I have always loved to swim. When I was a little girl I’d bounce and splash for hours in water up to chest. I’d flip, kick and sink to the bottom of the pool relishing the muffled, underwater sounds, the escape into the quiet of the shallow end. I grew up in South Carolina where the summers are hot and, sometimes, the only way to find is relief is to get in the water. Somewhere. Anywhere. I spent lots of summer days swimming in borrowed pools. As I grew up, swimming pools became more about the bathing suit than the back flips and I eventually spent less time in the water. Then, I moved to Montana. I started heading into the mountains and, thanks to a good friend, began diving into cold mountain lakes. Dunking in water took on new meaning. Plunge, then onto the rocks to dry off and warm up in the sun. No floating, no bouncing. But pure exhilaration, nonetheless. <Read More>
I was born in North Carolina in a medium-sized town just west of Charlotte. Against the backdrop of dinner is at 2 p.m. on Sundays and love my neck when you leave, I grew up listening to my grandparents and extended families talking about the shifts they worked at the local textile mill. They all aspired to the first shift, daytime work. Some made it, others worked the third shift until they were forced to retire in the late 1980s when their jobs simply went away. They never said it out right but I knew they worked hard. They told me to study hard, to go to school and get into college. So I did. I never worked third shift spinning cotton. I left North Carolina but it’s never left me.
So Tuesday I was following with great interest the vote there on Amendment One, the constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage. I think I knew down deep that it would likely pass but I held out hope that maybe just maybe my home state would not become the 20th state to adopt a marriage-is-between-one-man-and-one-woman edict.
I was not proud of the vote in N.C. but I understood how the amendment passed. I don’t know if my grandmothers voted Tuesday but I do know if they did, they voted yes. Neither has ever met a same-sex couple (that they were aware of) in their lives and they have no frame of reference for this debate. One man, one woman mirrors their lives. It’s all they know.
But it isn’t all I know. For them this conversation is faceless but for me it is anything but. When I think of marriage equality I see friends, families, regular people just trying to live their lives. People who deserve every right I enjoy.
For years I worked as an abortion counselor and I used to get so frustrated at the political dickering that went on around the debate. Mandatory ultrasounds, parental notification, counseling requirements, spousal notification. Every week, I saw through the smoke and mirrors of political distraction a woman asking me to hold her hand, wipe the tears streaming down her face, call her husband to tell him it was over. In that job, I saw the love women are capable of. But all of the yammering on the campaign trails and in the halls of the legislature neglects to mention these women at all.
I felt a similar frustration yesterday when I heard President Obama had finally come out of his own “my views are evolving” closet to support marriage equality. While I understand the significance of, as one friend put it, a sitting president speaking out in support of marriage equality, I am still a little annoyed at his timing. Did you finally get a backbone Mr. President? Or did some statistician whisper in your ear that the day after a big vote in a swing state was precisely the right time to show your support? I suspect the latter and I think that’s what saddens me most.
I understand there is likely necessary political strategy at work but it’s the principle of the thing, Mr. President. Just as the abortion debate is so far from a woman sitting in an exam room, so is this discussion so far from the women, men and children it affects. You are playing with their lives, their rights and, by turn, you are playing with yours and mine. Maybe it’s just too much to ask but I don’t want the scraps of support offered at a time of vulnerability, I want from-the-gut, it’s-the-right-thing-to-do kind of support that forces a deeper conversation and systematic change. I know it’s a pipe dream but a girl can hope. Remember that word, Mr. President? I do.
Tonight Lucille ran down the driveway with cottonwood sap in her hair and mud all over the rest of her.
“Bye Mama, I’m going to Portlandia,” she said.
“Drive safely,” I told her as she ran toward her new (read sister’s hand-me-down) bike. I stopped myself before I blurted out one of my dad’s favorite turns of phrase, it’s a jungle out there.
My dad has always had a way with words. He’s an accountant by trade but in our family his currency is the well-placed one liner that roots us out of a funk, usually makes us laugh and almost always makes us roll our eyes. Sometimes these zingers are original lines he’s created out of thin air. Others he’s picked up from god knows where and filed them away for just the right moment. And since my daughters were born, his sayings pop into my head and sometimes tumble out of my mouth with alarming regularity.
Eliza wasn’t two days old before I was whispering to my newborn about lip sugar, something I’ve heard for as long as I can remember. In those early days I took full mother prerogative to kiss her on the mouth and brush my cheek across her lips when she was sleeping. I think my dad picked up the term lip sugar up from his mother or his sister but I heard it in high school leaving for dates out the back door, “Don’t be handing out any lip sugar,” he’d say. Those were also the years when he would tell me every morning to “wake up and meet the day” with a little too much chipper in his voice. No teenager wants to hear that first thing in the morning but evidently he hasn’t learned his lesson because he still says the same thing to my sister. She’s a senior in high school and I’m sure she’s thrilled beyond words to hear that coming at her before the sun comes up.
I like to think I’m a fairly tech savvy kind of girl. I’m the one who downloads updates, figures out the wireless modem and installs printer drivers. In other words, for those of you who grew up in the 1980s as I did, I’m the one who programs the VCR in our household. And I like to think this computer I’m typing on actually belongs to me, by default, because I’m the one who knows how to work it. Then I sit down with iTunes as I did the other morning and I get schooled in an application I’m not sure I understand. The most shocking part of this little walk down a back alley called “What the…?” was the fact that not only does my husband understand iTunes, he has another life, wide and vast, in places I never venture. Librivox. EconTalk. Alternative Radio.
But these days I’m considering a bumper sticker for pure logistical reasons. The other day I nearly loaded my groceries into someone else’s car. I need an identifier, a red flashing arrow that says, “Savage, this is your car!” I need something that makes my dirty, winter-worn, silver 2006 Subaru Outback stand out from all the other dirty, winter-worn, silver 2006 Subaru Outbacks in Missoula. I could get one of those MisSOULa bumper stickers, I thought. But it would not help my car stand out because if there is anything more ubiquitous in Missoula than having a Subaru, it’s have a MisSOULa sticker on the back window of your Subaru. I was having this little conversation in my head as I pushed my empty cart back to the store and realized then that this scenario sounded like an episode out of Portlandia, the sketch comedy — quickly becoming a cult classic — that pokes gentle, loving fun at the smug, elite, sanctimonious side of the city of Portland.
Two days ago I woke up to this Facebook status update from my friend Bobbie who lives in Eugene.
“Dear month of February: I don’t know what hurt your inner child has suffered that you had to pack such a punch every single day so far. And now this hissy fit storming? Use the leap day this year to get your self-help on, girl. And don’t let the door hit your butt too hard on the way out.”
I wrote to tell her I thought her description of February was spot on and asked if I could quote her.
“Absolutely!” she said. “I’ve decided February is some kind of stone, cold bitch the last couple years.”
In case you missed February’s departure in the wee hours this morning I’m here to tell you the stone, cold bitch has officially gone away. For another year. We Northwestners have done our penance. It’s over. And no one is happier about it than me.