I have only three distinct memories of the women whose float-home I am house-sitting on the Fraser River this summer while they have gone to their other home on the other coast, the east coast, and Newfoundland.
Not a river there right at their backdoor nor two red Adirondack chairs to sit and watch the tugboats from, but a white two-storey house, I imagine, or perhaps I saw a photo they showed me before they left. It has long grass in front and a square porch that they look past on cloudy days; grass sloping down toward a white-capped cove they have now claimed as their own, not legally, but in attachment, and little white rowboats all topsy turvy hopscotching around buoys.
Thinking back to another summer so long ago. 1993. Pat, hunched over her desk, always there, busy, scanning information like a reading machine. Editor. I worked for her, on-call, right out of journalism school. Occasionally, her humour would lift off through a comment in response to some letter to the editor, a ridiculous request from the faceless all-knowing, know nothing public. Her sarcasm and amazement sprinkling out over the cubicles that sectioned the dingy room like the marks of a surgeon on a stomach before surgery.
It seems as if the next time I saw them, in person, was after he’d killed himself. We were there, inside his float-home, further south along this same river. That abode, run down and wretched and the silence after a death filled the room, and me not able to contain the emotion I’d been pushing down. “No wonder he killed himself. Look at this place.” The only words that came. And, Pat, bless her heart, responding, “It’s not so bad,” as if that would help. As if anything could make better what could never be made better. It seems strange now that they were there, except they’d dropped by the neighbours’ place, his friends, and I’m not sure why we were all inside that tiny living room at all.
And, then, fast-forward to happier times. Salt Spring. They’d come for a weekend get-away and thanks to the connections of Facebook, Pat messaged me to ask if I’d like to have breakfast at the Treehouse on a sunny Sunday morning in spring. It had been years since I’d seen them in person. It was a taffy-coloured morning and their surprise visit that went so well made everything that much better.
So, you see, I barely know them at all really and yet here I am, in one of their homes. They are getting married today, or was it yesterday? I’m not even sure and it might seem like just another wedding until you read what Pat wrote on her Facebook page, after she left the West Coast, to marry Janna, the woman she’s shared her life with for 31 years.
Here’s part of what she shared…
“…For those who know me, I’m a pretty private person, and the thought of exchanging vows – or anything in public – is not my idea of fun. But, I marched in protests in the late ’70s just to get job protection for gay and lesbians – and yes, I was fired from a job for being gay (although, granted, I was also crappy at that job!… not in journalism), and while not a fan of the whole marriage institution (don’t get me going) it seems like the right thing to do at this time for a whole lot of reasons.
I must confess, while marching with my protest sign in my stylish suede blazer and Gloria Steinem glasses, I would never have envisioned a time when we would have the right to marry. Basic equal rights at that time seemed an impossible quest. Even trying to get equal pay as a woman required legal threats and action.
So, lastly, I want to thank all of my (our) friends and allies (and there have been many!) who have stood with us (and I mean that in a personal and much wider sense) as we have fought the hard battles. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And, in a very real way, you’ll all be standing with us on the shores of Blackhead Bay, when we say our vows and do whatever it is we’re supposed to do with those darn rings … rings, oh yah, better remember to bring those!!!…”
Congratulations to you both. I trust your wedding was completed in a style that only you two could pull off. Tears and cake. And, more cake.
And for me, in your floathome, another distinct and very happy memory.