Marginal Thoughts on a New Life: Ogunquit, July 2010

26 07 2010

It’s 6:30 am on a summer Sunday morning. My iPod delivers the first “whoa whoa whoa”s of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” into my waiting eardrums as I set out to walk the length and back of Ogunquit Maine’s Marginal Way. Leaving Kelly sleeping off last night’s “Tini” part of our dinner at “Tapas and Tinis,” I walk and walk feeling the warm early morning sun on my cheeks as I share the walkway with serious joggers, early morning fisherman, and the occasional retiree with coffee and paper. The tide is just beginning to return to the shore. I grew up on an island, I know the rhythm of tides as well as I know the overture to “Gypsy,” I should find it comforting, familiar… but I don’t. I feel restless, unsettled, and as if I’m looking for something. I continue through Perkins Cove and over the drawbridge as far as I can before I run out of walkway. Reluctantly I decide against tramping through stranger’s front yards and turn back towards the village where I buy a coffee and a paper and sit outside with a family with early-waking toddlers and a group of elderly men partaking in what is clearly a weekly if not daily ritual of coffee and company.

I try to focus on my Maine Sunday Telegram but instead my thoughts wander and I find myself thinking, not for the first time, what it would be like to live in this village, to be a part of a town part artist colony, part tourist destination, part gay and lesbian hotspot. To be part of the community, work on committees for town celebrations, know my neighbors, and complain about the logjam of tourists every summer. For the past few months Kelly and I have been talking seriously about selling the condo once Liza goes off to college and moving this “beautiful place by the sea.” Make no mistake about it, this is not some ill-thought-out plan that presupposes every day will feel like vacation (like when Kelly moved to New Orleans because Mardi Gras was so much fun. . .not the most brilliant of ideas). For me it would be returning to my home state and most of all returning to a place in the world where the tides help define the rhythm of life and the smell of salt is thick in the summer air and you feel part of a town that knows you.

Before heading back to New Hampshire we spend the day driving neighborhood after neighborhood in Ogunquit and into neighboring York ,looking at houses and speculating about cost and where the nearest grocery store would be and how we’d make a living. We know our real estate and know that even the tiniest ramshackle cottage costs four times what I paid for my condo. Kelly and I are well matched on excursions like this. She goes right to “Would you want the gray clapboard shingles? I like the natural tan ones better,” and persists in driving down long windy drives to million dollar homes that would never in my wildest dreams be ours. I’m the realist. The one who tempers her enthusiasm with “if we even manage to be able to afford to move to Ogunquit you need to know there’s no way on this earth we can live on the ocean.” Usually her enthusiasm is contagious and I find myself thinking about waking each morning to the sound of surf as I did throughout my childhood, to coffee on my deck, to finally having a home that can indulge my love for company, where Liza could return on school breaks with friends. I imagine her rolling her eyes and saying “come visit me in Ogunquit. We’ll go to the beach to get away from my moms, they’re driving me crazy. “ But today I can’t shake the restless frustration that dogged me during my morning walk. It’s more than a longing for something that I know is well, well beyond my means. I grew up among the rich and super rich, and spend my working days asking them for charitable gifts. I’ve long since moved past being envious of a monied lifestyle. It’s not envy of the wealthy whose houses open onto ocean vistas that fills me now. My vision of our life in Ogunquit has never been one of material things or a fancy home. What churns inside me now is a battle between the voice cautioning me not to dream this too hard, I’ll only be let down and the one telling me if I don’t dream it, if I don’t cling to it I will surely be let down. This life I’m about to embark on with Kelly by my side calls for something more, something that will make all the parts whole. A true extreme life makeover. I don’t want to raise money for the rest of my life, I don’t want to foot the bill for someone else’s creativity anymore. I’m selfish. I want my own life of writing and performing and waking each morning excited about what the day will bring rather than resigned to another day of lists and grants and spreadsheets and ticket sales. It is this restlessness I felt on my morning walk, the niggling feeling of knowing where I want to be but unsure how to get there. Allowing myself to be content in the moment of the morning is suspect…I know it’s fleeting and soon I have to return home to my ‘real life.’ I’m grumpy with Kelly, sullen and uncommunicative on the ride home, resenting the inevitable march toward Monday morning.

Kelly, as usual, is patient with me, giving me some space and teasing me out of my funk with her humor and a particularly well-made Caesar salad for dinner. Later that night as we sit together for the premiere of Mad Men comfortably sharing space on the sectional, I realize that seven years ago I fought similar voices inside of me. The ones telling me to stuff a longing for a different life down deep inside me where no one would find it, to ignore it, to fight it and it would go away along with voice that told me that not fighting for this new life meant slowly dying inside. I realize I have already done what I once thought was impossible. Started over, found and been found by love and forged a new path for myself, a journey that in two months time will culminate with marrying the woman who saved me, who loves me, who laughs with and at me, and who showed me that daring to dream a new life isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. I turn to her and joke that if we wait 11 years to move to Ogunquit I’ll be eligible to live in a 55+ planned community. She smiles and says “we won’t wait that long I promise.” And I believe her. And in that moment I let the dream come in and open the door to a life by the sea that I know is out there for us. Even if now it exists only in the margins of my mind.


My Real Mother’s Day

15 05 2010

May 15, 1999 fell on a Saturday, just like today. The weather was spring-warm, the way I like it – not yet too hot. Outside our neighbors on our quiet cul-de-sac were already appearing in their yards to mulch their gardens, plant flowers and mow the lawn. This meant that virtually the entire neighborhood was there to see me lower my enormous 9 months and 3 days pregnant body into our tiny Dodge Colt and head off to the hospital. Finally. It was time, time to meet the restless daughter who had grown inside me for 9 months, sticking her feet under my ribs, kicking in indignation anytime I rested anything on my giant belly (my ex husband used to delight in putting the TV remote there only to watch it fly off after a well placed kick from the baby), and plaguing me with the kind of heartburn that made me feel like an ad for Tums. Our journey to the hospital just a mile or two away felt like something that had been scripted for an old 1970s sitcom. The road we took was under construction, unpaved and bumpy – just the way women in labor like it! A boy on a bicycle darted out into the street causing my ex- husband to slam on the breaks and me to actually utter the line “do that again and this baby is going to be born in the car.” Once at the hospital we watched an elderly couple board the elevator and as David said politely – “we’ll get the next one,” I countered with ‘HOLD THAT ELEVATOR!” There are times when the ability to project to the back row of a theater comes in handy. This was one of those times. Finally safely ensconced in the labor and delivery room as I clung to the cool calm hand of my L&D nurse (A woman I will never forget by the way, I may not remember what I had for breakfast an hour after I eat it but I will always remember her cool hand and her calm, caring demeanor.) Continuing our streak of zingers and wacky set-ups I remember telling her that as hard as I was trying to be strong it really, really REALLLY hurt and I thought I needed something for the pain. Assuring me she would do so as soon as she checked my progress she suddenly got a funny look on her face and said “oh honey, I can’t give you anything.” “WHAT? WHY?”, I wailed. “Because I have your baby’s head in my hands that’s why. She’s almost here!”

I should have known then. I should have known that one miss Elizabeth Rose (named for St. Elizabeth Seton and my favorite aunt Rose) was going to make her entrance a dramatic one. Forty-five minutes later there she was, red-faced, screaming at the indignity of the bright lights, and submitting to her bath where a flock of cooing nurses exclaimed over having a baby with so much thick hair they needed to shampoo and comb it out with the world’s tiniest little baby comb. (Thinking about this moment eleven years later I realize it was her first stop in hair and makeup).

Eleven years. Eleven years since that warm Saturday in May. I realize in the grand scheme of motherhood this is nothing. I know that women with older teens or grown children, smile indulgently at this statement (or roll their eyes) the same way I do when I talk to the mom of an infant or a toddler. We’re all thinking the same thing “Oh honey, that’s nothing. You have no idea what you still have to get through.” But eleven years of being Liza’s mom has taught me a great deal. I’ve been surprised at the things (good and bad) I am capable of and comforted by the confirmation of things I have always known – surprised at my capacity to love and my capacity for anger and frustration, surprised at my ability to care for another human being so completely, and comforted by how complete I feel at the touch of a small hand in mine or the sensation of my body curved around a smaller version of myself during a midsummer thunderstorm.

Never a big believer in giving things for the sake of giving, I’ve always tried to do special things for Liza’s birthdays – tickets to a concert or a special day trip for example. This year, at her request we gave her a complete room makeover – new paint, new comforter and curtains, new ‘wall art,” — the works. Gone are the ballerina lamp and comforter we picked out when we moved into my condo when she was five – replaced by bright polka dots, pink baskets for her scarves and accessories, a new mirror for the endless analyzing of the right shade of lip gloss, and bulletin boards full of photos of her and her friends from school, dance and theater. As I surveyed Kelly’s painting handiwork and the new and improved ‘ready for tweendom’ accessories, I felt a tug on my heart at the little girl trappings that had been boxed up and put away – replaced by “body mist” from Bath and Body works, a stage makeup kit, a journal, and a stack of novels. My baby girl was really gone, embarked on a journey toward adolescence and all the heartbreak, laughter, and angst that accompanies it. This morning as we paused at Liza’s door with her ready for “the big reveal,” as they call it on reality television I said a silent goodbye to her infancy, her toddlerhood, and her young childhood and readied myself for the years to come. Yet after the squeals of excitement and the “O M G”s , Liza asked if it was ok to put back up a fabric she made in daycare 10 years ago – a print of her tiny 1 year old hand with the sentiment ‘put your hand in mine, and I’ll be there any time.” It had been my first Mother’s Day gift from her and we had placed it on her bedroom wall after my divorce as a pledge that we would always be there for each other. When we redecorated I took it down, thinking it might be too childish for her now. When she asked for it back I got my Mother’s Day present all over again. Her hand in mine, now twice the size of the tiny hand on the fabric print. And while that hand doesn’t reach for mine as often as it used to, and while those newly 11-year old eyes roll at me a dozen times a day or more, and while cute tiny overalls and onesies have been replaced by tiny denim shorts and tank tops, underneath it all is that same baby who screamed head-long into my life this day eleven years ago. Happy birthday Liza Rose and thanks for the best Mothers’ Day ever.

Dear People of Maine

8 11 2009

maine-lighthouse Dear People of Maine:

This summer I wrote about taking my family to Maine for a    vacation.  I wrote of the deep love I feel for that stretch of Southern Maine from Oqunquit to Falmouth that holds the memories of my childhood and teenage years in every mile.  I wrote about long days on the beach chasing waves, searching for sand dollars, and grappling with the ghosts of family who haunted me at every turn. I wrote about the satisfaction of sharing stories of skee-ball prowess at Old Orchard with my brother and illicit bar crawls through Portland with my sister.  I wrote of the quiet emptiness that came of gathering at my parent’s gravesite and the need to connect with my home state and its people in places as pedestrian as the local Hannaford or cultured as the Portland Museum of Art.  During our days and nights on Higgins Beach we blended seamlessly with every other family there.  Why shouldn’t we?  We, after all, were just another family trying to keep the beach umbrella from blowing away and wondering if 10am was too early to open the big bag of sour cream and onion potato chips.  The fact that my family had two moms instead of a mom and a dad never turned anyone’s head. And really, why should it have?  In fact the house we rented for that glorious week belonged to an old friend from high school and her wife.  Clearly this was a welcoming community in a welcoming state.

As we drove down Route One that August Saturday on our way home, crammed into my jeep Liberty, tanned, with our stash of Len Libby Chocolate jammed near the air conditioning vents so it wouldn’t melt, I felt a tug at my heart as I realized that as much as I’ve come to feel at home in the rocky individualistic landscape of New Hampshire, Maine would always be the home that welcomed me back again and again.

Until last Tuesday.

Last spring when Maine Governor John Baldacci gave his stamp of approval to legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry I rejoiced.  The momentum of that act carried forward to June when New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed marriage equality into law as well.   Kelly and I talked about how great it was to have the option to either get married here in the state we both call home or perhaps to entertain ideas of a seaside wedding in Ogunquit, our favorite quick jaunt destination.   During those days it never occurred to me that the people of Maine would vote to approve a referendum grounded in  hatred, discrimination, and injustice and take away the right that had been granted.   When I woke Wednesday morning to the news of the previous days voting on Referendum One I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach.  To quote the character I’m playing in a show right now “how selfish and how cruel.”  Selfish to feel that one has the audacious right to vote on whether another human being can marry the person she loves and cruel to exercise that vote with such callous disregard for the people and families it will affect.

This week had been hard on many fronts.  Liza was sick and out of school for two days which necessitated the tried and true “working mom of a sick kid” juggling act.  Two shows at the theater I work at had me driving back to work as soon as Kelly got home from her job as a nurse to relieve me at home.  A long frustrating search for a costume for my show had left me as usual hating the oversized and oddly-shaped body I inhabit and envying the young slender women who had a world of costumes to choose from.  By Saturday tempers were flaring at home as the stir-craziness of the sick house set in.  My peri-menopausal hormones in full swing I snapped at Liza for her attitude and petulance and burst into tears when Kelly made a joke about my costume hunt.  When I returned from the theater that evening, I was greeted by a scene that made me cry for completely different reasons.  Kelly informed me she and Liza had shared many long talks, folded laundry together, made and ate dinner together (Liza set and cleared the table), researched astrology and family trees on the internet, and that during that time Kelly had gently asked Liza to “give mommy a break now and then.”  The house of turmoil I had left was clean and calm.  I apologized for my tears and outburst and they shared the knowing look of two people who had decided the third was lovably crazy and told me it was ok.  As we turned in for the night I reflected on how blessed I was to have my girls.

This family scene could have been replayed thousands of times over in homes all across the country.  The fact that the players were two women and a child rather than a man, woman, and child bears no consequence.  This is my family, yes but at the end of the day it is just a family like any other — one full of hugs and hurts and tears and misunderstandings and game nights and grocery store runs and school chorus concerts and holiday traditions and vacation trips to the beaches of Maine.

So to the people of Maine I ask what is so threatening about this family picture?  The ugly prospect of joint newspaper subscriptions and arguments over which way to hang the toilet paper?  The repulsive thought of Kelly and I discussing who took the garbage out last? The terrifying concept of us being able to make medical decisions for each other without carrying around a lawyers briefcase full of legal documents?  The horrifying idea that there would be two moms from one family volunteering at the pizza table at the school fundraiser?  The disgusting image of our holiday Christmas cards?   We are your neighbors, your brothers, your sisters, your mothers and fathers and your friends.  We are next to you in church and in front of you at the movies.  We cheer our kids on the soccer field and dance recital stages.  We complain about our tax burden with you and gather in the morning to relive the best moments of the Super Bowl or the American Idol finale.  We care for our elderly parents and struggle to make ends meet in difficult times.   And in these difficult times we want what you want – to build a life and a legacy with the person we love.

And finally, dear People of Maine, let me reassure you that if a vote comes my way asking me if I feel it is ‘right’ for heterosexuals to marry each other or if I feel it is a threat to my way of life, I will remember this week and the way I felt and I will not turn my back on you as you have on me.  I will stand up for equality for everyone.  Because it’s the right thing to do.

Is a Katie By Any Other Name Still a Katie?

25 10 2009

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my last name.   Growing up, my last name of Youngs put me at the end of every class list.  I spent twelve years looking at the back of Michael Wilson’s head in various homerooms and in high school of course the fates assigned me a locker next to James Young who was about a foot shorter than me and therefore always had to duck out of the way when I opened my top locker door.   In college it mean t I spent graduation sitting next to Patricia Yurkinas and Pete Yauch, two people I had managed to go four years without ever having met.   I spent 23 years explaining to  people that  my last name was indeed “Young’ with an ‘s’ on the end and my unfortunate handwriting caused more than one form letter to be addressed to Katie Yangs.

BNP last namesIn 1989 I married Liza’s dad David and happily took his last name of Goodman.  “Finally,” I thought…”a nice last name in the early part of the Alphabet, but not so early that I will end up in the front of the line for anything. ”  And so for the next 15 years I went merrily along without giving much of a thought to my name, which now seemed perfect.  My career progressed, my network of contacts and friends grew, I was appearing in many local theater productions, and slowly I built a career and some semblance of a professional and artistic reputation under the name Katie Goodman.

When Liza was five years old her dad and I made the difficult decision to end our marriage.  I’ll always be proud of the way we moved forward amicably, keeping Liza in the forefront of all decisions, and of the two loving homes we have created for her.    When our divorce was fresh I decided to keep my married name reasoning that I wanted the same name as my daughter and I wanted to keep my professional identity, which seemed to rest on this name.   Then David got remarried and suddenly there were two “Mrs. Goodmans.”  I wanted to honor his new wife’s place in his family, and gently told Liza I was thinking about retaking my maiden name.   Her howls of protest were deafening.   “People won’t know you’re my mommmmmmmm!” She wailed.   “We won’t be a fammmmmiiillllly!”   (Why is it that only 8 year olds know how to draw out otherwise lovely and benign words like ‘mom’ and ‘family’ to the point where they be come unbearable?) . I succumbed to her pleas and, let’s be honest, gave in to my inherent laziness and loathing for red tape, and  never  took the next step to change my name.

The subject lay dormant until early June when New Hampshire passed its’ landmark marriage equality bill.   Kelly and I had gone out to dinner to celebrate this historic occasion and the more pedestrian installation of our new carpet.   As we sat in our car bathed by the lights of Elm Street we spontaneously proposed to each other and symbolically moved our rings from our right to our left hands.   Later as we toasted our engagement with a fine shiraz at the Firefly Bistro I proclaimed “I can’t wait to marry you Kelly Ann Collins.”  “And I can’t wait to marry you Mary Katherine…uh….Youngs…uh Goodman,” she replied.    Huh.   What WAS my name anyway?  Understandably Kelly wasn’t too keen about marrying me with a last name that belonged to my ex husband,.  I realized the time had come to really get serious about changing my name back to Youngs.

But I was about to be thrown another curveball.

This week, when I told Kelly that I promised to move forward with finally going back to my maiden name she said “well since you’re going to change it why not just change it to Collins?”   In a million years I never thought that this marriage would be one that asked yet another name change of me.   “Hmmm,” I joked “don’t you think Katie and Kelly Collins sounds just a wee bit precious?”  “I think it sounds great!” she said.  “Well why don’t you take MY name?” I proposed.  “Because I’ve had this name for 42 years and I like it “ she said…you’ve already gone ‘round willy-nilly changing your name so I figure you can do it again right?”

“But,” I protested, “so much of my famly is gone now I feel strongly I want to preserve my family name and go back to Youngs.”   Of course  the 10-year old peanut gallery had to chime in from the dining room table where it was finishing up its math homework.   “Mommmmmm” (there it is again)  “your brother has the last name Youngs and he has three boys and they’ll get married and have kids and there will be lots more Youngs, so you can keep your name the way it is…Goodman.”   “But…”  said Kelly.  “But… “ said Liza.

“ENOUGH!”  I bellowed.  “This is my name and my name only and at the end of the day none of you get to decide what my name is…not you Liza, not you Kelly , not my ex husband, and not the guy at the coffee shop.”   They grudgingly and a bit sullenly went back to their homework and dinner clean up while I pondered how my name could produce such a strong reaction in them.   While, I had tried to reassure Liza that of course we’d still be a family no matter what my last name was.  I battled with the niggling worry that without the same last name as my daughter I would somehow lose that public recognition that I was her mother especially now that her dad and step-mom had another baby who shared her last name and were the very picture of a traditional family.  Would there be confusion at school? Would they still call me in emergencies or immediately call her dad and step mom?  Would I be relegated to the sidelines? Would it be weird?   I also struggled with Kelly’s desire that I take her name and the resentment I felt at her assumption that I would be the one who did so.  Was I still the ‘former straight person” in this relationship who would be asked to assume the more traditional role of wife?  I. Don’t. Think. So.   But then I haven’t been Katie Youngs in nearly 20 years.  The name sounds foreign and strange on my tongue and I’d have to give up my carefully perfected Katie Goodman scrawl on the bottom of documents and checks.   Even this blog bears my married name in its URL, even THAT would have to change.  Why is this issue of my name so loaded for so many?   Who am I anyway? Who have I been these past five years that I clung to my married name. Who should I be next year at this time?

What do you think?

“There’s a Cat In the Freezer”, and Other Tales of Early Co-Habitation

13 10 2009

homeworkTwo weeks ago today I nervously reflected on what life would be like when Kelly and I joined households. I worried we’d bicker over cleaning or bump into each other in my tiny kitchen, that Liza would resent this other person taking away my attention and that none of us would get any sleep. My anxious tendencies in high gear I put all my acting skills to the test in order to appear calm as if I merged my life with someone else’s all the time. “Don’t freak out,” Kelly said on move-in day “when you see all the boxes in the basement.” Heading downstairs I found my desk, my clean quiet sanctuary for writing, bill paying, Face-booking and general escapism was now barricaded by box after box of Kelly’s books, pictures, kitchen gadgets and cat paraphernalia. Surely ever liquor store in sight had been raided for their boxes I thought idly while wishing that the Captain Morgan box held a leftover bottle or two instead of Kelly’s collection of private school yearbooks. “Heyyyyyy, no problem!” I replied with the exaggerated politeness of new college roommates on the first day of freshman year. “See how calm I am?” I said as I tried to figure out what we were going to do with three boxes of powdered sugar, two boxes of kosher salt and four bottles of olive oil, not to mention the seven (yes seven) varieties of shower gel our combined households had yielded. But that night as we sat, feet propped on the coffee table, wine in hand I looked around at the house, at the cats now venturing out from their hiding places under my mom’s old chair in the basement, and the soft glow of Kelly’s 42 inch flat screen tv and thought how nice this was going to be, this having Kelly with me every night as we blissfully headed into our future.

Then she started hanging things up.

Kelly possesses a wonderful and quirky collection of old school black and white photos of 1920s era sirens, a beautiful assortment of framed Charles Rennie Mackintosh prints, and pretty much every movie still from “Paper Moon” in existence. The ”who gets to hang what and where” discussion made our negotiations over which set of measuring cups and spoons we’d keep out look like child’s play. “Just because you HAVE all these things doesn’t mean you HAVE to hang them UP,” I said. “Just because you’ve ALWAYS had that stuff on the walls doesn’t mean you have to KEEP it up she replied.” We compromised, we haggled and in the end we both gave and we both got. She got to hang Paper Moon photos up our stairwell but gave in and replaced the twenties harlots in her classy black frames with great family photos of our Maine vacation and I agreed to take down a lovely but admittedly new-agey print about friendship. Her gorgeous prints look fabulous in our dining room but she conceded that really not all of them fit it and would be ok to leave a few down. The end result feels cohesive and very very much us.

Last Sunday I felt a new anxiety as I prepared for Liza to come home. I called her dad to see if he’d bring her by for a ‘dry run’ so she could scope out the changes to the house in advance. “I don’t want to come home to you ever again,” she said sullenly over the phone. “Ok then see you soon!” I said brightly in my “oh goodness no that remark didn’t hurt my feelings voice.” Then I went upstairs lay on my bed and cried. But God bless my ex-husband for coming through and bringing Liza over to see the new dining room table, the new artwork, the cats and much to her delight the new “way better than yours momma” TV. This dress rehearsal for the real thing seemed to do the trick and in spite of spending most of Monday worrying about how Liza would be when I picked her up at school, her re-entry into our home went surprisingly well. After a few bumps figuring out whether the cats would take to her (yes) and whether she wanted them in her room at night (no) we all settled in and Liza even opined that “it was fun here momma, I like having the cats.”

Ah yes. The cats.

While I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the cats don’t’ seem to be underfoot as much as I thought they’d be, and the shedding isn’t bad this time of year, and the Zyrtec seems to be keeping Liza’s allergies at bay, having four felines in residence has taken a bit of getting used to. They open my closet door and rappel up my hangers so they can nap on top of my sweaters, they tiptoe along the top of my bookcase, they commandeer the top of the fridge and climb in the dishwasher when I empty it in the mornings. One time I took some frozen waffles out of the freezer, set them on the counter and looked up to find one of the cats sitting in the freezer as if it was the most natural thing in the world. They can hear me flip open my laptop from 2 floors away and within minutes I will have one on the keyboard, one on my lap and one on my shoulders as if to say “whatcha writing?” A stuffed dog Liza won at an arcade has been kidnapped by one of our boy cats and we find it all over the house. But what has surprised me the most about living with the cats is something that I know I will take endless ribbing for because it defies my carefully cultivated ‘Cranky Yankee” demeanor: I love them. I love the way they cuddle between me and Kelly at night, the way one of them lies out side Liza’s door as if standing guard, the way they watch for me to come home from the kitchen window and the way they run downstairs with me in the morning when I feed them. I expected to grudgingly tolerate them. I didn’t expect to be so completely totally won over.

In the past few weeks our home has begun to settle into new rhythms and new routines – Kelly helping Liza with math while I make dinner, both of us teaching her funny songs and ways to remember her science vocabulary while we linger at the table. When Kelly leaves for work in the morning I open Liza’s bedroom door and she lies in bed cuddling with a cat or two while I shower and got ready. Her mood has gotten brighter. I’m smiling more. We ‘re all sleeping better. My thoughts during the day turn to home and wanting to be with my lady and my girl rather than finding reasons to work longer or take on more commitments. For the first time in over five years I have something to come home to that I’ve wanted for so long: A family, A real family under one roof. Here’s to the next chapter!

On Watching Impossibly Thin Women at Breakfast – Ogunquit 2008

24 09 2009

The hangover breakfast at Bessie’s is a staple of any t-dance weekend excursion to Ogunquit. Kelly and I sit companionably over our omelettes and coffee, bleary-eyed from a night of tequila, club mixes, and late night tapas overlooking Main Street. As the caffeine works its way through my system I take in our dining companions. Unlike Provincetown, that other great New England gay hot spot, Ogunquit tends to attract visitors ‘passing through” — New Yorkers or Bostonians making the trek north to Freeport to visit the L.L. Bean mothership, and French Canadians down from Quebec to walk by the ocean mingle over morning rituals with the dykes and the piano bar boys who closed down the Front Porch in the wee hours.

It is then I start to notice them. The impossibly thin women that seem to populate so many of the nearby tables. They bundle themselves up against the cool October breeze as if knowing a stiff wind could lift their bird like frames and swirl them up with the last remnants of autumn leaves that blow down Shore Road. They smooth the waists of fleece jackets (Lands End no doubt or L.L. Bean naturally) as if to draw attention to how snugly said fleeces fit against bony hips that top legs roughly the circumference of my thumb. Smart down vests (how do they all know the down vest is ‘the thing” how do thin women know this stuff?) add an extra layer of protection from the cold for their delicate waif-like frames.

Smooth shiny hair in identical hairstyles (again, how do they KNOW this stuff) falls around faces, eyes shielded by sunglasses that probably cost as much as a night at the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed. They fascinate me. I am mesmerized by one woman who rises from the table and spends what seems to be an eternity wrapping her cashmere scarf around her ballerina-like neck. The exact right number of silver bangles jangle on her arm as she retrieves her bag (Coach no doubt) from the table and moves toward the door as if knowing the way will be clear for her. Waiters, busboys, patrons will all surely step aside as this icon of thin femininity glides out of the restaurant and into the already cold sunlight of the October morning. The day will greet her warmly as she shops her way through Kittery and drinks her tall skinny latte in the afternoon on Marginal Way.

I look across the table at Kelly and then down at myself. No doubt these women did not rejoice over omlettes and grilled english muffins as we had No doubt they drank herbal tea from mugs held tightly to warm bony fingers and nibbled on dry toast. No hangover dehydration for them, surely they imbibe the requisite number of glasses of what? Evian? each day. I consider my own body in all its amazonian, fleshy glory. I look down at my own fleece jacket — LL Bean yes, but an outlet find in of all things the MEN’S department, which I have to stalk if I have any hopes of finding a jacket with sleeves long enough. Not fitted (which is a blessing) and in a glum maroon it’s a far cry from the fleeces of the impossibly thin women at breakfast. I feel lumbering, oafish, fat and clumsy in my skin, I consider my gray hair, my lack of makeup and the complete absence of bangles from my arm, no Coach bag for me, just a small wallet in my jeans does the trick. I am conscious suddenly of how CLOSE the table are together, and how I feel a sudden move would knock my neighbors coffee from his hand as if the proverbial bull in the china shop had lumbered in. I smile at Kelly across the table and she smiles back and for that moment everything is ok. I am beautiful and I am loved by her and she is beautiful and she is loved by me and I am happier than I ever thought possible.

But in that brief moment prior I wondered…as I always do…what it must be like to feel that bright sunshine on your face…and to move through the world as an impossibly thin woman.