoulder. Myra was stiff for a moment, and Ginny wondered if she had gone too far. Then Myra's arms came around her, and her hips relaxed.

Franklin jumped on the bed, with an expression of high interest on his face. "Welcome" said Myra. He found a suitable spot on the foot, at a far angle from Keller up by Myra's pillow.

“Tomorrow, we need to talk about going to the Gulf” said Myra.

“Yeah, I've been thinking about that” said Ginny. “If I'm painting, interrupt me.”

“...Okay” said Myra. Suddenly her body was warm and fluid in a way she'd not felt in weeks. She closed her eyes, aware of Ginny's breath on her neck. She heard Ginny's tempo change and knew she was dropping off, in that rapid way she did. Myra didn't remember anything after that.

The house line rang at 8 the next morning. Ginny rolled over and answered. Myra scooted into the gap and put her arms back around Ginny.

"Hey, Margie. Yeah, I was asleep, but I'm up now, glad to hear from you. Guess who I'm in bed with?...Well, now that I look, it's not just Myra. Franklin, Keller, and get this, Anthea are each claiming a corner of the bed as well...Yeah, too far from the food dishes for her, and Spencer and Olson are each other's entire universe..." Ginny twisted her head and said to Myra "She's offering to make us breakfast."

"Tell her yes if she'll do that eggs florentine dish of hers" said Myra sleepily.

"You heard that?...No, we've got orange walnut muffins...Okay, sweetie." Ginny hung up the phone and said "She'll be here in ten. Myra, you're wheezing.

“Yeah. I have been, lately.”

“Cat dander, I imagine.”

“Well...I'll wash these sheets today and keep Keller out except at bedtime. I don't know if I can do more than that” said Myra.

They lay, spooned and silent, until they heard Margie's voice downstairs calling "Hey, you up yet?"

Laughing, Ginny yelled "Be there in a sec". Then she said "I seriously need to pee."

"Take our bathroom, I'll go to the study pissoir." Myra headed past the stair landing, leaning over to look down on Margie and say "Hi, honey, I'll be right there after I pee."

Margie craned her face up, seeing Myra's red cheeks and grin, and felt her heart lighten. She began sauteeing spinach in a sauce pan.

When Myra rode the elevator down, Ginny was already in the kitchen, wearing pants as well as a shirt, leaning against the counter talking to Margie at the stove. Myra hugged then both and said "I am hungry enough for two."

Margie laughed. "Mom just said the same thing. I'm on it. Warm up some muffins, will you?"

Ginny poured juice and milk. Moving around in the kitchen, she and Myra showed a different physical energy today, their bodies much more at ease with each other.

Dishing up the eggs, Margie took a breath and said "So...you two make love last night?"

Ginny choked on her juice. Myra grinned sadly, handing Ginny a napkin, and said "No. And I never thought I'd ever hear that question from you."

They ate like fieldhands. Margie experienced the joy of seeing others relish her cooking. By the time they were done, all the eggs were gone and only six muffins were left. “I should make more” said Myra. “A snack for when the Horde gets here. I'm going to shower, but leave the dishes, Margie, I'll do them after I start the muffins." She kissed Margie, then Ginny, and got back in the elevator.

When the doors closed, Margie said "What's with the elevator?"

"She says her joints are hurting. And her asthma is aggravated. I'll get her into the doctor eventually. One step at a time” said Ginny.

After showering and dressing, Myra came back downstairs and went into the bedroom where she had been living. She came out carrying her laptop and her briefcase, and set it in the elevator. Then she returned to the bedroom and retrieved her clothes, pillow, and personal items. As she began hauling these to the elevator, Ginny got up and helped her, then punched the up button and stepped back into the kitchen.

Myra set her laptop on her desk and plugged it back in. While it was booting up she emptied her briefcase of papers. She turned on her main PC and began researching private plane charters online. When she heard Ginny come up the stairs, she called to her and said “Can we have the Gulf talk now, instead of later?”

It was smoother than she had anticipated. Ginny said the work they were doing would continue wherever they were, and it was important to everyone's well-being that they do regenerative activity.

“However, I don't want to be there the week of our anniversary” added Ginny. Myra swallowed and said “I don't want to ignore the day. But – I don't want any kind of gathering. It's too strange.”

“Let's have dinner at the Coastal Kitchen, which is a treat and yet still familiar” suggested Ginny. “We can come back and plant seeds for the next round of the summer garden.”

“Oh, that sounds easy” said Myra, relieved. Ginny left to set up her easel and Myra sent an e-mail to the family concerning dates for the Gulf trip. As she heard Ginny go back to the varnish room, she came from her study and said “I'd like to see the painting you started. Before you change it.”

“Are you sure?” Ginny's eyes were wide and pale blue.

“It's okay, Gin.” Myra thought about joking that she didn't have anything in her her hand to throw, but decided that would not be funny.

Once the canvas was on the easel, Myra said “Huh. I can't tell much. You'd been working on it how long?”

“A day, a little over. Yeah, it's all blocking and under layers for the first two days, at least” said Ginny.

“What was I going to be doing?” asked Myra.

“Climbing up from the caldera of a volcano” said Ginny. Myra giggled abruptly.

“Then what is it going to change to?” she asked.

“You'll have to wait” said Ginny. She went to her work table and pulled out pigment grinding stones.

Myra thought about going downstairs to make more muffins and plan activities for the grandkids. But she felt drawn to her desk for the first time in weeks. She returned to its wide surface, cluttered with accumulated mail and Keller fur, and began clearing it. When that was done, she pulled out a legal pad and began making notes for the adventures of Piñon Seed.

Three hours later, she had the story drafted and printed, plus a decent poem written. It was past noon, she realized with a shock. She stretched and walked out to the sunlight of Ginny's studio.

“Damn, this feels good” she said.

Ginny grinned at her, a smear of pale blue on her collarbone. Myra rode the elevator downstairs and made quick avocado-cheese sandwiches. She carried one up to Ginny with a bottle of water and said “I'm ravenous, but I'm going to work out before I eat.” She went to the machine in their bedroom and pushed herself into a solid sweat for half an hour. She started bathwater running while she stripped the bed. She ate while sitting in the tub, dressed, tossed a bundle of laundry down the stairwell, and rode the elevator back down to begin muffins.

The next day, Myra slept in until 10:00. Ginny was gone and her side of the bed was stone cold. Keller was there and chirruped a hello. Myra looked in at the studio and said "Did you have breakfast?"

"....Just tea."

"Are you going to come down and eat with me?"

"....No."

"Okay. You're on your own, then" said Myra. Ginny didn't notice.

After cereal, Myra got out a couple of things from the freezer for dinner, then sat down at her desk to reread the previous night's output, an outline for yet another Skene book. She began writing again and wrote for three hours. When she broke for lunch, she made extra salad and called up to Ginny from the stairwell.

"Hey, Gin! There's food down here."

Ginny finally looked over the railing and said "Not yet."

"Suit yourself."

Myra put the extra salad back in the fridge and went out into the yard to eat. When she was done, she showered, changed, and cleaned the kitchen. Then she walked over to pick up the grandchildren.

Back at the house, they rushed upstairs and thronged Ginny, who was shocked at their arrival. "My god, is it 2:00 already?" she said, looking at Myra.

"Yup."

"Okay, well, I need to clean my brush and, I guess, get cleaned up myself. Did you eat lunch?"

"Yeah. Offered you some."

"Up here?"

"No, Ginny. I ate in the dining room. It's up to you to join me if you wanted to." Myra's tone was casual. Ginny's face looked a little uncertain.

"Are you mad at me?" she asked. Mimi and David got suddenly quiet.

"Not in the least, honey. So, kids, I'm thinking maybe we can go to the Arboretum for Science Day, take the digital camera and collecting bags, and see how much evidence of animal life we can document, how does that sound?" A cheer went up. "Well, we need to wait for Bubbe to get her clothes on so she can go with us. In the meantime, let's assemble our gear."

Ginny went to the bedroom, after giving a second long look at Myra's back. On their way out the front door, Ginny grabbed a power bar and a bottle of water. She was famished and wondered if that's why she felt a little unsteady on her feet.

On their walk in the Arboretum, Ginny began getting a headache and was fighting an urge to crank at the children. Finally she asked if they could go back early, and Myra headed off the children's disappointment by promising they could all help make jello for dinner. At the house, Ginny drank a glass of milk, took some aspirin, and told Myra she needed to grab a half-hour nap.

After forty minutes, Mimi, Leah and David clamored into the bedroom, announcing that her naptime was up and Gramma was feeding Charlie, would she come play with them. When Ginny, still groggy, came down the stairs with her entourage, Myra had Charlie in the high chair and was giving him bites of his early supper in between making dinner for the rest of them. Ginny didn't feel like she could complain about being woken up since Myra was multi-tasking and had been working nonstop all afternoon.

Ginny never did get her energy back, even after eating a huge dinner and sitting down with the children for quiet games around the table instead of romping, while Myra cleaned the kitchen. As soon as the children were dropped off, she said "I'm going back to bed. How about you?"

"Do you want me there to go to sleep?" asked Myra.

"No, I'm going to crash no matter what."

"Then I'll write, and join you later."

"Are you sure you're not upset with me?" asked Ginny.

"Why would I be upset with you, Ginny?" Myra kissed her cheek and walked off to her study.


When Myra came to bed at 11:00, Ginny woke up and rolled into Myra's arms.

"How's your headache?" asked Myra.

"Gone. I think it was blood sugar."

"Sounds about right."

"And I know what happened, Myra. You stopped being my tender today. You left it up to me to take care of myself."

Myra was silent.

Ginny shivered involuntarily. "Be careful of what you ask for, huh."

"I'm not doing this on purpose, Ginny, I'm not trying to prove a point."

"I know. But -- fuck, Myra."

"We'll get through it. We'll find a new method, a new balance."

“New is not always better” said Ginny.

“Out of our control” said Myra, beginning to sound sleepy. She was wheezing again. Ginny rubbed the lung pressure points on Myra's chest for a few minutes, then went to sleep despite the pull of her painting.


© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

INCARNATION

Sharbat Gula (Sharbat Gula, an Afghan woman of Pashtun ethnicity, as she appeared on an 1985 National Geographic cover; photo by Steve McCurry)

When I was a few days old, I was diagnosed with asthma. Less than two weeks later, I broke out in severe eczema around my eyes. Eventually my mother was advised to tie down my hands with cotton rags to keep me from scratching the outbreak. Yeah, who knows what that decision did to my developing brain -- maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Oh well.

I kept having eczema flare-ups throughout my childhood, mostly on my hands and thighs (still do), and I learned to Not Scratch the hard way: Multiple infections and episode of impetigo. My mother, a follow of Edgar Caycee and also a serious reader of various Indian religious beliefs, decided to teach me Mind Over Matter. When I was wheezing, we practiced breathing exercises. When I was strung out on epinephrine, drug of choice for asthma in those days, I learned to read as distraction that might lead to calm and/or sleep. And I learned to notice the itching without surrendering to my body's obvious solution.


These lessons turned out to be useful in a heartbreaking variety of ways -- ignoring hunger, for instance. Or other forms of dissociation I don't want to discuss here. Over time, I learned that outright dissociation should be reserved only for the most dire of circumstances, because usually the physical and emotional cost is not worth it. I learned there's a goodness to existence even in pain, even in terror, even in despair. It's good to have a body and to be solidly rooted in that body. This is, in a way, the basis of the Christian myth: That Jesus could not help g*d comprehend human reality unless he experienced our physical reality. Incarnation means, literally, being in a body (inside the meat). It's a GOOD thing.

After my left knee was replaced, I was the talk of my rehabilitation wing because I took not a single pain medication the week I was there, but I also did not shirk any of the exercises or physical rigors. For one thing, the pain felt at working an 18 inch fresh wound closed by staples or trying to persuade massively torn ligaments into function was not as bad as what I'd been living with for a year. But the main trick was, I'd just had a near-death experience and I was pretty thrilled to be awake again.

I continue to live with daily pain. For several years, I've used Celebrex to counteract the stiffness and inflammation. It's been six weeks since I had that prescription refilled, and at this point I may not return to it because of possible side effects. I also have tramadol which I never take. Most days, I know how to talk myself into motion which eases locked joints and starts blood flowing. I know how to talk myself sweetly into sleep, and to stay asleep as I change body position every ten minutes or so -- a necessity with my fucked joints.

But Monday was a bad day. A cold front blew in Sunday late and I didn't notice until I'd been sitting at my computer, lost in writing, long enough to get chilled. I got a fever, and fevers make the joint crap much worse. Aspirin didn't do anything, so I went to bed, where I got warm but by that time the flare was raging. If I went to sleep, I woke up half an hour later in stiff pain. The metal knee was particularly aggravating. I pushed fluids, Thought About England, and let the day drip away.

That night, PBS ran two long specials which I taped, because I was still hoping for sleep. Later, around 3 a.m., I gave up and began watching the first of them, the beginning of a series called The Story of India by one of my favorite historians, Michael Wood. I'll talk more about this program and the questions it raised in another essay. Tonight I want to respond to Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood, a documentary by Karen Thomas which "traces the experiences of the Jews who fled Nazi Germany and took refuge in Hollywood, and examines their impact on both the German and the American cinemas."

During the 1920s, Germany had the best movie makers in the world. This golden age of cinema (producing work like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and M) centered around UFA, the national movie production company, which was dominated by Jewish directors, cinematographers, writers, composers, and actors. The Jewish population of Germany was around 1%, but Jews were 5% of the population of Berlin, where UFA was located. They were secular, educated, progressive, and considered themselves quintessentially German.

When Hitler rose to power and "overnight there were Nazis everywhere" as one interviewee put it in the documentary, most Jews thought the negative focus on them would pass eventually. (A tragic miscalculation.) However, Goebbels led an assault on Jewish presence in the film industry, and the rapid loss of jobs forced many German Jews to leave the country. Some had already gone to America because of career offers. Many fled to Paris or Vienna. Their bank accounts were frozen, and they went from relative financial security to complete uncertainty. One woman in the documentary, Lupita Kohner, tells of smuggling money from Germany to exiles in other European countries concealed in her knitting wool.

Eventually, anyone who could tried to get to America. Former German Jewish film people already in Hollywood began the European Film Fund, in which anyone employed contributed 1% of their monthly income to assisting in the immigration and establishment of other German Jews to the U.S. Once Hitler invaded Poland, the American response was to put further limitation on Jewish refugees, demanding they demonstrate financial support before they were allowed into the country. The EFF worked tirelessly to cut through the red tape, saving countless lives. Marlene Dietrich was particularly active in this effort.

The result is not only that 800 German Jewish film folk were saved from almost certain death. Equally compelling is the influence these people had on what is now Hollywood and American cinema. A list of the names alone tells us much: Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Hedy Lamarr, Peter Lorre, Ernst Lubitsch, Henry Kosteer, Fred Zinnemann, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Frederick Hollander, Franz Waxman, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, responsible for some of the greatest work to emerge from Hollywood. Without these refugees, we wouldn't have High Noon, Harvey, Some Like It Hot, Sunset Boulevard, From Here To Eternity, or dozens of other Oscar winners. Even more striking, we wouldn't have Casablanca, the ultimate example of the 160 anti-Nazi movies eventually made during the 1940s. Almost every day player and extra in Casablanca (ironically, even some playing Nazis), as well as most of the production crew and many in the main cast, were Jewish refugees from Hitler-occupied Europe. It gives a completely new feeling, knowing that, when watching scenes such as the singing of the Marseilles.


(Scene from Casablanca)

Two distinct elements of American film culture are a direct result of German Jewish import: Film noir and the horror genre. Film noir arose from 1920s German experimentation with light and shadow, plus its obsession with urban settings and gritty questions -- remember, Fritz Lang is who made Metropolis. And the horror film is where German film people who could not get secure contracts with major studios went to find work that would enable them to stay in America. It makes sense to me: From the ancient culture which brought you The Ten Plagues and Golems, we now present werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein, and atomic mutation! In Shriek-O-Vision.

The hurdles these emigres faced were enormous, and not all succeeded. Overcoming accents, learning to write in another language, and contending with America's refusal to face what was happening in Germany were daunting obstacles. In addition, Hollywood's anti-Semitic cinematography and scene designer unions refused to issue membership cards to the newcomers, which effectively shut them out of movie labor.

I particularly appreciated the thorough research done for this documentary. We are shown the immigration applications of many of these notables, and told who in their families were revealed to have been killed in concentration camps after the war. Every one of them lost family and friends. What effect must that have had on their art, their approach to story-telling, their narrative and message during the post-war period?

[Note: Not covered at all in this examination is the fact that some of these people were fleeing not only Nazi murder of Jews but also of lesbians and gays. I know it must have played some role in the decisions of Marlene Dietrich and Peter Lorre, their closeted homosexuality, and likely others.]

Many of the emigres came to claim a Jewish identity they had not felt before. As one filmmaker said (possibly Joe Pasternak), "I thought I was German. It was Hitler who made me a Jew."

This documentary premiered on television during a week when Israel is waging disproportionate war on Gaza and a Muslim family of eight (plus another Muslim who wasn't actually traveling with them) were kicked off a plane by AirTran for "suspicious activity" (which turns out to be having a family conversation while being Muslim). I've been gnawingly upset about both events, and I see a thread connecting all three: Injustice must not only be stopped, it must be reversed. Cleaned up. Wiped from our cultural response mechanisms.

The failure of the world to intervene when genocide was waged on six million Jews does not, in any way, excuse Israel's aggression. I'm not headed there. But it does influence everyone's ability to think clearly about the matter -- as our current generation's invasion of Iraq will undoubtedly render American values suspect until such time as we have made amends for our actions. Nor will I compare Israel's actions to that of Shoah: The term Holocaust should be reserved for systematic, intentional genocide, such as Turkey's attack on Armenians or white European theft of North American territory held by Native Americans.

The fact is, a subjugated, despised, and assaulted people often, when tides turn, become some version of very same monsters by whom they were once oppressed. Thus Viking and French conquest of the British Isles is a factor in later UK colonialism, imperialism, and promotion of slavery. Or, to bring it to present day, the self-perception that Mormons carry of being a stigmatized and threatened group gives them (in their own minds) the right to force their values on a neighboring state's population. Understanding this mechanism will be an essential step in developing practice which might actually undo the damage of past injustice.

Today's "Jude" in America are Muslims. And every single passenger on that delayed AirTran flight, every person who witnessed a family being treated like criminals because they are the acceptable target currently in our cultural xenophobia -- each of us damaged by this allowance of public hatred. I want more than an apology for the Irfans, I want that airline to pay massive fines, I want news coverage to explain why it was anti-American, I want the practice of racial profiling to stop immediately. And I want the new series airing this week, "Homeland Security", to be yanked as the propaganda that it is. Our security lies not in nationalism, not in "nation-building" (see how well it worked with Israel?), and not in defensive behavior. Our security lies in community, which is now global.


[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

GINNY BATES: PHOTO ARCHEOLOGY

Whale shark poster
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 2018

The next morning, when Myra got up, the house was empty. A note from Ginny said she was on a walk with Margie and the dogs. Myra brushed maple syrup onto thick slices of bacon and set them to crisp in the microwave while she toasted a raspberry scone and made chai. At the last minute, she discovered deviled eggs and a banana/kiwi fruit salad Ginny had left for her on the second shelf of the fridge. She carried these to the table as well.

When the dogwalkers returned, Margie gave her a kiss, then teased “You got enough breakfast there, Mom?”

“I'm peckish. Help yourself.” Margie stole an egg and Ginny picked up a fork to select kiwis from Myra's bowl. Myra said to the dogs “You're the only ones not being goniffs, here” and gave them each a morsel of bacon.


“I'm not a goniff if you invite me” pointed out Margie, her mouth full. “Or is this more of the Myra double standard?”

“What does that mean?” asked Myra, looking at Ginny. Ginny shrugged and went to make a fresh pot of chai.

Margie changed the subject. “If you're really making stick horses for Mimi and the rest, I'd like to buy her a hat and boots for her birthday. The real deal, not a toystore version.”

“That's a great idea. But you may need to repeat it for each of the others as their birthdays roll in. Well, probably not Charlie, he's not competitively acquisitive yet” said Myra.

Margie nodded. “Listen, Frances says she's sending over seafood risotto with me for the dinner tonight. When we're ready to talk, if I text her, she says she can spare half an hour, maybe, and join us.”

“I'd be honored” said Ginny, meaning it. “I adore that woman of yours.”

Margie wriggled her shoulders in happiness. “Me too.”

“How's Carly?” asked Myra.

“You know, on some level he wasn't surprised. He's heading back to Oly on Saturday, to talk with Patty again. We all talked about how fucked up your generation is with regard to sex” said Margie. Ginny and Myra looked at each other, wanting to be offended but too aware of how well their children were handling things lately. “Anyhow, he and Eric are coming tonight, he said to tell you. They're bringing some kind of almond cake. And Gillam's bringing pigs in a blanket, because the kids will all eat it without complaint.”

“Well, with that sole dish, and a salad, and whatever the aunties bring, we'll be covered” mused Myra. “I need to go by Pike, get more fresh sole. How about if we ride together to Nancy's today?”

“All right” said Ginny, hiding some of her elation. “Let me go brush my teeth.”

Margie offered to clear the table so Myra could dress. She was there to wave them off, down the driveway.

At Nancy's, Myra sat on the same couch as Ginny, though at the other end. They updated Nancy individually – Ginny found Myra's nightmares intriguing in a dreadful sort of way. Nancy said, "So, what do you want from me today?"

Myra leaned forward. “I've got a couple of things.” She hesitated. “One is -- I need to root out and change whatever it is in me that -- let me throw the phone at Ginny. The violence response. I didn't know it was there." She stopped herself again and took a long breath. "The other is -- I feel like I can be affectionate with Ginny, and let her hug me. But – it's contradictory – I still feel desire for her but the idea of her touching me, or kissing me -- it makes me cold and numb to consider it."

Ginny looked almost attacked by these statements. Nancy closed her eyes and did some murmuring, her hand on Myra's pulse. When she opened her eyes, she said "They're from the same source. Nothing to do with Ginny, of course. We can work on it, but this is not a one-stage process. It will take you time, and several steps, to make these changes. It will alter you in major ways."

Now Myra looked as upset as Ginny. "Really? Shit, Nancy. Have I just been living with it all this time, or what?"

Nancy smiled. "It's been there, dormant. Congratulations on getting to a point where it got stirred up."

Myra didn't feel like celebrating. From the look on Ginny's face, neither did she. Nancy turned to Ginny. "How about you, Ginny? What's on your list?"

Ginny pulled a small manila envelope from her bag. "I...I have something to show you." She fished four black and white photographs from the envelope and put them on the coffee table in front of Nancy, arranging their order carefully. When Myra saw what they were, she leaned forward and said "Hey, those are my photos. From my family photo album. Your questions are supposed to be about you." Her voice was instantly angry.

Nancy looked at Ginny questioningly.

Ginny said, jutting out her jaw a little "I had a hunch. Actually, I've had it for a long time. And -- I'm not ready to hide things any more. I want to know what you see in those photos."

Myra was now furious. She reached out a hand, to grab the photos, but Nancy put up her palm to stop Myra and said "Let me check this out out."

Nancy looked from photo to photo, slowly and carefully. The first two were of Myra and her little brother Gil, standing side by side, arm in arm, the first when Myra was about 6, Gil 2, the second one about two years later. The children were extremely thin and dressed in shabby play clothes. In the first snapshot, their grins were big and sunny. In the second photo, the light in them had dimmed. In the third photograph, it was Myra and Gil again, but standing between them was their older brother, now a young man. Myra was about ten in this photo, and she was as far over to the edge of the shot as she could stand and still be in the picture. Gil looked nervous, Myra was stony; only the man in the middle was smiling. The fourth photograph was of Myra alone, looking over her shoulder at something behind her. She was about 12, with long hair streaming down her back and her body still bony. The expression on her face was one of loathing.

Nancy tapped the last photo and asked Myra "What are you looking at, here?"

Myra said through a clenched jaw "My brother. He'd just said something to me, and Mama snapped the photo accidentally."

Nancy paused for a moment, then said "And who took the other three photos? Your mother, also?"

"Yes, of course" Myra snapped. She turned to Ginny and said "You have no fucking right to go through my album."

"It's our family album, Myra, not just yours" retorted Ginny.

Nancy held up her hand again, stopping the exchange. She looked at Ginny and said "You wanted to know what I see? I see children in distress. I see fear, and pain, and an attempt to hide, but nothing is hidden."

"Well of course you can see that, I've told you all about my childhood, anybody can play psychic with the kind of background you've gotten" said Myra hotly.

Nancy looked at her kindly. "I'd see all that if I didn't know, Myra. It's extremely evident. The only way I could miss it is if I wanted to overlook it."

"So? Is there a fucking point to this?" said Myra.

"I'm just someone fifty years later, looking at what got captured a few instances on paper." Nancy's voice was very gentle. "But this is so obvious -- it must have been apparent to anyone who was there at the time." When Myra still looked blank, Nancy added "It was apparent to whoever took these photographs."

Myra stood up abruptly and wheeled on Ginny. "Don't you DARE try to pin this on my mother, you have no fucking idea what it she went through, your crap about mothers -- "

"Myra!" Nancy's voice stopped her.

But Ginny was not the same Ginny of last week. She'd been through the fire and survived it. She'd pulled out the album last night, after Myra went to bed alone, and lifted these photographs from their black corners to bring them in, knowing she was about to light a fuse. She faced Myra now and said, "We can't go on with me trying to make sure you never feel betrayed by me. There'll always be quicksand I can wade into as long as we have the real betrayal boxed away, the thing we can't talk about."

Myra gaped at her. She thought of five or six things to say in retaliation, things that would draw blood. She took another breath, then got down to basement level truth: "If we go here, Ginny, then I'm not going to be the mother you never had any more. If I lose my mother, you're gonna lose your replacement mother." She shocked herself with this sentence, and burst into tears.

Nancy couldn't stop grinning. She put her hands on Myra, helped her through this transition with whatever it was she did, and Myra just gave herself up to it. After Myra blew through a first obstruction, Nancy handed her a kleenex and turned to Ginny, who looked pale and shaken. She put one hand over Ginny's heart and said "You chose this. Some part of you believes you want it." Ginny cried, then, just as hard as Myra had.

After a while, in no time at all it seemed, Nancy said it was 11:30 and time for her next client. She gave them an appointment in two days and said to not expect progress any more rapid than this. Myra walked down the stairs ahead of Ginny, but when she got to the bottom, she turned and grabbed Ginny in her arms, swinging her down the last step exuberantly, saying "You are the bravest fucking woman on the planet."

Ginny wrapped both arms around Myra's neck and said "I better be, I hitched my wagon to your star, didn't I?" They laughed.

"Have you ever eaten at the Space Needle?" asked Myra.

"No -- all these decades, I never have."

"Me neither. Let's go have lunch."

"I'm sure it's incredibly expensive, and they probably require reservations" said Ginny.

"I have bribe money" said Myra. "We're getting lobster. And ahi, if they have it."

Ginny kept a tight hold on Myra, looking into her eyes. "You know I don't blame her, not really -- don't you?"

Myra got somber. "Good. She did the best she could."

"I know. But I want more than that, for you and for me."

Myra looked at Ginny for a long minute. Finally she said "You and me, Ginny Bates."

Ginny couldn't find voice. She took Myra's hand and they walked to the car.

That afternoon, Ginny was upstairs and called down to Myra “Here comes the Golden Horde. Mimi and David are racing for the gate – oh, crap, Leah just fell down.”

Myra rushed out the back door. When she opened the gate, Mimi literally fell forward onto her. Ginny was there and picked Mimi up as she screamed “Bubbe, bubbe, bubbe!” in an endless stream. David was crawling up Ginny's leg as well, so Myra went on to help Jane with Leah. Jane was squatting awkwardly, Charlie on one hip, Leah leaned against her bawling. Myra scooped up Leah and said “Did you get an owie?”

“It hurts, gramma, it hurts!” howled Leah.

“Where is it, your knee?”

“No, I missed you so much!” Leah sobbed onto her shoulder. Myra was stricken.

“Oh, baby girl, I missed you too. It's all better now, you just let it wash right out of you.” Myra eased next to Jane and transferred Charlie onto her own hip. He was looking at her wide-eyed, his hand in his mouth exactly as Gillam used to do.

“We got it from here” said Myra.

“Charlie had a vaccination this morning, he may run a fever” said Jane.

“Okay. We'll see you at dinner.”

At the gate, Myra hissed at Anthea who was considering a raid into Beebo's territory and closed the opening with one foot. Ginny and the other two were in the house. Myra set Charlie down inside the door and he trundled toward the living room, where Ginny was already at the stereo.

“Come dance with us, gramma!” called Mimi.

“In half an hour. I need to start a sponge so we can do some baking experiments later.”

Leah had stopped crying but said “I want you to dance wif me, gramma.”

“I will. Save Mah Na Vu for me, okay? Do the kinds of dance I'm not good at until I get there.” Leah consented to be set down and joined her siblings.

Myra had been afraid she would find the children draining, but instead energy flowed through her with every glance at their faces. By the end of Dance Class, Charlie had become bright red and a kiss on his forehead revealed him to be hotter than normal. As Myra set up the others at the table with floured boards and ingredients to knead into portions of dough, Ginny coaxed Charlie into her lap with a baby quilt and a fruit pop. He was cranky and got diarrhea. Finally she walked him up and down the hall until he fell asleep and she could tuck him onto the upstairs couch for a nap.

Allie and Edwina arrived early, with succotash and stuffed dates. Allie heard Charlie crying when he woke up and brought him to the kitchen, still feverish and tearful. She cradled him against her, standing against the counter where he could see everything that was going on, murmuring to him.

When Jane and Gillam walked in, David shouted “Daddy! Daddy, eat some of my bread! Mine has jelly beans and broccoli in it!”

Gillam didn't miss a beat. “I will certainly give it a taste test.”

Mimi and Leah were clamoring “Me, too.” Ginny whispered to Jane that she might want to give Leah's loaf a miss, the spice mixture could upset her stomach. As Gillam was herding kids to the bathroom for handwashing, Chris and Sima came in the front door with a green bean casserole and a gallon of Sima's seltzery orangeade. Myra was lifting crisp fillets of sole from a skillet onto brown paper to drain, but gladly leaned back into Chris's hug from behind.

Edwina helped Gillam remind the children how to set out placemats (David's chore), silverware (Mimi's chore), and this month's salt and pepper shakers from Ginny's collection of them (Leah's chore). It always took a lot more time to guide them through these actions than it would have been to do it themselves, but, as Gillam said, the point wasn't efficiency, the point was everybody contributing. As Ginny carried the massive wooden salad bowl to the table, Carly came in the back door, followed by Eric, Margie, and the dogs.

Ginny set down the bowl and hurried to Carly, hugging him around the cake carrier in his arms. Myra was there in the next second, kissing his cheek. Allie opted to keep Charlie in her lap instead of pulling out his high chair, but the rest of the children were seated with boosters and between adults. Jane said “After we get something solid into him, I think it's time for a dose of Tylenol” and Gillam nodded.

Holding hands for a moment of silence before eating was acutely sweet to Myra tonight. It had been so long since they were all together. She missed Frances but she'd be here soon. She had Leah on one side of her and Carly on the other. She was also aware of Moon under her chair, breaking Margie's rules but staying out of sight.

After almond cake, dates, and tea, Mimi voiced suspicion about being put in front of the television with adults staying in the dining room, but her siblings raced for a place on the mat. Myra set up a video while Ginny handed out quilts and pillows -- “Just to be comfortable, you don't have to go to bed yet” she reassured them. After Charlie was given his Tylenol and a bottle of warm milk, however, it seemed certain he would drop off again soon.

On the way back to the dining room, Myra said quietly to Ginny “Do you want me to sit next to you?”

Ginny stopped to think about it. “Yes, but I want Edwina on the other side.” Edwina overheard it and stood to switch chairs. They all settled in and Ginny licked her lips, then began talking.

Her account was nowhere near as coherent as Nancy's retelling had been. Myra put her arm over Ginny's shoulders a couple of minutes after she started, filled with still conflicting emotions but uppermost in her was awareness of Ginny's pain. Ginny leaned against her, and Myra closed her eyes for a moment at all the lost opportunities they had had.

Margie had to ask a few key questions to get the last details from Ginny. Margie and Gillam's faces were both tormented. Tears turned Carly's red cheeks wet and Eric was hugging him fiercely. Myra could feel Allie's fury and, reassuringly, also that of Chris. Before anyone could react, however, Frances slipped in the back door and slid into the chair next to Jane.

Allie said “You want some coffee?”

“No, I'm fine” said Frances. Her mocha chef's uniform had a dash of flour on one shoulder and spatters of what must be marinara near her left waist. She looked at Margie, who said “Mom's just told us all what happened, that's as far as we've gotten.”

Frances turned to Myra and Ginny and said “So, what would you like from us?” It was as if she was taking an order for food. Myra suddenly felt how enormously confident Frances was, and was glad for Margie.

Ginny shivered once. “Well...I'd rather none of you feel sorry for me. And likewise that you not think – I asked for it somehow. If you do feel those things, then tell me, let's clean it up.”

There was a long silence. Myra wasn't sure if Ginny's request included her. She decided to leave their difficulties for Nancy sessions. But as if to contradict her, Ginny said “Myra and I have a long row to hoe. This has brought up more than I can even comprehend at the moment. Turns out, the foundation of our relationship was based on some...misunderstandings.”

Edwina looked alarmed. “What do you mean?”

“Not about monogamy” began Ginny. “More about...How would you put it, Myra?”

“I think I've been secretly enamored of the fact that Ginny needed me in a way that she never got from her own mother” said Myra slowly. “I've interpreted that need as love because of – shit with my own mother.”

Chris laughed. “You just now seeing that one?”

“Through a glass darkly at the moment” said Myra.

“How about Ginny being hot for the idea that she was the only woman to get through to you? Has that come up, too?” continued Chris.

“It's probably related” said Myra, ignoring Jane's look of outrage and Sima's stillness.

There was a sudden yelp from the living room, sounding like Leah in protest.

“Mimi” Gillam called out in warning. No response. Moon appeared from under the table and drifted in the direction of the children.

“Go get 'em, Nana” Myra said softly. Ginny smiled at her in recognition.

Frances said, “Well, I'm here to talk with, either of you. You too, buddy boy” she said in Carly's direction.

“I'm okay” he said. “I don't want any of you to treat me differently, either.”

“Aside from our usual awestruck reverence for you, O Exalted Fartiness?” queried Eric. Carly goosed him and they began wrestling. David's voice came from the doorway, repeating “Ex Malted Fartiness?” in a delighted tone.

“Back to the dungeon with you” ordered Gillam, laughing. In a minute, they heard the three older children repeating “fartiness” with endless hilarity.

Frances said “I need to get back, but I've got a question for Allie. I want to know how come you insisted Myra stay in this house with Ginny. Honestly, if it had been me that freaked out, I'd have needed to go elsewhere and chill.”

Allie looked at Myra and said “Okay for me to dig into this?” Myra nodded.

“Well, I agree, for most folks, taking a break woulda been fine. But they was a few reasons why it would stink for Myra. First off, her family dealt with all they problems by just moving on down the road, packing the trailer and haulin' ass. She didn't learn much about keeping your nest clean, not till she was grown and, well, around decent folks like me.” Allie grinned at Myra, who was somber, taking in this picture of herself.

“Of all the wimmins Myra busted out from, they was only one who didn't let her move out, move on. That was Karin, who kept on living with her while Myra struck up with Judit. Karin waited on her six months before taking off. That was enough time for Myra to see what she'd done, to start noticing she was making a mistake. It was too late, that time, but I knew she'd come back to earth sooner this go-round.”

Ginny was staring at Myra. Myra felt some regret at giving Allie the okay to talk.

“Also, that whole hurlin' the phone thing: Myra was acting like Ginny was a physical threat, like she had a right to attack. You don't reward that by letting someone run. That just chicken shit.”

Chris was laughing and nodding.

“And, third – the great gift of this family, this hanging onto one another that we have somehow done, is that we get to see how we all love each other, up close and daily. Myra needed to see that we weren't going to ditch Ginny, because we want her. She needed a chance to begin missing Ginny, and she was more likely to do that here in the house than holed up in a motel. Myra's imagination can create whole alternate universes, she need steel cable sometimes to tie her down in a tempest.”

Myra said to Allie gently “How did you get to be so fucking smart about me?”

“Well, I by god ought to be after all this time. We the oldest relationship in the room” said Allie.

“I owe you one” said Myra.

“You do, and I'll collect” said Allie. “Now, I got a question for you. I wanna hear about you Mama poofing outta thin air out there by the whale shark. All the details.”

Frances gave Margie a swift kiss and left for the store as Myra began telling her story. After a couple of minutes, she noticed Leah trying to hide by the doorway. She stopped and called her name, waving Leah toward her lap. With that, Mimi and David arrived too. Allie held up a finger for Myra to wait and went to get Charlie, asleep but no longer feverish. Moon and Gidg accepted their moment of attention in Myra's story, as sentinels who had informed Margie of ghostly manifestation. Leah had her fingers wrapped tight around Myra's thumb, her eyes wide.

But it was Margie who took over, mimicking Jo's voice again and milking the episode's drama. “I wish I'd heard her” said Ginny enviously.

“Is she our guardian angel?” asked David. Myra was startled. Jane said apologetically “Lucy and Seth tell their boys they have guardian angels.”

“I believe she's looking out for us, yes” said Gillam. “Even before me and Margie were born, she was there.”

“Before I was born, too, Daddy?” asked Mimi.

“I would imagine so” he replied. Mimi considered for a minute, then said “So if I ask her for a pony, could she get me one?”

They all burst into laughter. Gillam swept Mimi into the air and said “Let's go home, we've got about half an hour left for play time before baths and bed. Tomorrow is a school day for me.”

After they left, the rest of the family moved into the living room, to keep talking about other things. Sima pulled Ginny down next to her on the couch and held her hand. Myra lay on the mat with a dog on either side of her. In minutes, she had fallen asleep. She woke up there the next morning, covered with a comforter, her pillow under her head, Keller at her hip.


© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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LOLCATS WEEKLY ROUND-UP, 6 JANUARY 2009

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.



































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Monday, January 5, 2009

GINNY BATES: IN LIEU OF GIFTS...

Photo of bright green door (Green door photo by Barbara Rossi at Los Zacatitos, Baja California)

It's shorter than usual, but here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. -- I don't want to keep you waiting too much. 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 2018

Myra discovered she was hungry again, despite having had breakfast. She went to a diner, ordered hash browns with her patty melt, and asked for cranberry juice instead of a Coke. She read a newspaper slowly, sitting on a stool at the end of a counter, through the lunch rush. Her mind was working on another level, she could tell.

When she got home, Ginny was putting together a salad with endive and baby carrots. “You want some of this?” she offered.

“No, I ate. But it looks good” said Myra. She felt like it was an effort to make normal conversation.


“Margie just left. I had another long cry with her.” Myra noticed Ginny's face color was more normal that it had been in – well, however long it had been. Ginny continued “There's a message on the machine from Claire. She wants to know more about our anniversary party” said Ginny. She and Myra looked at each other, and to Ginny's relief, Myra laughed.

“Well, fuck if I know” said Myra.

“Same here. Maybe we can send out a general e-mail saying that due to personal demands, the party has to be cancelled this year” said Ginny, with a grin.

“Personal demands, huh. We could say in lieu of an anniversary gift, they could contribute to our couples' counseling fund” replied Myra. At least they could laugh about it.

She joined Ginny at the table while Ginny ate. “When the grandkids come tomorrow, what shall we do with them?” she asked.

“Well...what do we think others have not been doing with them?” said Ginny.

“Dance Class” said Myra instantly. “And – we could make bread with science experiments thrown in, like altering ingredients.”

“With those mini loaf pans you got them” said Ginny. “They can take home anything that tastes awful.”

“Which reminds me, I probably need to make a grocery run” said Myra.

“I filled the crisper. But yeah, we're out of milk, eggs, a lot of fresh stuff” said Ginny. “This is the last of that Jarlsberg.” She was wolfing her lunch. Myra got up to look through the fridge and pantry.

“I can vacuum and mop later, too” said Ginny. She carried her empty bowl to the sink and rinsed it. “I know you're not complaining, but first I'm going to wash myself, a long soak in the tub.”

Without thinking, Myra said “You want me to scrub your back for you?”

There was a long silence. She met Ginny's eyes, which went smudgy as Ginny said “I'd love it.”

While Ginny started her bath water, Myra called Claire back and left a message. She sent a brief e-mail update to her family, then rolled up her sleeves and went in the bathroom. Ginny was just stepping into the tub. Myra looked at her ass, a different shape now than the first time she saw Ginny naked but inexpressibly familiar and beautiful to her. She closed her eyes for a moment against the longing that roiled her stomach. When she opened them again, Ginny was seated and watching her.

"At least we both miss each other" she said. "That's better than not missing."

Myra closed the bathroom door against breezes and pulled over the footstool, sitting on it beside the tub. She picked up the plastic cup in the corner and said "How about if I wash your hair first?"

Ginny leaned forward and Myra filled the cup with hot water, then poured it slowly over Ginny's thick white cap, repeating until Ginny's head was soaked. With the hair flattened by wetness, Myra could see pink scalp underneath. She rubbed her thumbs along Ginny's hairline and temples, loosening the muscles as she went, then traveled her hands across the bowl of Ginny's head, pulling very gently on the short hair to increase blood flow. She finished with her thumbs inside the tip of each of Ginny's ears, and swirled the pad of her thumb down the ear curve and onto the stirrup before the canal.

She poured a handful of apricot shampoo into her palm, spread it into the other palm, and began tenderly rubbing shampoo into Ginny's hair. Ginny closed her eyes, her face flushed and intent. When Ginny's head was a tight cap of suds, Myra coaxed her backwards slowly and lowered Ginny into the water until just her face was exposed. Holding her with one hand, she used the other to rinse Ginny's hair until it floated in clean snowy spikettes in an arc around her head. Then Myra pulled her back up, wiping water away from Ginny's eyes and cheeks.

"You look a little like a baby fur seal" she said, kissing Ginny's forehead. She tugged Ginny toward her so Ginny could lean her arms on the side, her head on her arms, and began soaping Ginny's back, using her thumbs and the heels of her hands to explore every muscle and vertebrae. She took a long, slow time about it. When she finally said "You can lie back in the water now and rinse", the water had cooled off enough to need a recharge from the hot faucet.

"Thank you, Ginny" she said softly. Ginny's eyes were begging her not to go. Myra stood up, with an audible creak from her knees and a wince of pain, and dried her hands on a towel. Ginny said “Don't go to Pike without me, okay? I want to go with you.”

“All right” said Myra. “I'm going to start some laundry, if you won't be needing more hot water.”

For dinner, Myra ground hazelnuts into meal and coated two big fillets of sole with it before frying them. Ginny made anchovy butter, and put together a bulgar salad with various steamed veggies from the garden. As they were sitting down, Gillam appeared at the back door.

“Are you hungry?” asked Myra, noticing what a reflex that was for her.

“We're going to eat in ten minutes” he said. “David is crying because he doesn't want to eat chopped steak, he says it makes his teeth feel ooky.”

Myra and Ginny laughed. He stared at them, drinking in the sight.

“Listen...Margie called me on my cell as I was taking the bus home. She told me what happened.” His shoulders were stiff, Myra noticed.

“Are you here for confirmation?” asked Ginny. “Because I'm sure Margie got it right.”

“No, I – I just wanted to tell you how very sorry I am, what you've been through, and that I love you. Both of you.” He bent over Ginny and she pushed her face against his chest, her eyes leaking tears. Myra patted his arm. Of course Mama would have chosen him to be our first she thought suddenly.

“I also want you to know – after dinner, after I get the kids settled into a game at the table with Jane, Margie and I are going to talk with Carly. And Eric, of course. We want to be the ones to tell him.” Gillam's eyes were very somber.

“Oh, boychik, that would be ever so much the best” Myra said. “Only, let him know he's not to avoid us or feel like he can't ask for help from us -- “

Ginny was noticing that use of “us”. Gillam said “I'm sure he knows it, Mom.”

“We're planning on having the aunties to dinner tomorrow night, for a group talk. You're all invited, of course. The issue is what to do with the kids while we try to have a serious conversation” said Ginny.

“Well...We could plop them in front of a video. I mean, technically Charlie's not a year old yet, and we said no TV for any of them before that age, but he's almost there” mused Gillam.

“I have that set of old Reading Rainbow episodes, they're not much different from reading a book” ventured Myra.

“I'll talk it over with Jane. If we do come, should we invite Carly and Eric, too?”

“Absolutely” said Myra. “But let me know, so I can plan the meal accordingly.”

“Can I have a taste of that fish?” Gillam said to Myra. “It looks incredible.”

Myra held out her fork. “It's a winning recipe. I'll bring it to the next singing Sunday.”

There it was, a commitment to the future thought Ginny.

After dinner, awkwardness returned.

“What – you've not been painting, right?” asked Myra.

“God no” said Ginny.

“What did you do with that painting?” Myra's voice was hesitant.

“I put it away. The thing is – it was a portrait of you. So I'm reluctant to scrape it down, you understand.” Ginny managed a grin. “But...I don't know what I'll do with it.”

“Well, I know Allie would bitch at me, but all I want to do right now is go watch television” said Myra. “I'm worn out. I'll try to not choose crap, I'll do that much. It helps me go to sleep.”

Ginny couldn't fill the silence that ensued, all that was going unsaid. Finally she said “I'll vacuum and mop now, then. Shut your door so the dust doesn't bother you.”

Myra moved her arm, stopped herself, then came forward and hugged Ginny, slowly and closely. “I wish it was as easy as waiting for a test result to come in from the clinic” she whispered.

“Sweet dreams, Myra” Ginny whispered back.


© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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