Disclaimer: Characters belong to Barbara Hall. Mistakes are all mine. Pineapples are dedicated to Artemis Rain.
Warning: snarky kidfic ahead
Notes: This is a stupid cracked-up fic I wrote one night, as an apology for never updating my College!Grace series. To the person who has to keep thinking of new names to leave reviews, if you're reading this--- I'm sorry that I'm causing so much angst! And I will update soon . . . I hope. Um, this is mostly AU after Common Thread, and sort of co-exists in my College!Grace universe.
Lastly, I am not personally responsible for any diabetic reactions caused by the reading of the following material.
When I was eleven years old, my best friend Jeremy came over to my house under the pretense of doing homework, and over a bag of Doritos and several worksheets on the life cycle of the amoeba, we discussed the failure of his sixteen-year-old sister's marriage. While Jeremy was a hopeless romantic, I held a more cynical viewpoint and quickly pointed out that they were sixteen, hello, who really expected it to work out?
Jeremy, who had read one too many romance novels, replied, "Well, it worked out for your parents, didn't it? Weren't they childhood sweethearts? Found their true love at sixteen?"
"Not so loud, retard," I said, looking over to see if my mother had been paying attention to what we were saying. She had not; she was deeply engaged in writing whatever she wrote, we were never allowed to ask. "My mom could hear you. God, do you have a death wish?"
Even at a young age, I knew better than to use the words "true love" and "childhood sweethearts" within my mother's vicinity. If it were up to my mother to describe her marriage to my father, it would be something along the lines of, "During a moment of impaired judgment, I fell victim to the oppressive patriarchy that governs our social norms. But I wore leather, just to make a point."
If I asked my father, he would lapse into stuttery scientific language, coming up with analogies about neurological impulses and the physics of human emotion, often beginning with his ninth-grade science fair and concluding with a wide, irrepressible grin, the one that made Jeremy fall in love with him at the age of five.
(When we were about eight years old, Jeremy and I had this conversation:
Jeremy: If your mom dies, I'm going to marry your dad.
Me: My mom isn't going to die. Ever.
Jeremy: Well, if your parents get divorced . . .
Me: You're an asshole.
I was unjustly punished for using inappropriate language, and when I related this incident to my mother, she remarked, "It's cool that Jeremy is so comfortable with his sexuality. At least we know the idiot teachers at your school are doing something right.")
I've never gone right out to ask my parents the details of how they ended up together, because I am not inquisitive by nature, and because to me, it doesn't matter how they ended up together, what matters is that they did. Nevertheless, throughout the years, I have gathered bits and pieces from relatives and friends and my parents themselves, enough for me to give a rather accurate account of their story.
"Well," I usually begin, "they met in Chemistry class. And then they built a gun. And then they had a contract, which my mother burned for my dad's sixteenth birthday. And then they broke up because my mother was going to college and long-distance relationships never work. And then my dad went to college, like, next door to my mom and they got back together, after my dad bailed my mom out of jail. She was arrested for political protest. Then they broke up again, and my dad dated this FBI agent, who got shot and then dumped him. I'm not sure if the two incidents are related. My mom was dating this really creepy guy for a while. Now he works on Wall Street. Anyway, my parents stayed in touch and tried to be friends, and then they had save my aunt Joan from an arranged marriage with a member of the Yakuza. After that, everyone decided that they should just stay together from then on, because when they're apart, the universe spirals out of control. Eventually, they got married. In Canada. It was a spur of the moment thing and for a long time nobody knew except Joan, who almost lost the wedding pictures in Lichtenstein."
Most people think there should be a requisite "and they lived happily ever after" at this point, but my mother would disapprove. This is not to say that they didn't live happily ever after, however, and they've certainly lived to a point where they no longer need complete thoughts and proper nouns in order to have an argument.
Mom: Can you get that thing? Like, tomorrow?
Mom: You know. (deep, annoyed sigh) The thing.
Dad: How would I know? What thing?
Mom: The thing, the damn ---
Dad: I don't know what --- never mind, I will
Mom: God, you really --- oh, shut up, I'll just do it myself.
You know, they are doing pretty good, even if I say so myself.
Neither of my parents remained close to their immediate families after high school. They were the type of people who visited home for the occasional Christmas or Passover, and kept little contact otherwise. My grandmother Helen called perhaps once every seven months or so, and usually only because she had dialed the wrong number. My mom's father, the Rabbi, called once in a while, and Mom would talk to him sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in English, most of the time with a mixture of annoyance and something that looks a little like longing. All in all, my parents kept to themselves and if any news needed to be shared, my aunt Joan was usually the messenger.
You must understand that Joan is not the most reliable source of information. She has the attention span of a toddler with ADHD, and frequently forgets to mention things until years after the fact. For this reason, my Grandma Helen did not discover my existence till after I've been living with my parents for almost a year.
According to my father, who was watching me that day, I had answered the phone, and the following conversation ensued.
Grandma: Who's this?
Me: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Daddy.
Dad: (to me) Who are you talking to? Oh, hey, it's your grandma! (to Grandma) Hi, Mom.
Grandma: Who was that?
Dad: Oh, that was the baby.
Grandma: YOU HAVE A BABY?
Dad: Well, she's not a baby. She's three.
Grandma: She's three? Why didn't you tell me Grace was pregnant?
Dad: What? Grace's not pregnant. Grace's never been pregnant. Wait, didn't Joan tell you?
Grandma: Tell me what?
By the end of the week, my mother's side of the family joined in the confusion, and soon after, a FedEx box appeared on our doorstep, containing a small pink sweater and a pair of socks from Baby Gap, gifts from my other set of grandparents.
My mother, despite being somewhat amused by the whole situation, demanded that the box be returned, as she hated Baby Gap and there was no baby who could be dressed in said Baby Gap. Unfortunately, our slightly deranged cat, Rasputin, had chewed up one of the socks and my dad said, "Well, we can't return it now."
So we kept the sweater for my cross-dressing plush penguin, Isaac, and my parents sent a memo to existing friends and family and foe explaining that, (a) there is no baby, but (b) there is a three-year-old they adopted internationally, (c) no, they didn't do it just because Angelina Jolie did, and if she gets compared to Angelina Jolie one more time, Grace is going to kick your ass, (d) Joan, seriously, what the hell did you tell them, and lastly (f) the kid is great, she likes Cheerios, she knows the first ten digits of Pi, and she is a registered Democrat.
Members of my extended family were not strangers to such confusion. Not long before the mix-up regarding my arrival, there was another mix-up, this one having to do with my parents' nuptials.
Now the story of my parents' non-existent Canadian wedding is best told by Joan, who happened to be one of the few people present at the time. According to my aunt, my parents were in Montreal, attending the wedding of one of my mother's college friends. Joan tagged along, as Joan is wont to do, and after a hideously boring ceremony and a hideously boring reception, the newlyweds threw an afterparty that was reminiscent of their college days, complete with debates about politically-correct references to different cultural foods ("Dammit, Ben, of course gyoza is not a politically-correct term. How can it be politically-correct? It's not politically anything, it's a pan-fried dumpling.").
After a few amaretto sours, everything became delightfully blurred around the edges for my aunt, and at one point she said, "God, I love this place. I want to marry this place. No, wait, you know what would be cool? If you two got married at this place."
So now you know the truth. My parents got married because a crazy, drunken woman told them to.
"Come on," Joan begged. "For my birthday?"
"It's almost five months until your birthday. And besides, your birthday? What kind of a reason is that to give in to the misogynistic demands of our patriarchal society?"
"It's a valid reason!"
"Am I going to have a say in this?" asked my father. "Certainly getting married as Joan's birthday present is not exactly the way I planned ---"
"Dude, you've planned?"
"Grace, it's been ten years. I like to plan! I like to be precise!"
"I'd better not be barefoot and pregnant in any one of your plans or I'll ---"
"Listen to him, Grace!" Joan said. "It's been ten years. You guys have been together forever. I mean, don't you think it's time you made it official? Please, please get married. Terrible things happen when you two aren't together. People get shot."
"You are insane." Mom ignored her and turned to my father. "Don't you like what we have right now?"
"Well," Dad said. "I'm okay with it. I mean, if you're okay with it. Obviously Joan is not okay with it, but she'll probably have no recollection of this in the morning."
My mother said nothing for the rest of the night. At around five in the morning, she woke my dad and told him, "I'm keeping my name. And I'm not wearing a dress."
My dad smiled so bright, my mom said that fucking rosy-fingered dawn was no competition for him.
They were married the next day ("But not in Niagara Falls, because Niagara Falls is tacky," my aunt noted), partly because my mom has always liked to do things quickly, before too much reason can kick in, but mostly because my parents were afraid Joan would change her mind and ask for something expensive for her birthday, like a bulldozer. ("Why would I want a bulldozer?" "I don't know, Girardi. You do weird things.")
It was a small ceremony, with both a priest and a rabbi, and my mother did end up wearing a dress, but she agreed to do so only if she could wear her leather jacket over it.
Joan was in charge of the photographs, so all and any wedding pictures were on her camera. Nobody thought much of that at the time, the sudden newness of everything having stunned them all. A few days later, Joan flew to Lichtenstein on another one of her strange missions, and through a scratchy postcard with no return address, she informed her parents of the impromptu wedding.
Minutes later, Helen Girardi called, furious that she had not been invited or even notified, and demanding to see pictures.
"They're on Joan's camera," my dad said.
My grandmother moaned. "You let Joan take the pictures?"
"I know Joan isn't the best photographer, but it's not like she will lose them or anything."
Which was precisely what Joan did. When she returned from Lichtenstein a few weeks later, she was confronted by my zealous grandparents, and her only response was, "Oh, crap."
So my parents were forced to tell others that sorry, they couldn't show them any wedding pictures because the pictures were probably at some Kodak station in continental Europe. My mother was pleased by this turn of events, because she has always hated being photographed, and the idea of having pictures of herself being circulated among the gossipmongers of Arcadia made her contemplate mass murder.
The wedding pictures finally resurfaced by the time I graduated from kindergarten. Aunt Joan came to the ceremony, because she wanted to get a glimpse of my teacher, a former model for Abercrombie and Fitch, despite my mother's constant reminders that he was impossibly, irreversibly gay.
Joan snapped numerous pictures of Mr. Abercrombie and several of me, looking small and miserable, somewhat out of place in pigtails and a Che Guevara T-shirt. When she developed the photos a few days later, she discovered that the roll of film has been in her camera for a very long time.
"I found your wedding pictures," she announced happily as she stopped by for lunch.
I was five years old, and had little concept of time. But I distinctly remember my dad saying that it was "like going past the speed of light and traveling backwards in time." That roll of film spanned the ages, starting with me in my kindergarten cap and gown, and ending with a panoroma shot of a row of pineapples, which Joan remembered taking, but could not for the life of her remember why. It was difficult to pinpointexactly when certain pictures had been taken, so we tried to discern the time by observing my grandmother's hairstyles and whichever girlfriend my uncle Kevin had his arm around.
Only one of the wedding pictures met my mother's approval. "Well, I don't like it --- just wait a second, okay?" she said as I grabbed onto her legs and reached up fora look. "But at least we don't look like dumbasses or have to share limelight with Joan's thumb."
I studied the picture for a minute, then gave it back to my mother. It was not interesting. My parents were my parents, and they looked exactly as I'd known them. I went back to eating my lunch, and when my mother wasn't looking, I put all my olives on Joan's plate.
My dad keeps the wedding picture on his desk, in his study. My parents are not the kind of people who hang blown-up portraits in their living room, displaying their wedded bliss to the world. Besides, the centerpiece in our living room is unarguably my mother's collection of Samurai swords.
From time to time, when I visit my father's study, I look at that picture. It is strange, to see my parents in their life before me, but it is also comforting, because I can see traces of who they were in who they've become.
In the photograph, my father is looking intently at my mother, "grinning like a stupid dork," as Mom would say. As always, my mother is staring back at him, maybe even glaring; on some days, it seems like she is scowling, on others, it seems like she is smiling.