Among the many feelings my wife, Elenor, has experienced during this pandemic, one of the most raw has been more recent — a deep ache for her own mama, who passed away from cancer when Elenor was just 14.
It’s almost like the grief of all that’s been lost lately has nudged the older grief in her heart.
A friend asked Elenor, upon hearing of this heartache, what five qualities of her mom, Marilyn, that Elenor sees in herself. What topped El’s list was feistiness.
And she had the opportunity to live that reality just hours later.
We were locking up the house for the night and realized that our garage door had been opened. Only partially. And not by us.
The hairs raised on our already-tense necks.
As we stood there in shock, the garage started to open. Then stopped. And went down.
Someone was in there.
We ducked onto the floor of the kitchen to be out of sight. My knee jerk reaction was to call the police and have Elenor call our neighbor friends a couple houses down. I dialed 911 and was so sorry for how scared I sounded with my 4-year-old listening.
But instead of calling our neighbors, Elenor rocketed downstairs and came up with a vibe 10 times the size of her actual body and a metal bat firmly in her grip.
That bat was a gift from friends who realized years earlier that our only weapons were high heels by our bedsides, which hadn’t sat well with them when we told them of a peeping tom sighting at our house. We’ve cherished that bat, if not used it for traditional lesbian softball activities.
Anyway, this garage intrusion wasn’t the first time I’ve seen her go full Ruth Bader Ginsburg (which is when the discrepancy between a person’s physical stature is so outsized by their very big presence and force).
Another time was when her car was stolen on a frosty morning in the mid-2000s. She had run inside quickly to grab her forgotten coffee tumbler while her windshield defrosted, but then watched a car pull up while someone got out of the passenger side, hopped in her car and tore off.
So did she. Through the snow. In 4-inch stilettos. Screaming threats and obscenities as the thief escaped to what she begrudgingly knew was the perfect getaway CD — Tegan and Sara. The luck. The audacity.
I asked later (after chasing her while urging her to desist because the car thief likely had a weapon) what she would have done had she caught up to the car. She wanted to call the thief’s mom and teach them a lesson — maybe with the use of a heel to the temple if need be (I believe she would have stood with one foot in the snow for that learning opportunity).
She’s not a violent person — almost all of the time. But threaten her family (or car, apparently), and you can expect some suggestions of less-than-gentle consequences.
Her mom was fiercely protective, too. Fueled by immeasurably big love and unbreakable loyalty, if anyone messed with her people, she went full mama bear.
My wife is an apple who didn’t fall far from the tree. And it’s both terrifying and oddly calming.
I realize I have Marilyn Jr. with me (as her brothers call her) and there’s nobody else with whom I’d want to brave this uncertain world. Nobody loves as deeply. Nobody protects as bravely. And nobody will use fashion items to destroy a wayward soul.
I ache because she aches, but I think for both of us to realize how much of Marilyn lives in Elenor is a gift beyond compare.
Side note: She didn’t hit anyone with the bat (and the police were glad they didn’t have to call in medical backup). Nothing of consequence was stolen from our garage. My son now talks a lot about how he’ll destroy bad guys, sigh.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.