baby

Animal Magnetism: Baby Chapter 14

J&EPheromones caused it all. Some kind of magnified parallax whereby all things mammal were attracted to Bashert for good or bad. Remember how the animals knew about her pregnancy before we did? Apparently, it spread to the neighborhood animals too.

At the time Bashert was pregnant, we had the original two dogs, Elisheva and Shit Dog. Elisheva had not one maternal bone in her 20 pound body. Really. She growled at puppies and had no use for children at all. She alone seemed impervious to the pheromone power of Bashert. She didn’t change must during the pregnancy except to possible get even more clingy than normal. E-girl had issues.

Shit dog was normally a fairly easy going guy save his ongoing and imposing Napoleon complex. He had no time for other small dogs; no they were beneath him. He preferred the company of large dogs, the bigger the better. He would put on airs about being able to stand up to the fiercest looking Rottweilers, but somehow magically be somewhere else when any altercation started. He was also known to run away from cats. His bark (high pitched as it was) was definitely worse  than his bite. That is what made what happened all the more impressive.

One of our neighbors had the grand idea to keep an un-neutered Bullmastiff in an 1100 square foot (102 M2) townhouse. Those dogs do not have “mass” in their breed name for nothing. Jasper easily weighed a good 200 pounds (90 kilos) and his humongous head reached chest level. It is a cliché, but small children really could saddle up and ride. The dog was big. And territorial. And his idiot owner allowed him to walk free inside the courtyard.

One morning, a very pregnant Bashert put Shit Dog and Elisheva on their leads and walked out into the courtyard for their first potty break. As soon as Bashert got to the end of our patio, Jasper charged. He slammed Bashert up against the brick patio wall with visible intent of attacking. At that moment, all the courage of all the mixed breeds inside Shit Dog rose to the surface and he lunged at Jasper. I ran outside at the commotion and saw an amazing thing. Shit Dog was holding  that freaking monster at bay! Between all of the shouting and Shit Dog’s devoted response the idiot owner was finally able to body slam Jasper away from the scene. (E-girl was no where to be found.)

A shaken and bruised Bashert made it safely back into the house and Shit Dog lived high on the hog for quite some time. Never did we think his bravado would actually amount to anything – he proved us pleasantly wrong. (As a side note, after some legal discussions, idiot owner finally realized she needed to place Jasper in a better situation for a dog his size and he went to live in the country.)

Outside of our home environment the pheromone effect took a different path, one of less resistance.

Before it became too uncomfortable to walk any distance, Bashert and Nenè would take evening strolls. It was not unusual for me to get a morning report that this dog or that dog would come up to them as the were on their walk around just wanting to bask in the glow of Bashert’s being. A few would trot along with them for a while and then return from whence they came. But apparently one night the moon, stars and all in the universe lined up correctly – Bashert became the piped piper of all the loose dogs in the neighborhood.

Around 8pm, I received a phone call from Bashert. This was on my desk phone as we still did not have cells and for her to call me at work was odd, especially when I heard the tone in her voice. “Cee-ee, I don’t know what to do…” I started to panic, but I could hear Nenè laughing in the background. What was going on?

“They followed me home, Cee, they all followed me home.” I was beginning to get the picture. She repeated, “I don’t know what to do” and added, “there’s seven of them!” I immediately sat straight up in my chair and said, “Please tell me you haven’t let them in the house! Do not let them in the house!” I asked her to put Nenè on the phone. “Nenè, please tell me Bashert has not let those dogs in the house!” Through choking laughter she confirmed that yes, there were indeed seven dogs and they still remained outside. She gave the phone back to Bashert.

“Oh, my g-d, Cee one of them is looking in the window!” That, I-need-to-take-care-of-every-stray-animal tone was slipping into her voice. I put on my air traffic controller tone to match hers and talk her down through situation. “Bashert, just do not engage. Do not look through the windows. Do not open the door. They will give up eventually and go back to their own homes.” I knew neither of them would go out and shoo them off.

“But Cee, they are looking at me” – gales of laughter from Nenè – “and now they are knocking on the door!”  More laughter and a muffled voice in the background, “I swear they are knocking on the door Mom!”

“Bashert just back away from the window and turn out the front lights. That way they can’t see in and will give up.” “And tell Nenè to be quiet so they can’t hear y’all in there!” They complied and went into stealth mode. I remained on the line a few minutes more as the only outside contact and then had to get back to work. I was getting funny looks by then.

The next morning I got the rest of the scoop. After they turned out the lights and quieted down from the  laughing, it took maybe five minutes for the Bashert-worshipping doggies to go on their disappointed way. I think it took Bashert and Nenè hours to get over the ridiculousness of them both crouched in the darkness hiding from those dogs as if they were unannounced guests and the house was a mess.

All I could do was shake my head and mumble, “Only you Bashert, only you.”

The number of her faithful followers never reached that number again, but to this very day I can attest to the fact that we have at least one dog (or cat) try to tag along when we go out for a walk. – a hormonal hold over I guess. She just has that animal attraction…

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Just Ducky: Baby Chapter 12

J&EYou know what? I was going to write about some of the other “challenges” we faced during Bashert’s pregnancy, but I was really depressing myself.

There was her job at the private dining club that made the environment so hostile she had to quit. There was the inequality between the treatment Dad’s-to-be received and the treatment I received at my job that was supposed to not recognize any difference. There were our ever present money worries. There were her demeaning experiences with the WIC office and last but by no means least; the most painful for Bashert was our “excommunication” by the Jewish community.

Yes, I could write about those and probably dig up plenty more, but why? If the picture of the inequities we suffered just because of who we loved is not apparent by now then perhaps, just perhaps this is not a story for you to read.

From this segment on, I just want to concentrate on the good things – the wonderful and joyful things that came with expecting our baby boy. We still went to Borders Bookstore and poured over all the baby books we could get our hands on, except for the really graphic ones. Bashert couldn’t take the graphic ones.

We had hysterical moments trying to come up with names we both loved or at least could live with. We seriously considered naming the baby Céilidh (pronounced Kaylee) since that was Bashert’s mother’s Hebrew name. It also means a type of party in Gaelic. But when we asked a friend’s eight year old what she thought of it, she went into a singsong rhyme, “Gayly, Kaylee. Gayly Kaylee.” Nope, we could not do that to the boy. It was going to be hard enough with two moms. We might as well as name him Sue.

We had fun just watching him grow and move – well, I had fun watching him move – Bashert often felt like she had an alien parasite inside her. One of our favorite times was when I got home in the early morning hours after work. I would crawl into bed and massage Bashert’s stomach before falling asleep. It didn’t take long for the little guy to become accustomed to our nightly routine. He would lean into my hand like a cat asking for a head rub. Those were lovely time suspending moments.

Then there was the baby shower. If ever we doubted that we had any friends or supporters, that wonderfully over-the-top shower proved us wrong. Bashert against all Jewish tradition (and superstition) decided she wanted a baby shower AND she wanted it fairly early in her pregnancy. She wanted to look pregnant, but not be in the final month where she wouldn’t enjoy anything but making it to the bathroom on time. So, in true Bashert form she made it happen. She got our ducks in a row quite nicely.

She spoke with two of our wonderful and beautiful friends – both of whom I have written of before – Betty who has endless capabilities of turning rotten things into fodder for beauty and Alberta, who lost her battle with breast cancer, but left a song in our hearts. Betty agreed to host the party at her warm and spacious home and Alberta agreed to be co-host and caterer. Bashert said she would take care of the invitations. I just looked on and said, “Yes, dear” a lot.

When it came time to register for stuff, I often felt really silly and uncomfortable trying to decide what things other people could buy for us. I am not an ‘ask for’ kind of person. It made me uneasy, but we knew that we could not provide many of even the most basic things we needed for the baby after Bashert lost her job, so unless I wanted the kiddo to sleep in a drawer and wear only white t-shirts I had to get over it and accept the kindness of our friends and family.

I am big enough to admit that once I got over the idea of asking people for things, it was fun going to the baby store to register. It had been 16 years since I was into any baby items and I was amazed at the sheer number of items now available. There literally was enough stuff to fill a warehouse sized store.

Bashert and I wandered up and down those aisles for the longest time looking at the tiny little clothes and accoutrements that one could fill a nursery with – baby wipe warmers, cart covers, monitors, magic diaper disposal systems, any kind of lotion you could ever want – it was enough to make my head spin. For goodness sake, I used cloth diapers for Nene!

After we played with everything, we sat down and figured out what we thought we would need and just registered for those things. The theme we both loved was John Lennon’s Imagine animal prints. It was just off center enough for two artists and the song lyrics really sat well with us, too. We still have the little diaper bag someone gave us. It holds socks now instead of diapers and bottles.

The shower itself was wonderful. Every single person we invited showed up! Either they were just curious as to what a lesbian baby shower would be like or we can pick some good friends. I like the think the latter, although we did get some looks for the pregnant lady cake…which was awesome and delicious, by the way. The weather was perfect, the setting warm and welcoming, the food was fabulous, the company fun, and the gifts were a plentiful and much, much appreciated bounty. Those two lovely ladies pulled off a celebration that made our hearts ache with joy.

All the adversities we had suffered up to that point kind of melted away that day. Our friends and family members made such special efforts for us (and that includes Nene as recipient, too). We may have been “the girls”, but that day we were also just another couple having a baby and celebrating with friends. And that my friends was just ducky.

http://wp.me/p1Bz9K-12 – Alberta 🙂

http://wp.me/p1Bz9K-cN – Betty 🙂

1 + 1 = 4: Baby Chapter 10

Three no evilsI know this is the story of our journey toward a baby, but don’t think we had forgotten about my daughter Nenè. Oh, no. Between all of the crap of the baby making situation, there was high school football games (she was in marching band), booster and PTA meetings, and the usual teenage ups and downs.

Nenè, like most children of divorced parents shuffled between our house and The Jackass’s, but her primary place of residence was with him. Nenè lived with us on temporary basis throughout the year. She was here every Wednesday and every other weekend. And it just so happened that she was here the weekend we found out that Bashert was pregnant. We could not have planned it any better to have us all together as a family to celebrate the happy news.

As usual, all too soon Sunday rolled around and it was time for The Jackass to pick up Nenè. This was 7:00 in the winter evening. We gave extra hugs all around and she was off. We then decided to walk up to our neighbor Laura’s house to let her in on the good news too. Laura was our neighbor, friend, substitute grandmother and greatest supporter in the Jewish community right from the moment we all met. It was going to be fun letting her in on the news.

We had been at Laura’s for about fifteen minutes or so when someone knocked on the door. Laura got up and answered it to find Nenè standing there, shaking and crying. We all immediately jumped up to pull her inside and find out what in the world was going on.

It turned out that Nenè had left some of her school work at our house and needed to return to get it. She realized it when she and The Jackass were just down the road and asked him to turn around. As Nenè tells it, he was not too happy about this and started an argument, but nevertheless did turn around. This must have been at the exact time we were walking up to Laura’s.

When Nenè knocked on our door (she didn’t have a key at this point because we didn’t trust The Jackass not to take it – we had our reasons to be paranoid) of course no one answered, but the dogs started barking. When we didn’t come to the door, Nenè said The Jackass kept insisting she keep knocking, that we would not have gone off without the dogs. She was beginning to get more and more upset with his treatment. She tried to explain that we did often go off without them and we were not home.

Something in this answer set off The Jackass. According to Nenè, he began yelling at her and a stand off ensued – she insisting we were not at home, he insisting we were but just choosing not to answer the door. The solution that the grown-up had was him getting in his car and driving off without her. He left a dumbfounded 15 year old girl standing alone, in the dark. At this point I am going to call up the old adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I was proud of what Nenè did after she was dumped. She knew we were not home and couldn’t get in the house. She had no access to a phone, so she did the best thing she could – she ran to Laura’s house. And that is where I pick up the story.

At Laura’s house Nenè told us some things about living with The Jackass we had not been aware of. All was not well over there. She asked if she could stay with us at least for the night, still not knowing what the situation with The Jackass would turn out to be. Of course she could stay! Her primary residence may have been with him, but we had joint custody and at 15, she could choose to stay wherever she wanted.

It took a bit of time to get her settled down and all of the story out of her, so it was probably a good half hour or more before we said goodnight to Laura and headed back to our house. When we turned the corner to approach our place who did we see sitting in the lot in front? Yep, The Jackass. Seems he had had a turn of heart. He demanded Nenè get in the car immediately.

Remember how I said, go after one of mine and I go into Hulk mode? Prime example just about to happen. Nenè had confirmed some things about The Jackass that Bashert and I had wondered about and let’s just say I was not going to let Nenè back in the car with him driving that night.

First I made sure Nenè was firm about not going back with him, but would take her if she wanted me to but I also told her I was not going to let him drive her. She said no, she wanted to stay with me. I told her to go in the house and I would take care of things. The strength of Hercules rose in me that night. I turned to face The Jackass and gritted my teeth.

All the anger over the ten years it took to get our divorce and all the mud he tried to drag me through took over. I was a towering steam of barely controlled fury. I stood up in his face and I told him Nenè would not be returning with him that night. I told him he was a jerk and a fine example of what a parent should be and that he needed to leave now. Nenè would not be going with him.

He got hot, boy did he get hot. He really did not expect me to stand up to him. He started yelling about calling the police and charging me with kidnapping. Funny thing at that point, his anger transformed mine. I knew I had control then. Oh, I was still angry, but it was an anger I could use. I told him to go ahead and call, even offered him the phone. I told him that I wanted to see who got in the most trouble – me or the jackass who just dumped a visible shaken 15 year old girl into the dark alone. He seemed to sober a bit at that. Still sputtering to himself, he finally got in his car and drove off. Victory was mine and Nenè was safe.

I turned to go back in the house only to have it hit me that he had all of Nenè’s things with him in his car. We would have to go over there in the morning to get her school stuff she had returned to our house to get!

What a hell of a weekend.

Bashert and I talked about what was going on and we agreed that if Nenè wanted to make her stay permanent then it would be okay.  We talked about it all week – Nenè was still too upset to return to The Jackass’s house for anything but a quick run to get extra clothes. She finally said that she wanted to leave him for good. She wanted to live with us and not have to deal with all the issues going on with him. The decision had been made. Nenè was moving in.

In one fell swoop, our house and lives were about to get amazingly full.

Stop Peeing on the Damn Sticks Already: Baby Chpt. 8

J&ENever buy pregnancy test kits before the requisite two week waiting period.

Many of the kits advertise that they are the ones with the earliest detection times – “Our test can detect pregnancy one day after your missed period.” What they fail to mention is that is still two weeks after insemination – artificial or not. But to Bashert, early meant early, as in right away. She was driving herself (and me) crazy peeing on those damn sticks. Every time it would fail to show the smiley face, she would slump just knowing that she was not pregnant then she would do it again the next day. I finally just had to get rid of them – for both our sanity.

As the years weeks of waiting dragged on…Bashert began to notice that our animals were acting strange around her, more than usual and in a different way that is (All of our animals seem to come with some neurotic misfirings). The dogs were suddenly more protective and the cats, well, here’s a bit of TMI for you – the cats loved to roll in her underwear! They would pull it out of the dirty clothes and just roll. I love my cats, but they are freaky little things. Was our strange menagerie giving us an animal kingdom head’s up?

Finally the two weeks were up, I could safely put out the pregnancy tests again. Bashert was beside herself with anticipation. I’m not sure which night was worse, the night before insemination or the one before she could possibly get a real reading from the damn pee-stick. So early that Saturday morning, yes another laundry day, Bashert got up as late and as early as she could so that the test could be taken with what was considered her “first voiding” of the morning.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that one. I can only imagine the 3600 things bouncing around in her head that morning.

I was still dozing in bed when I heard MaLea calling my name. I jumped up and ran the full three feet to the bathroom. There I found two smiling faces; one big smile on Bashert’s face and another tiny one on a little white stick. I was in shock. I’ll be damned if the thing wasn’t showing her as pregnant. The insemination worked!

I asked her a billion questions to make sure she had followed all the instructions to the T. I didn’t want it to seem that I doubted her capabilities of peeing on a stick, I just wanted to make sure that all the required protocol was followed so that we had a true result (don’t judge, remember the cutting in line episode, she wasn’t known for following all the rules). The truth of the matter washed over me and I could feel the warmth of joy spread throughout my body. We were going to have a baby! What a Chanukah present!

The fly in the ointment remained the stupid infertility clinic. Bashert had been instructed to call them if and when she got a positive response at home. So here we were on another Saturday, forced to call the on-call nurse. Oh, joy. After what seemed from my vantage to be a much more snippy version of what I had asked, Bashert said she had to go in on Monday and have a blood test done to confirm the findings for sure. Much in the vein of Dr. Lizardo, the nurse had gone off on how next to impossible it was for a woman to get pregnant on the first go round and that all the different hormone levels needed to be checked to make sure the pregnancy was in fact true and the fetus was viable. Viable?

Two hours earlier, Bashert and I were dancing on air and in one fell swoop another minion of that cursed infertility clinic had dashed us to the earth. I had really begun to hate that place. Once again, I was put in the place to try and alleviate the fears creeping back into our lives. That’s me – comic relief central.

Monday finally rolled around and I was hating it. I wanted to be there with Bashert for this step too, but my morning job didn’t have any flexibility to it. We only had the one car so Bashert had drop me off at work before heading over to the blood lab to have her blood drawn. As we pulled into the parking lot, she began to get upset. After all of our discussions over the weekend, I thought she was upset about the prospects of the pee-stick smiley face telling a lie. I began to try and tell her that things would work out the way that was best and we can’t be sure of anything and so and so on. A strange look came over her face and she finally interrupted me to let me know it wasn’t about whether or not she was pregnant, but that she was scared sh*tless about having to be stuck with a needle! I thought I would bust a gut laughing.

After all the crap she had been through already to get to this point, she was afraid of the blood test? Even she had to laugh at that point. At least we parted in a good humor that morning. She took off for the blood lab and I went in to work to wait out whatever the results were going to be.

It was hard to concentrate at work that day. There were only two phones in the locale of my position at the time. One was on my immediate supervisor’s desk and the other slap in the middle of the work floor – a phone call was not going to happen (these were our no cell phone days). I had to wait for Bashert to physically return. The day dragged on and on for me. I couldn’t believe it was taking so long to get a simple blood test. Did they really have to go kill a rabbit?

Finally, I got a call from the front office that someone was here to see me. It was about an hour before I was to get off. That meant she had been gone four hours! When I walked out into the lobby all I could see was Bashert crying. Oh, no, the damn clinic was right! She wasn’t pregnant after all.

Now Bashert seems to recall that I began to speak again, waxing philosophically about how it will happen when it supposed to happen and all that. I don’t remember talking that much at all. I just remember a lot of crying and then her finally spitting out the words that we were pregnant. It took a minute for the words to actually register. I went from crushed to elated in such a short span my brain couldn’t keep up. She actually said, “We’re pregnant!” And that rat had me thinking it had all been for naught. Always, always an adventure with this one.

We were having a baby.

Friends, now what? Chapter 2 of my version

J&EI have to admit it didn’t cross my mind that our friendship would be anymore than that; friendship. Considering the gruesome breakup I was experiencing, I certainly was not looking for anything more. But somewhere between that first, “Geez, why doesn’t she just go away?” and my realization that I was going to be devastated if she really did move to Israel as planned after her graduation, the relationship had moved into something else entirely. Much to the amusement of our other friends (yes, I made more friends regardless of what my daughter Nené might say) we became a couple. The story of the in between is quite a tale unto itself, but that is ours to savor and occasionally let tidbits out, but for now I move on to the next step: cohabitation.

When Bashert and I first moved into together, it was as if we were on vacation every day, well at least at home, well at least some of the time. You know that closet that you hear about gay people coming out of? Well, let us say our life was pretty much one big walk-in.

I was still immeshed in that nasty ongoing divorce and my attorneys at the time suggested that I not reveal to my daughter the true aspect of our relationship. The laws in the state of South Carolina, the state that had power over the divorce proceedings, were not kind to those of my ilk. The ex-husband-to-be was not below using any and all means to keep my daughter away from me and cut off any kind of financial support he could. Bashert and I were forced to set up a farce of a roommate situation whenever Nené stayed with us.

Bashert had graduated and was in the “real” world teaching art at the local Catholic high school. I know, joke in the making: Jewish, lesbian teaching at Catholic school. When she was hired, she had to sign a “moral turpitude” contract. This meant that they had control over her so-called moral behavior even outside of school and oh, let us see – what was the official 1997 Catholic standing on homosexuality? Oh, yeah – get the hell off our property, die and burn for eternity. We were forced into another farce of pretense. Not that we were very good at it, in either situation.

By this time Nené was around nine years old and it was pretty apparent that we weren’t doing such a good job keep ourselves in the closet around her. I found a crumpled note in her room after a weekend visit. “Mom – I think you are gay with Bashert”. I guess it is hard to explain to a nine year old why Mom’s “roommate” is involved in most every aspect of our lives and not have her be suspicious. Trying to be something we were not in order to keep Nené in our lives was causing more damage than helping.

Things at Bashert’s job were not much better. Bashert took her ring off each morning before work, a painful thing for both of us. She took “beards” to various school functions. We separated whenever anyone from her school was seen in our vicinity when we were out and about – even at the grocery store. Despite the precautions we thought we were taking, we ended up having our car keyed and wonderful rumors were heard about us being seen making out in the Winn Dixie parking lot. Really? At least they could have picked a more up-scale place than a grocery store parking lot..

On a weekend excursion to Atlanta, we stopped in a jewelry store and lo and behold, Bashert heard a student call her name, “Hey, Miss Smith!”  Arg. We couldn’t even relax when we went out of town. The closet was getting mighty stuffy.

In 1999, after two years of teaching there, the Catholic school Bashert was working for suddenly “lost” their funding for the art department and her contract was not renewed. Funny how the funding was “found” two months later when they hired a new art teacher. I’m just saying.

Now at this point you may be wondering why all this background. Why not just jump right in with the baby story? Well, to understand some of the coming story, you had to know some of the back story. You see, it took those years of struggle – finding each other, overcoming our differences (still working on that one occasionally), hiding from family and the world – to build the determination and convictions needed to start fresh as an open and proud family.

After Bashert lost her teaching job, we decided that whatever job she found it would have to be one that accepted us. No more hiding. I also made the decision to fire my attorneys. All the secretiveness had done nothing to further my cause, in fact, it had done more harm than good to the relationship with my daughter. It wasn’t until Bashert and I made the decision to “come out of the closet” together that Nené started to come around.

Bashert found another job as a graphic artist at a place that really didn’t care one way or the other about her personal life and I found an attorney who specialized in representing gays and lesbians. We were on our way. The only thing left to work out was my lingering strings tying me to The Jackass. Bashert wanted to expand our family and I did not want to bring a baby into our relationship until I was able to say I was free and clear to be hers. You see, as liberal as my views had become, I was still old fashioned enough to say that we needed to be “married” before we had kids.

It took two more years before the divorce could be finalized and believe me it wasn’t for want of trying on my part. By the time it was all said and done, I had graduated with my BFA, started not one, but two part time jobs, Bashert had started working for a private dinner club as Membership Director and Nené had begun high school. It was a long haul to get to that sad, but relieving day in May.

Once the shock of the reality of my divorce had worn off, Bashert wasted no time in preparing for our commitment ceremony – she had that fierce determination going again. On July 27th we were standing in front of 50 of our closest friends and family to proudly show them that we were committed to living an open and loving life together. It was a beautiful ceremony that people still talk about today 12 years later. I only hope our legal wedding will be half as warm and special when that day comes (hint, hint to the federal government).

After the ceremony, Bashert began talking in earnest about wanting to have a baby. I admit it, I was nervous. I was now 40 years old, trying to maintain two jobs and going through the teenage years with Nené. One by one, Bashert knocked down my arguments, made sure to include Nené every step of the way and had me convinced.

We were going to make a baby.

A baby story – my version of the tale

J&EMy partner Bashert is writing a series of exposés on our journey to have a baby (Yoda). She is amazed by all the wonderful responses she is receiving. I’m not surprised at all. She can tell a story, that woman. She pours all her heart into what she is regaling and lays it on the line, warts and all.

I am reading right along with all of her other fans. It is funny to read about my life from the outside. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I sit and make note of things I had forgotten and sometimes I revisit very angry moments. It was a roller coaster ride for sure. If you haven’t read her exciting tales of the road to motherhood then pop over to her site: www.bashert04.com.

I was teasing with her when she told me with wide eyes how many hits she had in under an hour the other night just after she posted another segment. I joked that maybe I should write my own version of what went on. She said why not? I thought about it and decided, why not? So I present to you my side of the story – our baby story.

 

We Meet

We met in college. In 1995, at the age of 34 and seeking some source of sanity, I returned to school to finish out my Fine Arts degree I started back when the dinosaurs roamed about. I was two years into a very nasty divorce and custody battle that would eventually drag on for another eight years. I was emotionally and physically scarred and needed a place to help me feel good and right about myself.

Learning had always been a refuge for me, but starting over was hard. I was so socially removed, I barely spoke above a whisper and held everyone at arm’s length. To say that I tried to keep to myself is a radical understatement.

Bashert was ahead of me in the program despite being nine years my junior. A couple of years earlier, she fought to gain her independence from an abusive father and get into college. Fighting hard for things is a major theme in Bashert’s life – keep that point in mind as we go through this story. She knew no strangers; she had friends and acquaintances all over campus.

As a sculptor, Bashert had no love loss for two-dimensional work. Give her some clay to play with and she is a happy camper. Back then the closest thing she came to painting was applying glazes to her ceramic creations. I had the reverse situation. Three-dimensional work and I just didn’t get along – never did; I still have the pinch pot I made in third grade as testament to that fact, the poor malformed little thing. No, give me paper and pencil and I was in heaven.

I never really painted before taking that class, but oh, it was love at first stroke! The way the paint moved across the canvas, pushing and pulling in a beautiful dance of negative and positive spaces. The sharp, piney tang of turpentine and the mellow musk of the oils were heady perfumes for me. And the colours – oh, the colours! The painting studio turned out to be my home. There was only one thing out of place there – Bashert.

It would be suffice to say that painting and Bashert didn’t get on, but add in that we later found out she was pretty much colour blind, that sealed the deal. At the time, I just thought she had been sent into my life to be yet another punishment for whatever hellbent life I had lived earlier. Shy to begin with and emotionally crushed on top of that, I did not know what to do with this girl.

I would arrive at the studio to find her sitting cheerfully at my station with a big grin on her face announcing that she “borrowed” some of my cadmium yellow or a cleaning rag or any number of other supplies. She would chat away as I tried to start my painting day and tactfully extricate myself from her. But she had worked it out so that her painting station was right next to mine and the badgering never ended. Often I would find myself staring in wonderment that she couldn’t get it that I was yearning to left alone.

Get it, she did not and the barrage of questions kept coming either about myself or ultimately about how to paint her images. “How would you do this one?” What colour should I use?” “Could you just take the brush and show me how?” My reply was always, “It is your painting.” I think this made me more a challenge to her. I remember going to my therapy sessions and telling the doctor in an exasperated voice, “That girl has some serious boundary issues!”.  I was already dealing with a vindictive ex-husband to be and a hormonal seven-year-old daughter, another aggravating person was the last thing I needed in my life. On some level I think I was relieved when the class was over just to end the torture from Bashert.

But remember what I said in the beginning? Bashert knows how to fight hard for the things she wants and for some unfathomable reason, she wanted to be my friend. She didn’t give up.

We went on a university sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. and she made sure that I couldn’t bury my nose in my crossword puzzle book on the ride up. She asked me to help her with the art gallery at school where she worked putting up monthly art exhibits. She asked for rides around town to her various other jobs, despite the fact that she hated my 1968 Mercury Cougar muscle car. I loved that car…sigh. But that’s another story.

All the while we were together, she would talk. And talk. And talk. Slowly, oh so slowly, those rides became stops and the talks became conversations, long conversations that lasted into the wee hours of the night. The aggressive girl with the boundary issues taught me how to be in the world again and somewhere in the midst, miraculously became my first friend in almost 15 years.