We saw a double rainbow on the way out of Nebraska after my grandmother’s funeral

4/13/09

Sunflowers are golden. Tarnish is not golden, unless it’s on earrings that were too silvery shiny to begin with and they needed some dark – lilacs and freshly broken playground rocks and crocus blooming through the last of the winter snow and seeing the redbuds on the maple tree and trusting that Spring was really, actually, finally coming for real this time: all golden. Snowstorms in mid-April and a brown Christmas: not golden.

These are the nature things, the Midwest things, the snow shoe shallow things, the walking back home things.

Walking through love into a wall of fear is not golden but bursting that fear with one’s faith in oneself and thick love for one’s compatriots is so golden it’s liquid.

He asked me not to bring you because he’s afraid of how it’ll look if you show up there with me, all of my fierce queer family un our leather and pansy dresses and tattoos and brave dye jobs and outspokenness and brazen truth fever and strong flaring unflinching eyes, all of us and our hands locked with lovers or tricks, our hands outstretched toward the pale bodies of a town in the middle of Nebraska that’s not all that far, in philosophical terms, from where Brandon Teena was murdered.

He asked me to come alone, without you, and unspoken was: you can fix your hair nice and put on a black skirt and no one would be the wiser. He wanted me to leave you off the list of my grandmother’s mourners, you heavily-mascaraed boys and fine suit-n-tie wearing girls. He wanted me to put my politics on the slide and my love on the swing and let them occupy themselves while my naked shameful body said goodbye to the woman who taught me about steadiness and safety and comfort and rhubarb-strawberry pie.

He says that if the other mourners see you, they will forget what they were gathered for, they will forget the woman whose life they are at the United Methodist to celebrate and remember, they will turn away from her and focus only on you, on us, on all of us in our un-American oddity.

And I remind him that I have grown from the seed that she planted and they tended, this middlest of middle America, with their water and sunlight and locusts and lies, with their long farms and endless faith and foreverable silencings, with their protestant hymns and communal supers and casseroles brought to the homes of the ill and the dying and all the unspoken sorrows of 200 years of homesteading: I am the fruit of those labors, harvested. They cannot deny us our legacy or our home. They can consider us abnormal, but if we are of them, then we are as strawberry-rhubarb as they are.

I am tired of these transparencies lain over my life, the requests to just be in the closet a little while – as if the closets our families lived in weren’t the most hospitable breeding ground for abuse, as if I want to refabricate those conditions, as if I don’t want to bring some queer sunshine into my family’s hometown, some golden probability for the one or three queer kids still living there and seeing themselves reflected nowhere, living between the crosshatch of Brandon and Matthew, expecting the closet is their only refuge.

He says my grandmother would never ask, herself, that I hide you, and unspoken it’s always unspoken is the point that she would prefer it that way but I look through her photo albums and find, among all the images of grandchildren and their families, several pictures of me with my ex-wife, and I see my grandmother honoring who I am, who she silently, steadily, helps me to be.

3 responses to “We saw a double rainbow on the way out of Nebraska after my grandmother’s funeral

  1. Absolutely beautiful writing, Jen. Thank you for sharing! Love ya, ~juli

  2. Thanks so much for your note, and for reading, Kristy! xoxo

  3. Walking through love into a wall of fear is not golden but bursting that fear with ones faith in oneself and thick love for one’s compatriots is so golden it’s liquid.Damn, Jen. You made me cry.

    -Kristy