Leaning back in my chair on their screened-in porch I watched as Stephe carried all of the various plates and styrofoam take-out boxes from our really wonderful Indian dinner into the house. As he turned the corner into the kitchen, I sat forward, quickly leaning in towards Rose, Stephe’s wife.
“Okay, so tell me,” I said conspiratorially, “Why did you marry him?”
Rose leaned back with a gale of laughter. Bonn, for the umteenth time in our long marriage, gave an embarrassed I-Can’t-Believe-You-Just-Asked-That-
“Well,” Rose said, after she regained her composure. “When I took Stephe home to meet my parents my mother took me aside and said, ‘Now I know I told you that looks don’t mean anything, but...’.”
As I emailed Rose later this past week, my question had nothing to do with looks, but with personality. Let me clearly state for the record that I love Stephe. He’s been a strong, steady friend for years and years, someone who would plan and scheme to help you out if you ever needed help in a myriad of ways. He’s encouraging, steady and has the most amazing ability to “make connections” between incredibly diverse groups of people and make them all work when and if he needs to.
He is also, as Bonn summarized, “eccentric,” in that slightly outlandish and bizarre way that is quite befitting his professorial way of life. It’s an outlook on life and a lifestyle that not many people can work well with. That he may occasionally work to promote that image of himself may be something that only people who have known him for a long period of time may see.
Rose (a name she chose for use here because it would make her smile) answered in email with all of the right reasons. They’ve been together just slightly longer than Bonn and I have been and it’s clear to see that they both love, respect and cherish each other and the life they’ve built together.
Back in the earliest of the 80s, Stephe and I had planned to NYC and attend the New School. As it turned out, he was able to go a semester before I was and found himself in classes at night and with lots of time on his hands during the days. How he fell into an intensive Deaf Interpreters program, I don’t have any recollection, but he did. When I arrived in NYC he was fluent and I worked a bit to catch up with him. Sign language was fascinating to me, combining both words and a wide range of facial expressions. That I could always fall back on finger-spelling words that I didn’t know the signs for helped as well.
By the end of my first sign language class at the New School I was doing fairly well. When Stephe transfered to Gallaudet University for his “junior year of foreign study” I felt cocky enough to think I could at least fake my way through Gallaudet’s campus well enough.
That led to hanging out with Stephe in the basements of dorm buildings on Friday nights where I eventually met my first wife, a (hearing) grad student in psychology and working a two-year stint at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut.
In all my years of signing I’ve always been much better at signing than I have at understanding other people signing to me. And considering how many years it’s been since I’ve signed on any sort of regular basis, I’m continually surprised at how much vocabulary I still remember.
However, when I was asking Rose why she married Stephe my signing came out all wrong. What I actually signed, I realized later, was, “OK, tell me. Why you meet him?” Luckily, Rose was able to hear my question well enough to understand what I was asking.
Sitting on their back porch we discussed politics, how Stephe and I intertwined with numerous other old friends, many of whom Bonn and Rose had at least heard of in the past. We also talked about art, craft, the difference between art and craft.
At one point Bonn smiled that mildly wicked smile she has at me and announced, “Did you know fivecats is writing a book?”
“What’s it about?” came the natural question.
It’s about two chapters long right now and it sucks so badly that I don’t think even Anne Lamott’s dictate of granting yourself permission to write a sh*tty first draft was meant for something this awful thankyouverymuch. Right now it’s my own personal shame, my own personal cross to bear that I can’t even write something as simple and basic as a story I’ve been playing out and writing out in my head for the past four years, okay? Can we please just leave it at that???
So I didn’t actually say that. I thought most of it while I was actively working to avoid discussing the topic. Rose, however, was relentless in her pursuit of the basic plot. Stephe just sat back and enjoyed watching me squirm.
I fixed a hook on their screened in back porch. I attempted witty diversionary topics of conversation.
Finally, met with glares of annoyance, I gave in.
“Okay,” I said, pointing to Stephe. “But you’re interpreting. Talking about it is awkward enough, but having to try and sign my way through it isn’t going to work.”
Somethings are best left to the experts.
A quick note to ubermunkey and velvetink: the top two images were taken by doing a very slight pan to the left (with the tripod in the exact same place) from where the image in my last post was taken. Checking through my images again I found that I did, indeed, have this image that tied all of these images together.
And, sakkijarvi, it still looks like a model train landscape to me. (Maybe it’s the train in the background that does it?)
These were taken from a bridge over the waterway that connects two sections of Rochester. It’s a walking bridge (only) and was clearly made to allow people to better appreciate some of the natural beauty of the city.
I’m curious to see how it looks during the coldest part of the Rochester winters. :-)