“I’ll Have to Get Married!”

Cooking a big and beautiful meal comes with more than a grocery bill to pay. I’m talking the kind of meal where good company is hosted and toasted, there’s been lots of food and fun, you’re pleased with pulling it off, but afterward you stand alone in the midst of the aftermath. The kitchen is a MESS! 

There’s not an empty spot on the countertops (you don’t have enough of them anyway), every appliance you own stands tall, proud from being used (but defiantly dirty), next to the crowded sink the good china stacks up like crowded downtown New York Skyscrapers (why didn’t you use paper plates?). Every large pot (encrusted lids set aside) are now sudsy bathtubs for smaller pots; they sit patiently for rescue from the Bar Keeper’s Friend.

The good linens are stained, and you’d insisted on using the napkins that will also need ironing to be used again. Crumbs are piled on the floor, the Roomba is on the Fritz, (and you don’t have a dog). Odd splats stick to the stove, smears of something (mashed potato) refuses to easily wipe clean must surely be the handiwork of creative children painting with gravy paint (where is that scrubber?). The laden dishwashers’ on-button awaits the burden of a touch. The refrigerator is stuffed, No Vacancy to store leftovers (storage containers are dirty anyway or missing or don’t have a lid). 

Where does one begin?

Please don’t stop reading, I am not Martha Stewart, and this is not about an audacious first world inconvenience; it’s an analogy. The above-mentioned kind of bounty is not to be taken for granted but appreciated greatly. My description of the kitchen was the best way I could communicate, when I initiated a phone call to a friend; my mind was a mess hall of confusion.

My friend is smart, independent, single and I admire her spirit, her life, her freedom. I believe she, in return, admires my married-with-children life. Ah, grass grows green only where it’s fertilized, and today we think organic is best, so that means shit. Green grass takes a lot of shit – whatever side of the fence it’s on.

My friend’s been away, to get away from where she was to be somewhere else, to think and to write. She’d only just returned. It was good to hear her voice.

But first, RGB’s died.

Our conversation was delightfully all over the place as is typical with this savvy woman, an intellectual thinker with deep insight. But for a brief instant we tied anchor to the current state of women’s rights in our country; “Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s died.” Such a huge loss we agreed, the tiny woman a monumental tower really, her wisdom a beacon of justice guiding women’s rights now blown out with the incoming of the Jewish New Year.

“She must have fought like hell to live through the coming election,” agreed, agreed. 

My friend and I mourned her loss singly but together, over the phone. Due to the pandemic, we haven’t seen each other (in person) for months yet we live only miles apart. In my five decades around the sun I’ve found there’s no person who looks at the world exactly as do I, and I’ve found that can be okay. I’ve developed a kind of tolerance tranquility.

But it’s also nice to be with someone who shares your values, thinks like you do. It feels comfortable. “What are we going to do now?” We shared feeling uncomfortable, and that in a way was comforting.

What’s about to happen (in the coming weeks) according to U. S. law, is completely warranted. And forty-five, (#45, as in the current President) plans to put his thumb on the scales of the balance of justice of the Supreme Court and fill the position occupied by RGB, (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) before her enormous seat is cold.  Who’s to argue?  Never mind the same law that forty-five’s followers are adhering to now was defied and the same right to President prior was not allowed.  That was so hypocritical yesterday.

I say to my friend, “I’m hearing from So-and-So, that [forty-five] (my insert because So-and-So used his name) is so fair and balanced that a woman will replace a woman!” I’ve left out So-and-So’s name, (then and now) it’s not necessary to really speak my mind. “Can you believe that?” I continue on, “Like all women are clones. It’s most likely that forty-five’s next Supreme Court Justice pick doesn’t even share DNA with RGB.” It was nasty of me to say but garnered a chuckle.

But perhaps it’s best a woman like RGB doesn’t share too easily her DNA, because as history repeats itself over, (and over and over…) women now know that too easily their collective knowledge might be stolen by a man.

You do remember what happened to Rosalind?

In the early 1950’s the race was on to discover what DNA (identified in 1869) was really all about. Rosalind Franklin, a scientist working in England was getting dangerously close to understanding the bigger picture, because she, in fact, took one – an incredibly revealing picture of DNA. But in 1953 her co-worker, Maurice Wilkin stole her incredible x-ray, her Photo 51, and took it secretly to Franklin’s rivals, James Watson and Francis Crick, (all this went down in England) and they were working on the same thing, who then without permission used Photo 51 (without giving credit) to confirm their concept of DNA for which Watson & Crick subsequently received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1962, (deep sigh) the year I was born. I beg pardon from scientists for all the imperfections in my summarization for this complicated and little-known part of history.

I think it’s not easy to be open minded in sealed storage containers and I turn to gather my dirty linens.

Not all china can be replaced.

As we all are, I am now learning about a woman, Judge Coney Barrett, forty-five’s newly announced pick.  A conservative Catholic, I understand she claims to honor the original intent of the Constitution.  She does not concern herself with how different from then that life is now, or that the original intent of the Constitution had nothing to do with voting rights or freedom rights leaving all that stuff to the states to deal with. What might have confused people, I think, is implied in the other founding document with words like independence, and equality and pursuits of happiness. Non-scholars like me get it all mixed up.

How could have Americas’ founders possessed the capacity to envision freedoms for all at the very time they themselves owned people, bought and sold them, enslaved new ones, displaced Native Americans and repressed women married or not? It seems to me strange and curious the Constitution was signed on September 17th, 1787 exactly two hundred thirty-three years ago plus one night before RGB died.

Barnett’s criticized the Affordable Care Act, not that I was a huge fan at first, but I hear crickets on how to replace it. And on abortion, the appointee Judge is worried who’s paying for them – not the federal government, and that makes sense for someone who doesn’t want to help anyone have access to birth control in the first place by not giving them access to health care! Maybe I’ll find she has exceptions, but certainly her opinion will leverage heavier sitting at the furthest edge of a right-leaning, teeter-totter court. Abortion is so complex, so extremely personal, I believe on this issue, women need a court’s compassion and not to stand in judgement from it.

I’m always curious anyway about folks condemning abortion; often they are of the same gene pool that thinks execution is the solution for poor souls beyond redemption. The way I read it; Christianity’s Constitution teaches all souls are to be redeemed by the death of a certain son who promised salvation for all. But what do I know? I’m always reminded of the conditions, always the conditions.

What I’ve come to know is that for all is not for all, at all; never has been, and there are those hell-bent on keeping it that way. Sign For All on the dotted line. What? You want to actually read this stack of hair-thin parchment imprinted with rules (engraved in 5 point Helvetica, you’ll need a magnifying glass) and conditions? Why, they’re transcribed into ancient and mind-bending legalize; all neatly footnoted but not necessarily credited properly, why would you want to do that? I hereby label the leftovers.

Dust will not have time to settle before Coney Barrett occupies the desk of the little-giant Jewish lady who concerned with the rights of people different than herself. People of different cultures and colors, races, who weren’t married, and if they were it didn’t matter to whom. RGB seemed to strive to consider the Declaration of Independence alongside the original Constitution and the subsequently added Amendments, (it took a couple more Septembers and a few burning bushes before we got tablet with the ten Bill of Rights). 

I’m confident the future Justice has read them all and hope she continually considers what life was for the wives of the men who wrote them were bound by laws where women could not vote or maybe could; if they were old enough, land-holding enough, married enough and so on, (so many conditions). Surely, the human mindset has evolved to be more accepting in two hundred and thirty-three years. I rinse clean the wineglasses. 

“We will see what she does, [Judge Barrett],” I say to my friend, “Anything is possible,” an uncharacteristic silence fell between us.

What Wilson grudgingly gaveth. 

“But it feels like this man [forty-five] wants to take and take from us!”  Dignity, health care, rights to our bodies, ______,_______. I envision forty-five, the old crafty shyster, laughing it up on Air Force one at his big break. I can see him now saying, ‘Hey baby, it’s better to be lucky than good!’ I literally hear the clinking of champagne glasses. And it feels to me his pick is no more important to him than switching one tchotchke (he never liked anyway) and replacing it with another (and thinking after a while no one will notice the difference – it’s still a w o m a n! He might know how to spell it). Oh, how I hate losing things I cherish.

 “It was August 18th, 2020,” an exact month ago and one hundred years America celebrated the finalization of a Woman’s Right to Vote. “One hundred years ago. Wow,” like the time belonged to the Egyptians, or to that effect, my friend and I commented back and forth something when I mentioned I’d voted earlier that day.  She planned to drop her ballot the next week. It’s a right we still have we cherish, not hanging like Roe vs. Wade or healthcare but he’s trying his best. 

The same year one hundred years ago, in 1920, (and a month earlier) and over in England, #DNAscientist-extraordinaire-to-be, Rosalind Franklin was born into a country that had accustomed itself for two years to men, aged at least twenty-one, voting alongside women, (on the condition the women owned land and were over thirty).  It took their Parliament ten more years to instill legislation to finally allow all women and men of age twenty-one the right to vote.  Some things just take time to get it right. I leave the oven door open to let the heat out.

I love how History displays her sense of humor. Especially when she wrote the chapter where she cast America’s President Wilson – get this, a Southerner from Virginia, and known racist AND well-known opponent to suffrage, as (wait for it) the Champion for the 19th Amendment! She’s the best writer, History, she doesn’t make things up. It’s an incredible scenario read where Wilson left Virginia for Princeton, found himself President but lost his wife, was lucky and married another, found himself surrounded by Fourteen Points and was major a player for peace after the War to End all Wars, and yet still had these two pesky daughters who embodied the movement of the ‘abhorrent women’ (his words) aka the suffragettes. And suffer he did.

It’s a complicated story really, and I dare not sugar coat the truth of a flawed man who adamantly denied even his daughters their rights but in the end was indeed transformed (to a degree) by the senselessness of WWI, and who at last decided to write in a chapter that was less concerned with the status quo of sexism, and maybe more preoccupied with race.  What it takes to hold onto power; it’s like all the effort it takes to cook a grand meal, there’s always the kitchen after to deal with.

Everyone who reads Wilson’s last chapter walks away with different opinions, of the President, of the man and his motivations where in January, 1918 he introduced the amendment to grant the right to vote to white as well as black women; a notion that split our Congress and took a year to ratify, (break neck speed compared to England). I feel that what our Congress was worried about then, they still are; maybe if feminists and black people vote in-block they might lose control. What then?

“What a mess it all seems,” I’m talking current affairs now and my friend seamlessly follows. I picture our thought threads linked together with ladder rungs like DNA in Rosalind’s photo.

She says, “It’s hard not to be discouraged right now.”

We couldn’t go to France now if we wanted to.

“The days of old provide perspective to me, you know – when it seems the world is spinning out of control.  Seems it couldn’t get any worse,” one says things like that when one’s grieving. Then, “Who was that famous guy that threatened to leave his country?” I needn’t say another word; she tells me it was the actor, Gerard Depardieu. 

“He didn’t want to pay his taxes, so he left France,” I adore her sarcasm. It was not necessary to say anything of a similar story when someone left somewhere (New York) and moved somewhere else (Florida) for the sounds like the same reason.

Over the years we hear the threats of those who have either left or threaten to leave their homelands in protest over election outcomes. They make a headline, and then nothing. As we continued talking, I put my friend on speaker and Googled when RGB was born:  March 15th, 1933.

History again, gives me a wink and a nod. Maybe I’m not living in the worst time! Ruth was born at, what I am sure Americans had to believe was the worst possible time in history. 

Thank God for Bloody Marys.

First of all, for the better part of 1933, no one could drink. At least today I can legally whip up a Bloody Mary (Mary being the most gracious part of the mix). In 1933 there was also no internet keeping us connected, and unemployment was like at 25% or more; folks were sleeping on park benches or hiding money in their mattress! Thank Heaven Al Capone, Public Enemy #1, was in jail because it was scary enough with Bonnie & Clyde running all over killing everybody. Weather was record extreme that year; ‘Dustbowl’ became a word and temperatures reached over 130 degrees in Mexico.  Hungarian, Leó Szilárd, while at a stoplight in England dreamed up something marvelous for keeping the peace that became known as a nuclear chain reaction.

It’s 1933 and the Reichstag’s on Fire?  What’s that mean?

Over in Germany, Hindenburg handed over to Hitler the Reich Chancellery who then promptly banned all his competition, turned off the water main when the Reichstag blew up and conveniently cremated all the civil rights, but gave him an idea to complete Dachau.  Eins, zwei, drei, it was time and Hitler declared, ‘I will now withdraw from das League of Nations!’ (That which Woodrow worked so hard for and for which he’d received a Nobel Prize). Japan announced with their arms crossed, ‘We leave the League too!’

Scary dang 1933! Meanwhile, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who’d escaped assassination earlier in the year) was elected President and calms everyone running around telling them, “The only thing Americans have to fear was fear itself!” All you gotta do to get me to panic is to tell me not to.

The year ended on an up note however; (maybe to help Americans do exactly that – to calm down) Prohibition, at long last, was repealed in December.

I’ve discovered that Bloody Marys really are the bomb when I need a break from forty-five telling me to chill out, the pandemic will just go away…by Easter, no, when the warm weather arrives, (but not warm weather from climate change!) or before school starts, after Labor Day or by Election Day, he’s promising vaccines in everyone’s stocking this year – no it’s gonna be in the New Year Kool Aid, but actually it will glow green like the economy in the St. Patrick’s Day Beer (is anyone paying attention?) and zoom, (the original intent of Zoom) a year is gone and we’re back to Easter again.  He meant Easter of 2021 all along – you weren’t listening?? He never said, ‘Let’s pack the churches,’ and that’s just as true as Hitler never packed Dachau.

What a year to be born, Ruth.  And what a year in which to die.

I forgot to mention something else about 1933: Ghandi’s 1933 Hunger Strike – this one against Britain to help circumstances of the Untouchables Cast, that happened as well, and I want to honor it.  Nonsensical as it may be by beginning my bLog with metaphor of a middle-class kitchen mess and closing with a humble humanitarian hunger protest. Hmm. 

I respect those who stand up for themselves or others, and do not knock them down. I ask, “Do you think anyone threatened to leave the country in 1920, before the 19th Amendment came to the floor?” or how about in 1933, when folks were hankering, (for anything but hooch) longing for the top shelf. You gotta admit History was hard on 1933, but since she went ahead and jotted it down, the least we can do is learn from it. I wonder who wanted to leave the country when Roe vs. Wade was being argued, or who will when it is again next time. The law was upheld in 1973, I was eleven. Where would one go without that law?  Your best bet is somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere but know this – Northern Europe is hurting for babies, birthrates are low and they are desperate. 

Choice. Free will. Independence. People and power; control and constituency, incongruent words. What History, have we learned from you?

Pick a spot on the map.

I blurt out, “Maybe I should leave the country – you know if he’s elected again.” My thinking is becoming clearer now, I’m formulating a plan.

“Where would you go?” my friend, she’s serious.

“Somewhere remote, isolated from all this mess.” Mess (aka worry) about problems I didn’t make and don’t want to have to clean up. I’m loading the last platter into the dishwasher.

Notions of me leaving are ridiculous; my family is here; I cannot leave them. My friend totally gets this. She plays along with my fantasy anyway.

“I’ll go all by myself! Live on an island!” and we both laughed and laughed. Meanwhile, I placed the hand-washed china back onto the shelves.

The pandemic has pilfered my prerogative to leave if I wanted to. I give preference and my passion for two young grandchildren who need me to help their parents work their way through this preposterous predicament. And soon I’ll be blessed with another grandchild that is expected in December. How could I welcome her arrival via Zoom? No, I’ll stay close for a time, in my bubble, mask at the ready.

I close the door; my fridge is organized; I’ve frozen meals to offer my children so they won’t have to cook at least two days next week.

 “I’ll come with you,” my friend needs no invitation. “We’ll go alone; together – you pick the place. We’ll write all day long.” We two women, living in what I hope is not the Middle Ages, (what age is over-the-hill again?) are not-famous but clearly fantastic, savvy-thinking feminist sympathizers. We giggle, “We’re doing this.”

We’ve not known one another since high school, but long enough to feel like we have.  She’s helping me wipe down the counter tops. Crumbs fall over the edge. They’ll be there tomorrow.

“No TV, no news, no one to bother us, sounds like heaven.” I muse and settle on Africa – in the center of a game reserve, no, the Galapagos – a boat for two.  A life of simplicity sounds so appealing in the midst of cacophony and the mayhem of whether or not black lives matter. Why are we still stuck on these questions? Climate change is real, systemic sexism, racism must end.

It’s getting real our plan: “Let’s go – the day after the election, pandemic be damned. We’ll wear our masks, shields, bags over our heads, whatever. We’ll quarantine when we get there,” (she’s good at this)! The dirty linen will wait in a pile for another day; I’m free from ironing another napkin.

“Good God, I just want to hold onto the freedoms women have fought for,” my hands are clenched. It’s fight or flight and we’re frequent flyers – middle seat row occupied or not, we’re risking it.

“What’ll we do about heath care?” her question caked on my enthusiasm like dried gravy. “Damn girl,” she doesn’t cuss often, “We’re old,” (like I didn’t know) “If we go and I want health care, I’ll have to get married!”

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