Ah, Spring! The grass is wearing its baby green thickness, a suggestion that anything new is possible. For the third year in a row, a purple finch has made her nest in the juniper to the right of our front door. Five hatchlings, beaks open wider than the breadth of their tiny bodies, greet our curious glances as they await their mom’s return. Surely, she’ll fly in with a take-out meal gathered from the open-air food pantry.
Spring means it’s gardening time, especially for my spouse.
Viv has weeded the veggie garden, trimmed most of the shrubs, rebuilt and dressed the scarecrow, pulled up and re-laid the walkway pavers that curve from the driveway to the entrance to our home, and scattered grass seed over the bare spots in the lawn.
I’ve planted a few herbs, prepped the garden boxes for tomato and green bean plants, and most importantly, done a mental review of the quickest route to the closest Patient First facility. This third chore was mandatory.
Although she’s neither careless nor accident-prone, Viv gardens with a zealous intensity that often results in a few “Oh-my-God-you’re-hemorrhaging!” or “Why-are-you-limping?” reactions each gardening season. She made her 2019 inaugural pilgrimage to Patient First less than a week ago when a mystery insect’s bite sparked my “Oh-my-God-why-is-your-eyelid-all-red-and-swollen-shut?”
A couple of ice pack sessions and antihistamine tablets later, she was as good as new. Bless her heart.
In addition to Spring’s perennial reintroduction to the great outdoors, this season is synonymous with proms, graduations, and weddings. My history with all three events is spotty at best.
My eighth-grade graduation ceremony included a musical interlude featuring a classmate singing “Moon River” while I accompanied her at the piano. I stumbled only once. Fortunately, the hiccup occurred at the end of the piece, and I attributed the audience’s loud applause as their expression of thanks for my fingers having been able to find the keys for that last chord. Ever since then, I’ve held my breath whenever I’ve seen a solo performance listed in a graduation program.
As for proms, to this day I don’t understand how I managed to survive two of them, junior and senior. Oy, the anxiety of it all. The stress of trying on gowns, shopping for matching shoes, worrying about the weather and its probable effect on my heat-straightened hair (in the days when hot combs and curling irons skirmished with unexpected rainstorms and humidity) was too much.
I went to an all-girls high school, so I didn’t have to worry about being invited to the proms. My sister classmates and I chose whom we wanted to go with us to the event. Of course, asking a girl to the prom would have been revolutionary. It might also have earned me an express ticket to a seventy-two hour hold in a mental health facility. But I survived and I discovered the upside of proms. After two or three years, they’ve exceeded their shelf life.
Weddings are another kettle of fish, aren’t they? They continue for the entirety of one’s life. For so many years having to attend a wedding found me channeling Rupert Everett at his snarkiest. (Think “The Runaway Bride.”) They also meant I had to wear two costumes, an event-appropriate outfit that invariably involved high heels and make-up, and a mask to conceal my true identity, anger, and despair about being shut out from the institution of marriage. I likened attending weddings to being a slave forced to celebrate the freedom of others, a freedom I’d never be allowed to have no matter how long my partner and I were in a loving relationship.
Tired of waiting for judicial approval, we followed the lead of two younger friends, and got married in Maryland where same-gender marriage was legal in 2013. We married two years before the Supreme Court’s ruling legalized our unions throughout the nation. Our wedding day and the day that heralded the Court’s announcement of marriage equality were our Hallelujah Moments.
No longer do I eschew going to weddings. I’ve traded my costume for whatever fits the day’s weather and my mask for nothing short of the truth about who I am. I hold Viv’s hand and we stand proudly close to one another while the couple being joined in marriage exchanges their rings and vows. Each same gender ceremony that we attend reinforces the feelings we experienced moments after our ceremony when we rejoiced knowing we were equal to every other married American couple, straight or gay.
This past May 4th we were honored to witness the rites/rights of marriage accorded to our neighbor’s son, Samuel, and his groom, Gregory. We’ve known Samuel since they were a child. After the ceremony we hugged and gave them their wedding gift.
“It means so much to me that you’re here,” said Samuel. “You two were my first queer role-models.”
Samuel’s smile and heartfelt comment turned out to be their wedding gift to Viv and me.
Our hearts felt full and eager to celebrate everything that Spring offers.
Renée Bess is the author of five novels as well as the co-story collector of the 2018 Goldie winning anthology, OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS. She’s been named one of the four winners of the 2019 Alice B. Readers Awards. Her heart is filled with gratitude.