I am so fortunate to live close enough to New York City and to have the financial means necessary to take advantage of the amazing performances and art that the city offers.
And a full day of seeing Cate live on stage in The Present and then playing 13 different characters on 13 different screens for the Manifesto art installation made for a very awestruck, weak in the knees, me.
Having a guaranteed pension and health benefits that has allowed me to say “take this job and shove it.” I didn’t really say that - in fact I am forever grateful for a career that I loved and the wonderful people I have collaborated with over the years. I am acutely aware that it is a great privilege to be able to now retire with no financial worries.
Meryl Streep. I am not big on celebrities using award shows to espouse political views but wow, you just have to love Meryl when she nails it.
Choosing my word for the year WOTY - “Marriage”. After having shared our lives for over a quarter century, I have found that I take Martha for granted. We do indeed finish each other’s sandwiches. So this year, now legally married, I am going to refresh my primary relationship by creating and sharing new adventures, upping my appreciation, and centering on gentle kindness, even when she is on my last nerve.
In 1988 I fled my former life in a trauma induced flight, running away from too painful memories. I came here as a numb, shell shocked person in need of anonymity and isolation. I met Martha at work and she very quietly and gently extended her hand and then her heart. I was in no good place for a relationship but she was patient and kind and I eventually allowed myself to lean into her.
Although I have only vague memories of our beginnings, we gradually began a life together. She suffered through the worst of my PTSD and stuck with me through some intensely scary and shitty times. We found ways to overcome the obstacles. Eventually we made a commitment to each other and exchanged rings to seal it.
A few years later we had children, but marriage was not an option available to us. Or any gay couple. Although we felt strong in our bonds the reality was that if we had broken up, she, as the biological mother, could have kept me from seeing our daughters. And on the other hand, I would have had no legal obligation to financially support our children. Laws were not on our side at the time, nor did they do anything to protect the children of gay couples.
In 2011 New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act and suddenly, after 20+ years together we had the option to marry. However, our daughters were now about to go to college and it was to their benefit that my income was not included in financial aid packages, so we didn’t.
College years ended and we thought about marriage but decided that we really didn’t need it after more than a quarter century together. We were happy and didn’t want or need anything to change.
But then Trump. What will the Trump/Republican administration mean for gay folks? We have no idea but decided it was probably time we protect ourselves from a very iffy future. And so we decided to get married to hopefully protect what we have built together.
We had hoped we could just sign some papers to make it legal. But no. My friend the Town judge explained that in New York State you need to get a license, make at least one promise to each other, have two adult witness it, and have an officiant oversee the whole thing. And then she begged to do the ceremony. (Fortunately you do not have to exchange rings because we have worn commitment rings for so long, and have gained so much weight since we put them on, we doubted if we could ever get them back off to exchange again) We then found one possible night that she was available, Peachie would be visiting from Boston and Beaner could get home from work in time. It was a court night so we knew we would just have to wait for court to be over for the judge to come to our house. And then we had a snow storm. We were a little panicked that it might not all come together. But Beaner left work early to beat the snow and traffic and the storm cut court short so the judge arrived by early.
She had given us some sample ceremonies to choose from but they were all written for newlyweds, so we wrote a new one to better reflect our long term relationship. This is a small part of our ceremony:
You two have been together long enough and have been through enough challenges to know about loving with your hands and heart wide open, making space for one another to be the person she is and needs to be. Your commitment to each other is further evidenced in the love and lives of your daughters.
Please take each other’s hands so that you may know the gift that they hold for you. These are the hands of your best friend, strong and full of love for you as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it, support and encouragement to pursue your dreams, and comfort in difficult times. And lastly, these are the hands that years from now will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just one touch.
8thday, do you accept Martha as your partner in life, to honor and tenderly care for her, to cherish and encourage her, to share your life openly through your years together, and in all the joys and sorrows that life may bring you?
Martha do you accept 8thday as your partner in life, to honor and tenderly care for her, to cherish and encourage her, to share your life openly through your years together, and in all the joys and sorrows that life may bring you?
And with that we were officially married.
Nothing felt different.
A couple of days later we got a congratulations card from Beaner’s best friend, my bonus daughter since they were 3 years old. Inside her fiance wrote this:
While I’m sure being married on paper won’t change much about your day to day lives, your relationship is one I could stand to learn from. As I’ve grown to know you better over the last few years, I always leave your home smiling. Your home is always filled with laughter, love and joy. You are a role model for me and I hope to share the love and kindness you have shared with us with our kids one day. You two being together makes the world a better place.
People say that marriage changes you. I really hope that, for us, it doesn’t change a thing.
This coming week we will be celebrating Beaner’s 25th birthday (wow, am I really that old!) with cake on her birthday and then traditional overeating at her favorite Italian restaurant a couple of days later when her sister gets home.
Tomorrow we are hosting a brunch for all 9 of her college housemates who are coming to help celebrate with her this weekend. Over the years we have become very close to all of them and they feel like 9 bonus daughters.
We are also squeezing in a celebration for Peachie’s huge job promotion and Beaner’s boyfriend’s admittance into medical school.
Then, of course, all the food, family and friends that are our 4 day Christmas tradition of non-stop eating.
I am also looking a little bit forward because the following week I am going to New York City for this:
I scored great seats to her Broadway debut and I will be drooling.
It’s been a month since the election and I still find myself saying “I can’t believe Americans have elected a Fascist”. I am fearful of the evil and hate that is bubbling up, sadly even in isolated incidents in my progressive, blue state region. I can’t imagine what is must be like in more conservative parts of the country.
Recently I attended a gardening seminar. The master gardener was very informative about how a garden was a complex system which needed to be tended through all seasonal cycles. Each part is highly dependent on the other. Much of what he said could be a metaphor for our society but what struck me most was this statement:
“The bug on the rose is evil, but so is the person who sees only the bug.”
Last Saturday the KKK had a rally in North Carolina where supporters gave the Nazi salute as a convoy of 30+ vehicles paraded down the main street, flying confederate flags. Evil is now being openly paraded and cheered.
The same day I went to a rally for love, planned to counter the North Carolina rally. Speeches about love and caring for our neighbors were given, plans were made to help protect those who may be targeted and we marched from one park to another, holding hand made signs that said “Peace on Earth” and “Love Forever”. One child held a sign that said “Mr.Trump, please be nice to others.”
One of the organizers was a Muslim woman I know from my town who organizes birthday parties for homeless children. How beautiful is that?
America had an election and did not get what it expected but perhaps got what it deserved. I think we have neglected our garden in many ways and we are now paying the price. Every day my news feed is filled with dramatic fear mongering and yes, we are facing a very evil threat to our environment, our people, our garden. We need to get back to work and eradicate the evil bug that has invaded.
But we also must not forget to appreciate and nurture the beauty that remains around us. Nature still astounds and reminds us what we are fighting for. There are so many good people who work to protect the marginalized and so many neighbors who take care of their neighbors. For every instance of evil I read about, I see a hundred instances of love and beauty. It gives me hope.
“The bug on the rose is evil, but so is the person who sees only the bug.”
Walking to work, waiting to cross the street, a school bus stopped to pick me up. A school bus! I assume the driver was probably a substitute driver, and quite possibly blind, but at my age I’ll take whatever compliments I can get.
Cheesecake Factory now sells this - Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Topped with Hazelnut Crunch and Nutella. And damn it is good.
Anticipating a rather politically volatile Thanksgiving gathering, one of the more liberal in-laws texted those of similar leanings “if the conversation gets uncomfortable for anyone, just say “craisins” and we will try to change the subject.” It was only said once when a vegan muttered it when the talk turned to hunting, and then one false alarm when someone asked to have the craisin stuffing passed. With everyone on their best behavior, I had a very loud (2 televisions with football, 4 hyper toddlers, 4 rambunctious and opinionated about football men and 1 almost deaf grandmother who everyone yelled at) but very loving and abundant holiday.
Peachie came home early for Martha’s birthday as a surprise. And a delightful surprise it was. Most especially nice was that Beaner stayed with us also. It warms my heart to see my daughters snuggled up together in bed, sharing sister secrets, like when they were little.
And since everyone was home we went and got the tree together and put up most of the decorations. It is still November, the yard is all buttoned up, and most of the holiday preparations are already done. I can now spend December cozily nesting, baking cookies, wrapping presents and enjoying the joyful blessings of the season. And that is a grateful life.
I know this holiday will be especially difficult for some people. I, myself, will be heading into redneck country. But as Maya Angelou said “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” My wish is that, no matter what our differences, we can all find something especially beautiful and loving to be grateful for. . . . and then get out before it blows.