Wednesday, June 15, 2005



My partner has a lot to answer for. Not only did he take a three-week consulting assignment in Sarajevo, but he took it at such a time as to end just before I take the girls on vacation to my parent's summer home in Pennsylvania, where my partner is persona non grata (according to the Wikipedia, I am using the term incorrectly if I use it in a non-diplomatic context, but the fact is that where my parents are concerned, my partner does not, in fact, exist), so by the time we are in the same place at the same time, I will have gone four weeks without seeing him. I suppose that if you're a military spouse, that's a walk in the park, but I miss him lots.

My beef (moo! A. calls beef "cow" while she's eating it; unapologetic carnivore, that one) however is not primarily with his protracted absence. While he's been gone, I've been in charge of yard work, and while mowing the back yard, I noticed a few things. There are, for example, two pear trees that appear to be fairly well full of fruit. And there are a few blueberry bushes, each standing about a yard high, and two of them are completely loaded. The fruit, alas, will likely ripen a few days after the tart cherries (not in our yard); in other words, when I'm still out of town. I presume that he will save me some blueberries, if only because I'll leave him an explicit description of what will happen if he fails to do so. But what I really want to know is why I didn't get any last year.

I moved in with V. last October, obviously well past blueberry season, but we have been seeing each other for two years now, and we had decided on coupledom as of January 1 of last year (thus making it practically impossible to forget our anniversary). So during the blueberry season of '04, we were seeing a lot of each other, but I wasn't seeing any blueberries.

Nor so much as a single pear. Now pear trees are not, as you doubtless know, universal producers of fruit that is sweet and plump and juicy. Some of them produce only fruit that retains the size and firmness of a walnut. But even at their current size (which one hopes is not their final size), they would be fine for making into relish, which is the tasty and appropriate destination for pears that do not soften.

When V. returns, I will, of course, endeavor to tell him that I missed him before I demand blueberries and explanations, but it won't be easy. In the interim, surely the most likely explanation is that my presence in the house has brought a new fertility to the yard, so that once barren trees and bushes are now gratefully showering us with fruit. Which means that I've been channeling Kokopelli again. Minus the hump and the cavorting with maidens, of course.

Personal History, with Victuals

As near as I can figure, without looking something up, it was five and one-half years ago that I told my parents that a) I was getting divorced and b) because I'm gay. (In accounting, we have something called the big bath phenomenon. If you have several unpleasant losses to report, you do them all at once and get it over with in the hopes of returning to profitability in the next quarter.)

It was either New Year's Eve or a couple of days later, and I had been home alone for nearly a week. The ex and I had already decided to divorce, but her father (who did not know we were splitting) had offered us a few thousand dollars if we would show up in Seattle on Christmas Day, and she convinced me that we really needed the money (as it turned out, we needed it, and much more, to pay her lawyer, but I'm sure she just forgot that detail). I was not comfortable with the notion of staying in Seattle any longer than absolutely necessary, so we all flew there on Christmas Eve, and I flew back the day after Christmas, leaving the ex and the girls to stay another week or so. The trip was not a total loss because I had made the ex promise not to tell her family about the divorce or the reason for the divorce until I'd left and because her sister-in-law (at whose house we were staying) is a great cook and makes a mean cheesecake. (Also, she drew me in the family Christmas exchange, and I would up with a superb copper double boiler; I still have it.) I helped with Christmas dinner, too, so I ate well, doubly.

Anyway, I was back in Maryland, and my parents invited me over for dinner on the evening that I was to pick up the ex and the girls from the airport. I knew that things were going to get rolling with the divorce pretty soon and that I'd have to tell my parents about the situation, so I decided to do it at their place, on New Year's Eve, after dessert. I decided on that time because I could time dinner so that if things were going badly, I could say that I had to go to the airport within five minutes of having told them.

It is, I think, difficult for gays who are younger than me (as well as for many my age or a bit older) to comprehend my experience. It is difficult for anyone who has grown up in the last twenty or thirty years to imagine an environment where homosexuality was not so much deplored as unknown. Certainly my parents never mentioned homosexuality or gays, and I doubt very much that they were aware of their existence when I was a child, even though I graduated high school in 1979, and we were Southern Baptists, and they must, at least, have been aware of Anita Bryant. In any case, for many years, I was insufficiently brave and/or self-aware to admit to myself that I was gay, and it was extremely harmful to me in a number of ways. When you are spending all of your energy not admitting to yourself that that really cute guy you see on the street is, in fact, really cute, you don't have a lot of energy for a lot of other things, including your children and your friends and your job. (This is a trivial example, but, really, do you want to hear about how I rationalized that my fantasies were all about men because I was only having sex with my wife and what's the point of fantasizing about what you already know? No, of course you don't.)

I mention this to explain why it was important to me to tell my parents that I'm gay. Having confessed to myself, I no longer wanted to lie to other people. Lying to others is less exhausting, but still draining. (My sister, by the way, has no trouble with my orientation -- though she didn't believe me when I first told her -- but she thinks that telling my parents was a bad idea.)

Anyway, there I sat, watching the clock, waiting for the very minute when I had decided that I would break the news, and eating my dessert. My mother is not a particularly inventive cook, but she was well trained by her mother in the ways of Southern cooking, so you know that when you're at her house, you're going to get ample quantities of good food (you don't always know that she will have followed safe food handling guidelines and that you won't get food poisoning, but nobody's perfect), and she's very good with dessert. On this occasion, she had made a sort of apple betty, with a nice topping constructed primarily of rolled oats and brown sugar. It was still warm, and she served it with vanilla ice cream, which complemented it perfectly. You may imagine, correctly, that I was nervous when I was eating it and watching the clock, but if you're dreading something, it is better to be dreading it with good food than with bad.

Department of Amplification

A quick tour through my main cookbookcase yesterday evening revealed that my poached pear recipe (Poires au Vin Rouge) does, indeed, come from The Cuisine of the Sun, which I spent an hour partially rereading last night. There is also a recipe in there for Ratafia d'Oranges, among other fascinating boissons de ménage, but I did not discover that until I had already put up a jar of clementine ratafia, which was fun, if somewhat messy, to make. I don't know why I take such pleasure in slicing citrus peels, but I reckon it's among my more virtuous pleasures. If you'd like the recipe, go to Google and write "clementine ratafia" in the appropriate place and follow the link for the first result. I used only four tablespoons of sugar, which is likely not enough, but I was still thinking of the cherry cough syrup cordial from last year.

Also last night, I dug the cordial out of the closet, and mixed it with some lime juice and carbonated water, and the result was indeed tasty. About a quarter cup of cordial with the juice of half a lime in a tall glass filled with fizzy water and ice was about right. I would have continued experimenting to find the ideal proportions, but I'm not much of a drinker, and the cordial is mostly Bourbon.


Blogger The Accidental Boyfriend said...

Fascinating blog.

I am intrigued by your perspective. I'll be back. I'll bring friends.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous anapestic said...

Excellent! I'll try to make sure that I have enough snacks for everyone.

2:36 PM  

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