normalizing

pronounsOn June 26, 2015, that historic day when the Supreme Court decided that same-sex marriage would be legal in all fifty of the United States, I sat on a bus stop bench near Macy’s on 34th Street waiting for Bob to come out of Sketchers. We had just finished meeting with the lawyer who was preparing closing documents for the sale of our apartment and Bob wanted to look at tennis shoes.

The mundane character of how we received the news was poignant. I was now granted the unfathomable freedom to marry the love of my life who was shoe shopping as I sat on a bench among the unaware Midtown tourists only a half a mile (but a world away) from the epicenter of the impromptu celebrations popping up outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

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back to school

1963
school picture, 1964

I have spent nearly my whole life either enrolled in a school or working for one.

So, August is always the beginning of a new year for me—the hours of anticipation, the new space full of new supplies, the fresh start, the fear of failing, the return to routine and assignments and work.

I’m resurfacing three of my essays that live in that back-to-school world and the anxieties of beginning again:

faces

After half a century,
every face looks like one I’ve seen before:
this one like that sweet girl from grade school;
that one like this teacher from college;
another like that actress…or waitress…or both;
or like my childhood dentist,
or high school crush.
I catch myself about to speak,
and then remember
they, too, would be several decades older, by now.

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things i can’t take for granted

I posted the following note on Facebook on November 4, 2012, just before the presidential elections, knowing I had a few family members and friends whose votes could affect my civil rights. As the Supreme Court takes up Marriage Equality today and tomorrow, I thought I’d repost it here.


A few years ago, I thought I was having a heart attack on the Garden State Parkway. Right in the middle of discussing a particularly stressful work situation with Bob, my arms and my face went numb. I could barely move my mouth. It was as if someone had administered a giant syringe of novocain into my jaw, my torso and my arms. We were both terrified. In a mumble, hauntingly similar to that of a stroke victim, I asked Bob to pull off into the rest area, while I fumbled with my tingling fingers to dial 911 on his cell phone.

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my first christmas dinner at bubba’s

chocolatecakeChristmas of 1989, my first after having moved to New York City, would have been fairly lonely had my then brand-new-beau Bob not invited me to his home in Beaver Falls outside of Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate the holidays with his family, or should I say at “Bubba’s.” That’s what his family called his mother. Bob’s father’s side of the family was Serbian, and even though his mother is a lean, wise-cracking, back-woods Kentucky woman—someone who’s real name of Katherine or “Kitty” would have suited her better—nevertheless, as soon as her first grandchild was born, she was given the nickname “Bubba,” a Serbian term of endearment for grandmothers.

Now, Bob’s family is one of the wildest, most chaotic groups of people that this little son of a lockstep German woman has ever spent the holidays with, but that first Christmas at Bubba’s swirls in my memory as the wildest. Continue reading “my first christmas dinner at bubba’s”

working-class heirlooms

mom portraitMy sister Sally’s return address stuck out on the corner of the padded parcel envelope that someone had crammed into my mail cubby in the faculty lounge. I removed my gloves and carefully extracted the package from its tight squeeze, fearing that Christmas cookies, or what have you, might have been crushed. It was that time of year again. From Thanksgiving to New Years, my large family sent small gifts and packages to my work address in the City (the postal service in Brooklyn was not to be trusted), and most times the people at the elementary school knew better than to cram a package of cookies into a five-by-five-inch cubby.

As I freed the last corner of the envelope from the metal rim of the mailbox, I could tell that the contents were not crumbly at all. Rather, whatever was inside felt soft and pliable, like a small quilt or pillow. Continue reading “working-class heirlooms”

meeting someone in new york

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East Village, circa 1989.

I had that classic shot of Manhattan from the airplane window as I flew up the Hudson on the way into LaGuardia, parallel to the City’s skyscraper grid, as if the flight pattern had been directed specially for Continental Airlines and the City of New York by Woody Allen or Nora Ephron. I swear I heard Gershwin playing, possibly on the crackly airplane headphones, but I can’t say for certain. As I watched the World Trade Towers, then the Woolworth, Con-Ed, Flatiron, Empire State, Pan Am, and Chrysler buildings rise and fold below me like a pop-up book, the words passed through my head: “I could meet someone there.”

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