Saturday, March 15, 2008

(This continues the posting of chapters of The Brides of March--sorry for the one-day delay)

Supplying the Troops

“Why is marriage so important to you that you are camping all night to get a license?” “What makes you want to go through a legal marriage ceremony?” “Where will you get married when you get your license?” “Will you rush right out, or wait to plan a wedding?”

Chris, Terri, and Jannine fielded all of the above and more, Chris often taking the “this is an important legal step, not just for us, but for all gay people seeking the right to marriage” angle in her calm, reasonable, radio-ready tones; Terri the “this is about equality” stand in emphatic, forthright, and eminently quotable sentences; and Jannine responding in her usual folksy style that she deserves “the same rights and privileges as any Oregonian, and the same protections for our children,” and that she was there to make her relationship at long last legal.

I wasn’t doing my own job of protecting our children too well at the time. I let Duncan and Anna go ahead and watch the movie School of Rock by themselves, hoping blindly that Jack Black wouldn’t do anything too risqué. I stuck Graeme in the baby backpack, which he tolerates with good grace, and headed to the basement to look for the port-a-potty accompanied by our enormous Labrador, who nervously shadowed my every move, his body language saying, “What’s up? What’s up? What’s up?”

Would it really happen? I hoisted the port-a-potty up the stairs, checked that there was a bucket and a plastic bag inside, and set it by the front door. Would we really be able to get a license and get married? I shoved a dozen nutrition bars into a freezer bag. Would there be an injunction before we could have our seventeen-year union recognized? The camping area next, water bottles, sleeping bags…

Could this all be real? Would we really, in the eyes of the law, be married? The camera, I had to remember the camera!

There was a heap by the door when Marty knocked, ready to transport young humans and gear to the County Building.
“Can you believe it?” were her first words when I opened the door. Like me, she had a wild-eyed expression that signaled joy, hope, doubt, and shock all in one.
It was oh-so fitting that Marty’s mom gave them the news, because Marty knows everything first. If you want to know how to get somewhere, not only will she know where it is, she will remember the exact route, the exit numbers, the mileage, and an alternative route. She’s an obsessive newspaper reader who can analyze both political policy and the personal history of the guy who lives down the street with equal ease, and is hopelessly addicted to the obituaries.
Her partner, Terri, has the calm competence that made her the one we ran to when Duncan slammed a metal screen door on his finger years ago, the fingernail punching through to the other side, knowing she would take him through the obligatory clean-up kindly. She offers assistance with splinters, head knocks, and obscure medical conditions, her heart always in the right place.
Their daughter, McKenzie, appeared in the doorway, muffled up to the eyeballs for the weather, “Are we ready to go now?” A take-no-prisoners girl with a mind of her own and chestnut ringlets, she wanted to be in on the action. Duncan and Anna pulled on coats and hats, and fairly flew down the front steps to the sidewalk. We squeezed the camping port-a-potty and our pile into the back of their already stuffed van (chairs, coolers, blankets, a laptop?) and Graeme and I waved as they drove off.
It felt anti-climactic to send the kids off with Marty, and wrong to not join Jannine in line, but a happy and well-rested baby comes first, especially if you might get married in the morning. Achieving happy and well-rested could be challenging, I knew, since Graeme was newly weaned, and I had no idea what the night might hold.
I’d cold turkey’d him at six o’clock the previous morning, one precious last feeding before buttoning up the milk source. It was a hard decision, but seemed necessary since sleep deprivation was getting to me both physically and psychologically, and fast becoming expensive. The previous week, I’d run into a pole at the video return box, putting a five hundred dollar dent in our new minivan, then inadvertently written a bad check to the orthodontist (wrong checking account), and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the check had bounced.
While I am the kind of mother who would happily nurse her offspring up to the preschool years, I told myself (with the emotional support of some good friends) that I needed to be a good mother not just to number three, but to numbers one and two as well, and I needed a brain for that.This weaning thing is not just emotionally challenging, but logistically as well. He screamed himself silly for forty minutes the previous evening at bedtime (while furiously trying to pull up my T-shirt), before collapsing across my body, exhausted from his tirade. I’d sent everyone else to another floor of the house so they could sleep in peace. From experience, I knew he would survive this. I believed it was crueler to wean him bit by bit: “Will she nurse me now, or later? When will it be time? Where did the milk go? Why is she messing with my mind?” I could tell that when he screamed he wasn’t terrified, or anguished, or deeply in sorrow. He was mad. So I held him, and soothed him, and steadfastly refused to lift my shirt. I’d done this before.

1 comment:

Charlotte Robinson said...

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