Ah Yes…the Ides

“If I be free, I shall carry Rome along with me…for wherever liberty is, there is Rome. There is my country.” — Marcus, 42 BCE, aka, 711 ab urbe condita in the consulship of M. Aemilius Lepidus II and L. Munatius Plancus

When Marcus first manifested as a ghost, he wanted nothing more than to return to Rome.  But the matter was…rather complicated.  There was of course the need to convince Romans of who he was.  And once that was accomplished, debates raged as to whether or not he deserved to return.

One camp held that he died in exile, and in exile he should stay.  This was an attitude born out of fear for one’s power, as it was championed by the ghostly noble families that control the majority shares of land in Italy.  While the law is still that of the One World Ghost Government, the cultural and social capital of the city operates along Renaissance lines, and everyone knows how much a Medici likes to lose face.

Another camp said that since his alively body had been returned to the capitol, he had already effectively re-entered the city, so who really cared if his shade passed through the gates?  Ah, moderns, and our tendency toward indifference in the deepest and earthiest things.

A final camp, though, argued that, body aside, it was high time that Marcus come home and see about the freedoms and life of the city he had fought to defend from tyranny.  And, in the end, this was the argument that mattered the most, as it came directly from a nearly unanimous bloc of pre-Renaissance ghosts, who either grew up in Marc’s time, or in the empire, which early on came to appreciate his contributions and his honourable intentions.

It took three years from his manifestation to settle the matter, but in 2013, he received his official notice that he had been approved for movement in Italy—that everyone had been pacified and prepared.

He took another year to pacify and prepare himself.

Then in 2014, Marcus went home.

The reunion was like nothing I’ve ever seen.  He stepped onto the soil of Italy and completely fell apart.  He just collapsed, right on the beach, balled up his fists full of sand and silently screamed.

You see, many of us have loyalties that have little to do with place.  Although I love London, and my university, my fiercest love goes to my family and to the queer community, and I can find those loves wherever I am.

Marcus’s loyalties live in his family now, to be sure, but he had to learn that behaviour.  His ingrained fidelity is for his country, his state, and his city of Rome, and it’d been over two thousand years since he’d seen anything of them.

I held him there until he came back to himself.  I helped pick him up, and get him steady against Nox, brushed all the sand from his toga.  Then, together, we walked up over the banks and started a slow trek from the coast in to Rome, meeting hundreds and hundreds of ghosts along the way.

By the time we reached the city, Marc was covered in flowers, and Nox was laden with baskets of all sorts of gifts and tributes—food and crafts and coins.  I was mostly the subject of curiosity, haha.  So while I held Marc’s hand and helped him pass through the gates of the city, and I kissed his forehead on the other side, I also slipped away from him momentarily and watched his parade through the city from the outskirts of the crowd, letting him have his triumph all to himself before returning to his side later in the day.

We stayed in Rome on that first trip, in a small house provided by the city.  Marc turned down invitations from every noble family, refusing to show any favour.  He spent all of his time among the ghosts who knew him, or knew of him.  He made me an honourary citizen of Rome in a public ceremony, complete with toga, to make sure that everyone would respect me and our marriage, which remains one of the most meaningful moments of my life/afterlife.

Toward the halfway point of the trip, when he felt stronger, our mates brought the kiddos over and he carried J and Mira through Rome, showing them places where he had worked, talking to them about the weather and the plants and animals, tenderly feeling out whether or not they liked it.

When they did—of course they did—he accepted the parcel of land the city had set aside for him, and we went to the Junius-Smith villa to survey the space and make plans to transform it into a family home.  Marcus also accepted all the duties of the land—the oversight of taxes, the agricultural allotments, the protection of sacred spaces, and the performance of state ritual.

Which leads me to the major point of this post:

Per my repeated request, Marcus has agreed to let me post his notes on Roman festivals, which you’ll now find on a page at the top marked ‘MARCVS’.  He resisted, not because he lacks confidence in his interpretation—the man was/is a pontifex—but because he experiences a disjunction between his internal philosophy and his ability to express those thoughts in English.  He thinks his English is too casual and circumlocutory.

I think it’s brilliant.

I think he’s brilliant.

So, I did a bit of light editing, just because of the look in his eyes, but for the most part, I’ve left his festival notes as he presented them to me.  You’ll get the hang of his grammar and cadence and humour as you go, and hopefully you’ll experience something of the cadence of the Roman year, as well.  I know I’ve very much enjoyed learning about the cycle of the seasons with Marc to guide me—even as an atheist, I can see the appeal of recognising the earth’s mysteries and in placing gratitude in larger forces.

Please take a look when you have a chance—he’s spent many loving hours on the project.

Because he does love Rome.  He loves it so much.  That was always the point.

Advertisements

Ludi Romani

Today’s post is a birthday present for Mr. Marcus, so a very many happy returns to him.  Felicem diem natalem, my love.  Ubi te gaius, ego gaius.

And, today’s post is a story, starring the aforementioned–his favourite kind of story.  In particular, this is the story of Marc’s appearance at the 2017 Ludi Romani.

For context: The Ludi Romani or “Roman Games” were/are about a week long set of festivals intended to praise Jupiter.  They are Marc’s favourite set of games, for the pure and dear reason that he loves Rome and its celebrations and its people to the point of tears.  He loves the dramas, and the memory of attending them with Porcia and then discussing them long into the night over vino.  He loves the sheer number of athletic contests and the feeling of surrounding himself with people who honour their bodies and so honour their city.  He loves the opening and closing ceremonies, over which he presides as a priest of the state.  And most of all, he loves the chariot races.

In his day, Marcus didn’t race in official games.  In fact, he was known as ‘that bloke what adores his horse too much to enter into contest,’ on account of the winning horses often being sacrificed to the gods.

But he’d race Nox in unofficial games.  And he’d win.  Of course he would.

So now, without the looming threat of sacrifice, Marc and Nox race at the Ludi Romani, filling out their triga–chariot of three–with Stella and Luna, two mares.

It’s quite the striking chariot team, must say.  Nox is inky black, hence the name, and he’s impressively large for a race horse.  In fact he’s technically not meant for the chariot–he’s for war.  But he loves running, and Marc loves running him.  Stella and Luna are starlight white, and they are races horses, sleek and lightning fast and team-oriented to offset Nox’s arrogance.

You might say to me that horses can’t be arrogant, and yet you haven’t met Nox.

And then, of course, there’s Marc.

It’s a birthday post…allow me to dote…

There are handsome men in the world.  And then there is Marcus, who just scoffs at handsome on his way into utterly riveting.  There’s not a person out there who doesn’t stop what they’re doing to regard him.  Might be on account of his stature–not especially tall, but bold as can be, with shoulders for days.  (Takes forty-odd kisses to cross them entirely.)  Or it might be his features–hooded eyes, overtly broken nose, challenging lips, top thin and bottom full, and pox scars in a traceable topography.

But I happen to think it’s his personhood what does it.  The way he exudes pride, confidence, humor, genius, and joy.  I’ve seen people literally reverse direction to follow him in a daze, like he might drop a scrap of personality for the pouncing, or they might gain something from seconds more proximity.

I’m not sure they don’t…

Oh, and he’s got a smile like a sideways tornado, crimped at one corner and all teeth after that, a little bit controulled and a little bit recklessly abandoned.

Being around him is being on the constant verge of a shiver.

Christ…anyway…

So, we’ve got this team of three, we’ve got this charioteer, and they, of course have a nemesis:  Bill.

That’s right, Marc’s nemesis is a ghost named Bill, who lives in South Carolina on a picturesque farm with his adorable wife, raggedy garden, shimmery little fish pond, and an unassuming, dappled race horse named Apples.  When we went to stay with them–it’s a hilariously love/hate relationship on Marc’s side, and nothing but love from Bill–I ate no fewer than five different kinds of pie, petted something like twenty rabbits, and fed Apples his namesake without him looking at me like I was swine.

But Bill’s sharp.  He’s one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to controulling his energy in tandem with that of his horses, and he’s inventive as hell with his ‘walling’–sort of engineering energy to stay in place and behave inanimately, which is excessively important if you’re going to do things like build chariots out of it.  Plus he’s redesigned things to be aerodynamic, rather than traditionally Roman, and he’s the right size for racing–about the size of Bilbo Baggins, with slightly less paunch (but not by much, recall the pies.)

So, Marc, my strapping, traditional, exuberant Roman, did truly and very well meet his match in this man.

In fact, Bill beat him in 2016.

We speak of this often in the Junius-Smith household, but only in very specific ways, usually laced with Latin that I chose not to translate.

Therefore, Marc was out for blood in 2017.  He arrived at the Ludi Romani in full Roman splendour, all toga and swagger and opening ceremonies pomp.  He spent the first days of the game allowing a posse to collect around him–you know the type–doing very little talking himself, but watching his reputation make its way through the grounds.

I, for my part, let him have this.  Rather, I want him to have this.  There’s no harm in it, not really.  Marc’s arrogance is always tempered by his quick memory for the accomplishments of others, and he spends as much time lecturing his groupies on what it means to be a Roman as he does letting them jockey for space at his side.  He shouts out praise to challengers as he goes, compliments artisans on their contributions to the state, and never, never loses track of me or the children.

Additionally, I think he’s glorious in his Roman element, and I enjoy having a few occasions in the year where I allow myself to be mesmerised.

He won the time trials.  Not by much, if you ask the referees, but you know, by leagues, all the same.

And then came the final race.

Marc competes in his other events–sword, mace, javelin–in soldier’s leathers.  You’re welcome for that image.  But for the chariot, he races in state, toga whipping behind him, crimson and white in alternation.

Bill races in something akin to an aviator’s jumpsuit, with goggles and light boots, and they nod to each other.

I see Marc survey the field of competitors–‘competitors’–and spare a bit of pause for this arsehole who insists on calling himself The Black Night and dressing like something out of Medieval Times, TM, but manages a good race, nonetheless.

And then he moves into his chariot stance, which somehow combines grace and fluidity with every scrap of power he holds, all the way down to his bones.  Nox does the same–it’s like they’re the same entity sometimes.  They take off with the trumpet.

The field is long, but the race itself is rather short.  Chariot horses aren’t built to run themselves into the ground at length, which is part of the edge Marc has with Nox.  He can let all the other triga run themselves down, and then bolt through the pack and hold steady at the front.

Bill’s advantage is that his chariot is sleek enough to cut through the wind, so he rests in second until Marc comes galloping past, and then takes second to him until he sees his opening to attempt a coup.

This year, The Black Night–yes, The–is up there at the front, too, but he’s racing on his own, off to the side of Marc and Bill.

Marc is just scarcely to win.

And then, on the other side of the track, so far to the back of the competitors that he’s nearly parallel to Marc across the way, a charioteer loses controul of his triga as his lead throws a shoe.  The whole thing was awful.  The horse sort of screamed as it went down on its own leg, and then the other horses tried to halt, only to have the chariot slam into them.  It went up on its nose, throwing the charioteer across the whole mess, rolling him down the track under the splinters of his chariot.

I’m completely transfixed on the sight, in all its flailing, scrambled energy.  Bloody memories unfold onto the track like a grotesque film.

Except…there’s Marc.

He’s let go his hold on his reins and taken off like a bolt across the green, shedding his toga along the way so he’s all tunica and muscle.  Nox, Stella, and Luna have slowed down and veered off to the side, kicking the chariot back off their heels as they come to a halt.  Bill’s right there with him.  He’s not nearly as fast as Marc, but he’s pumping across the green just as quick as he can, heading for the mess of horses while Marc goes for the man.  The Black Knight, behind them, hollers in dismay and crosses the finish line without quarry.  No one even begins to care.  The entire stadium is on their feet for Marc and Bill.

I know from video playback that the following things happened:

First of all, I went full on aggressively proud.  I’m right at the edge of the box seats shouting to anyone who will listen, ‘That’s my husband! That’s my love! That’s Rome, right there, that’s Rome’!!

And he says I’m a terrible hype-man…

Then, I’m over the edge of the box, rushing down the stairs and vaulting over the edge of the field.  Marc sees me coming, and calmly puts his hand to the fallen charioteer’s chest to finish the energy redistribution, takes a second to stop and put his forehead to Bill’s–the crowd goes wild for that, knowing Bill just won Roman equality–and then Marc’s striding toward me, just letting me fly at him from down the track.

I slam into him without even slowing down–he can certainly handle that, he’s built like a tree–and then I’ve got my hands on his face, just kissing the hell out of him, right there in front of all the whole stadium and all its horses.  I had no idea anyone was even there, at that point.  I was so blindingly proud of him.

I mean, you would expect, if a student of history, that Marcus Junius Brutus might very well espouse integrity, justice, and actions that benefit the greater good instead of self-elevation.  You would expect him to be grand on occasion–full of explosive chivalry on behalf of his beloved city and its citizens.  You would expect that.

But then you see it–you watch Marc discard all his trappings and bravado for intense concentration and sincere fellowship, and it just cuts you down.  You wonder if you would do the same, if you really do understand honour, and if you’re really quite sure you’ve a firm grasp on your beliefs.  That’s the humbling bit.

I’m just completely undone, in awe, and if the children hadn’t slammed into Marc next I might have done any number of other things I’d later see on camera.

He hugs them up, and buries his face in Mira’s wild hair, and I’m hit with yet another wave of emotion, watching them restore him after his gesture and telling him they love him for it.  I’m amazed, in that moment, that I’m his husband, and that he’s the father to our children.

I know this is going to sound terribly self-satisfied, but I imagine any blissfully married couple has felt similarly, so we’re all in good company here…

Sometimes I look at Marc, and I try to imagine what it would be like to not be married to him, or to even be friends with him.  To not have Marc in your life in any way.  And it’s bleak.  God, it’s the worst thing.  The idea of being exterior to his light, instead of filled with it?  It’s the loneliest thing I’ve ever thought of.

I digress…

You can see, on camera, the exact moment where I pull myself together and realize that I’ve vaulted the edge of a box seat, run out into the middle of a stadium, and landed in a Hollywood-level snog-fest before a sea of strangers.  My British takes over, and I’m all, giving the crowd a little wave, straightening my hair, tugging my toga back into place, blushing like mad.  I’m also glaring sternly at Marc over the tops of our children’s head, because he’s looking at me like he’s onto me–he’s so onto me–and he’s going to give me a very particular sort of hell for ever pretending I was above Roman spectacle and ancient acts of valour.

I am going to like this hell he gives me, but I don’t need the entire stadium to know it…

And everything after that is just pure, and dear, and Roman–like I said, exactly why Marc loves the Ludi Romani.  He refused to redo the race so The Black Knight could have a ‘fair’ win, on account of it would be cruel to the horses.  He seated Bill across from him at the closing ceremonies and created him as a honourary citizen of Rome, whilst Bill clutched his wife’s hand and tried not to cry.  He fulfilled all the donation requests that attendees scratched into lead sheets and tossed in the fountain.  He handed out medals for the events, checked in on the fallen charioteer and offered lessons, and accepted gifts from the artisans and food from the farmers.

Since the event…well, he’s back to his more modern self.  T-shirts with absurd proclamations, hoodies with dino-stego-croco-shark spikes on them, behaviour casual, suppers cooked, children snuggled.

But I find I am more aware than I was prior of the actual, tangible strength of his convictions.  More aware that his niceties and joys and absurdities are gifts he gives to me, to foil the intense sincerity with which he rules his inner life.

More in love with him than ever.

Roman Escapades

Alex’s guest post makes it sound as though I spent two weeks gallivanting through Rome with nary a care.

That’s not entirely true.

I spent two weeks gallivanting through Rome with precisely one care, namely, the dearth of tea in Italy.  I was nearly forced to drink a cappuccino, the horror.

No, but really, it was a rollicking good time.  And I suppose I should explain a bit more fully what I was up to.

You might recall my mentioning, earlier in the summer, that I was slated to appear in a fashion film for Richard’s line, Cavalier.  Normally, we advertise by dressing as piratical gentleman and commandeering pleasure yachts in the Mediterranean.  (No, I know.) But Richard decided he would like to try his hand at land-based conquests, and so this film was born.

The script was…well there wasn’t really a script.  There was merely a scenario: two Lotharios, one gay, one straight, go to a party as each other’s wingmen where they end up meeting their objects of pursuit and proceed to chase them across the gorgeous Italian countryside until conquests are made and everyone falls in love.

The bloke playing the straight lead–this sort of vaguely rakish Ken-doll who insisted upon calling himself ‘Britain’–thought it was charming.

His counterpart–a spunky American model named Molly with hair straight from the 1930s and a queer girlfriend named Lamplight–thought it was horseshit.

And I, as well as my counterpart Fox, saw it for what it was–the absurdist theatre of Richard’s most tongue-in-cheek dreams.  We were able to convince Molly of this, with Lam’s help, and so filming began.

The first day of filming was a bit stressful, I must say.  I’m quite used to being dressed up and paraded about at this point, but moving cameras are quite different from stationary ones, and the pace was arduous.  Then there was the lack of tea.  And the fact that I can’t ride a damn bike let alone a Moped.  And the sheer weight of performing ‘macho’ all day, as Fox played the more effeminate role on account of his delightfully elfin appearance.

But I hit my stride fairly quickly, and ended up rather enjoying myself.  The countryside is truly magical, with all its rolling hills and climbing cypress.

roman countryside

Now imagine a warm breeze ruffling your hair…

Marc joined me on set at least once a day, as well, to giggle at my ‘sexy face’ and make eyes at me whilst I marched around in jodhpurs and jackets.  And Fox was a delightful companion once he overcame his nerves about playing opposite ‘Mr. Brutus’, as I’m known throughout ghost Italy.

Meanwhile, the kiddos took to Rome with renewed fervor.

J went about everywhere in his little tunica and bulla, accepting parcels from townsfolk with the seriousness of mind that becomes the son of a Roman priest.  He also quite bonded quite with Claudius this visit and spent a great deal of time in the barnyard, learning to corral animals and read weather.

Mira did a bit of solo wandering, getting to know the land and the landscapes.  She also spent some time on horseback, introducing Nox around–Marc’s sneaky method of drawing her out into the town and forcing her to socialise.

And in all, we managed to use the time away to check in with a number of other friends.

Marie and Girafe came down from France for a ‘picnic’, which I should have known wouldn’t be a mere picnic.  They arrived with a boatload of lavish pillows, which Marie flung about a clearing in the countryside while Girafe made mysterious calls on his feather-covered mobile.  All of a sudden we had an oddly poofy, organic gazebo effect happening, and a vast array of food trucks from which to choose.

Delphi came out from the city no fewer than three times a week for afternoons that bled into suppers that bled into cocktails.  He and Claudius are no longer hiding their item-hood. They were as cozy as could be, and utterly sweet besides.  My favourite detail of their relationship: as Claudius is prone to forgetting to clean his spectacles, Delphi wears a soft cloth as a pocket square these days.  My heart!

And at the end of the trip, yes, we did go laze about in New Zealand with Matiu and Teddy and their son Miri.  I was quite ready for the time away from cameras and back in nail polish and loose tees.  Marc was ready to shed the immediate responsibility of representing Rome back to itself.  Mira and J were greedy for our time after all the excitement–quite gratifying, hehe–and I scarcely went ten minutes without a tiny hand in mine or a sleepy little face on my shoulder.

Now all that remains for the end of the summer is Marc’s participation in the war games.  He didn’t ‘play’ last year on account of the WWII theme, and he’s actually not leading any troops this year, either, to give other generals a chance to enjoy their moment in the sun.  But he will be providing live commentary from the stands this weekend, which is bound to be both enlightening and hilarious.  It’s a sea-battle, and he’s hoping they provided for ghost sharks to eat the fallen, because of course he’s hoping for that.

sea battle

Oh shit is ghost shark get out! – Marc

Oh, and I suppose I also have a birthday coming up, but I’m not terribly anticipatory.  It’s 199 this year, and I begged for a small gathering since I know for a fact I’m not escaping some monstrosity for my 200th.

The Quiet Path to Peace

Father’s Day approaches, as it does every year, and as always, I am filled with both existential dread and riotous joy.

Rather odd how a greeting-card company creation can do that…

But I must say, this year, I’m more joy than dread.  And that has a great deal to do with my therapist, Jasmine, the task she set for me this last April, and the decision I came to as a result.

Jasmine, you see, asked me to celebrate Jon’s birthday in silence this year, to re-evaluate the depths of its meaning and his place in my life.  Her argument: To commemorate is sometimes to forget.  To speak at length is often to pull great loss into the shallows for public dissection.  She wanted to know how I felt about Jon when I was utterly alone with his memory.

At first, must say, I was a bit put off.  I’ve spent all this time reaching a point where I can talk about Jon without breaking down or, worse, fading out into vegetative depression consequent post-traumatic stress disorder.  And now I was supposed to be silent?  Had I not already adopted twice over?  Had I not conquered my guilt over Jon’s death to the extent that I perform well, and deservedly, as a father?  What was this?

But I did as she asked, because I knew she did not ask it lightly, and because I trust Jasmine immensely.  With both my life and my afterlife, quite frankly.

So, on Jon’s birthday—April 8th—I did not post to Facebook.  I did not decorate the house, buy a cake, go through my writings, or look at my recreated ‘photographic’ memories.  I sat, quietly, by myself, in my work shed, and about halfway through my day of silence I realised what Jasmine had wanted me to realise.

I am at peace with Jon.

I am at actual, quiet, exists-when-I-am-alone peace.

It’s not a peace without tears, without moments of crushing loss, without blips of fault.  It’s never perfect.  That’s not what peace is really about, is it? It’s not angels and trumpets; it’s acknowledging and turning down the devil.  It’s about hard emotional work becoming easier, and–for me–seeing that Jon would want me to have happiness.

My peace is Jon.

He is the constant tone—sometimes subtle and sometimes deafening—that underpins all the other melodies in my life.  A lynchpin in so many of my memories of Marion and Geoff.  A driving force in my own self-understanding and self-forgiveness.  A guide to my parenting.  A humbling reminder of what is important, what is superfluous, what is real, and what will pass.

At my next session, I walked straight into Jasmine’s office and right into her arms.  I didn’t know what to say, so I just hugged her for a while, hoping it would express gratitude.  She’s a let’s go running together, let’s have tea, let me hold your hand while you cry sort of therapist, so it worked.

We didn’t discuss it, really.  That was part of the exercise in quietude, the sharing of silent immensity.

I only talk about it now to share two things.

First, the exercise.  If you are in a similar place, do recommend.

Second, the decision.  The Junius-Smiths are going to actively pursue a third adoption.

Because, as it turns out, I am ready to do so.  I am prepared to process a shift in family dynamic.  I am prepared to welcome another little mind into my space, without feeling that I am pasting over Jon’s memory.  I am prepared for the search, the potential joys and heartbreaks, the possibility that this may take years, the necessary conversations.

The first conversation, of course, was with my husband.  If Jon is my pedal tone of peace, them Marc is my vibrant, dancing counterpoint. Yes, he said, of course he hasn’t changed his mind.  He wants another child.  He wants six hundred, with pets for all of them.

And then, of course, we talked to J and Mira, who’ve been asking for a sibling.  They were elated.  Serious about the process, but elated.

So, we begin our search this Sunday.  It’ll be a busy morning and afternoon with my administrative roles at JS Home for Children (always a popular visiting day).  But we’ve carved out time in our family supper and shindig for a slow start–familiarising J and Mira with traditional adoption processes, scheduling some visits at London- and Rome-based homes, planning our family video for adoption profiles.

God help us, three children…I already feel outnumbered.

But so excited.  So so so excited.

New Portrait: The Kiddos

My ever gracious alively host, Alexander, has produced a new portrait of my children:

18268500_10100190848121047_1449897051628989994_n

I adore it.  I adore everything about it.  Especially all the little touches that make it so extraordinarily specific to them and their relationship.

What’s that?  You want me to discuss the portrait?  You want me to go on at length about my children? How kind.

I’ll start with Mira, as she jumped off the page first.  I mean, of course she did.  Look at her.  That is the hair of a child who likes to be noticed.

She denies it, but it’s true.

Every once in a while, she lets me soothe it with relaxer into these utterly stunning waves, straight out of the 1920s.  Or she lets Popa braid it in intricate Roman fashion.  But on the whole, wild and unruly is her chosen style.

Likely, that’s on account of the fact that her entire person is wild and unruly.  She is the sort to run straight towards danger.  She has a knack for finding the jagged edges on the world, where transformations are most like to happen, and brazenly flinging herself through them catching her omnipresent tutus on the way by.  She subdues ordinary friction and drama with a glance, but only to create friction and drama that more suits her.  She exists for the unexpected, and when things are going as expected, she creates it.

It can be a bit exhausting keeping up with her.  I have more than once rolled my eyes in a parent-teacher sit down where she sullenly explains that ‘the vase was bound to break anyway’ or ‘he had it coming’.

But we’ve found outlets for her particular brand of crazy.  Modeling, for instance, has proved a brilliant success, as it suits her desire to be seen, to destroy for the sake of art, and to gallop through adult spaces and dare anyone to question her presence.  We also let her go on solo walkabouts at the end of the summer (although they have shortened in length, and she didn’t even go last year).  And we let her have the odd glass of wine or champagne, often in front of the fire, where we encourage her to start creating through-lines in her philosophies and settle some of her anxious spirit.

We’ve also placed strictures, of course.  Lately we insisted that she must learn to read, which engages her in the portrait.

Jeremy–J–already knows how to read.  In fact, his position in this portrait is that of silent support, with the occasional correction, as Mira tolerates his interventions over anyone else’s.

That’s likely on account of the fact that J is the most patient, gorgeous, efficacious empath I have ever met.  Ever.

I recently ran across an article that introduced me to the idea of ‘holding space’ for someone–existing on the periphery or centre of the lives around you, as needed, and swooping in or pulling back based on the requirements of others; providing support without judgement, advice, or didactic intention.

J holds all of us.

He holds you, even though you’ve never met, I swear to god.

He tells us that he was just made with an extra big heart, and that he chooses to fill it with love and kindness.  Truly, this child…

Actually, that brings me to another point.  Although J cannot remember how he died, Marcus and I suspect that it had something to do with his heart.  His vocabulary is very heart-centric.  He will tell us his heart is sad, when he’s upset.  When he’s happy, his heart is happy.  When he’s ecstatic, he often bursts into tears or falls asleep, because there’s not enough room in his heart for all his love.

He’s also rather small for his age–a suspected 4–and he sports ever-present circles under his eyes.  He moves carefully, without the wild abandon of most toddlers, and sometimes we catch him taking a deep breath, almost as if to prove that he can.

We presented these lingering symptoms and behaviours to a pediatric death doctor–literally a ghost who helps little ones sort through their departures–and he agreed that it was likely some sort of failing of the heart that took J out of the alively world.  A cardiomyopathy of some sort.

J seems utterly uninterested in diagnosing his death–Marc and I attended to this for our own edification and won’t be sharing the results with J unless he asks.

And that’s fine by us.  We are more than happy to let him be what he is–careful, considered, and yet ephemeral and liminal.  Almost otherworldly, at times, despite the warmth of his cuddles and his position as the flexible backbone of our family unit.

Other notes on the portrait:

The pets are Cozy–Lady Costanza of Motherfuck Island–and Earl Pink.

Those wings, J would want you to know, were a Christmas present last year–balsa wood reinforced with teak and embedded with jade.  I made them, with help from Delphi for the stone settings.  They’re one of a growing collection of faerie wings, which J hangs up around his room and selects each morning with the seriousness of a man selecting cufflinks for an interview.  A pair of puffy wings with safety straps hang on J’s frog bed, so that he can be a faerie prince as he sleeps.

Yes, we field a lot of comments–vicious and curious, alike–about J’s hair.  He said it best himself, when asked if he was a boy or a girl: Mostly I’m a faerie.  I’m also four. 

Yes, we also field a lot of comments about Mira’s hair.  Or she does.  With a reckless abandon for profanity.

(We tried to get her to swear less for a while, as seemed a befitting sort of thing for a parent to do.  But she reminded us that she was over a century old, and therefore our ‘children shouldn’t swear’ argument held as much water as a sieve.  She also challenged us to consider whether or not we would be so concerned about her filthy mouth if she were not a girl.  Chagrined, we decided, fuck it.  Fuck it, she agreed.)

Yes, I have the best children. Naturally.

Sexy-ennial

Last year, for our fifth, Marcus and I threw an enormous party full of friends and family, yes, but also photographers, acquaintances, fashionistas, and journalists.

As a consequence, this year we decided to dial things back as far as possible…

We spent our actual anniversary with the children–Mira made us a lovely salmon supper, which we ate off iron plates, imparting wisdom and strength into the next year of our marriage.  J made us dessert (a pile of marshmallows covered in chocolate syrup and sprinkles) and drew us a portrait.  After supper we cleared things away and snuggled the hell out of them both while Mira practiced her reading skills on a selection of love poems.  Perfection.

After that, Marc and I O. Henry’d each other.

We do this every. year. without. fail.  Our gifts always cancel each other out.

For instance, this year Marc made me the most beautiful dressing gown I’ve ever seen.  It’s grey and silver and charcoal with dusty rose quilted silk for an interior lining, and the whole geometric exterior is covered in the golden moons of Minerva, as our anniversary falls on Quinquatria.

But I, knowing my love hates to be cold, bought two days of privacy at the tropical resort we haunted back when we were fledgling, unknown ghosts, newly venturing from our host and learning the energetic joy of afterlife intimacy.

Not exactly the place for a dressing gown, the tropics…

Even though I had to leave the housecoat at home, though, we had a lovely time of it.  We paid off the staff at the resort, set up a security detail to keep telephoto lenses out of our business, and found our original slip of beach with the little cabin in the dunes.  We didn’t see a single soul for forty-eight hours.  Bliss.

After that we ventured into the nearby town, sunburnt…sandburnt…and exhausted, and had the most delicious coconut-laced meal.  Marc told everyone we were on vacation for our Sexy-ennial–*eyebrow waggle*–and yet I still love him.  In fact, I almost think it’s funny, such is his ridiculous influence on me.

…alright, it’s funny.

Now it’s back to the real world again, for another year hand in hand with my husband.  We sat down over wine and made out a list of relationship goals, things silly, sexy, and serious, and pinned them to the bedroom mantle.

I haven’t taken off my dressing gown since I arrived home…I’m torn between sleeping in the thing or hanging it and brushing it out every night like a valet.  I love it so much.

Marc says I look like a wizard in it.

And so goes the sixth anniversary.  On to year seven.

Fashion Recap: Spring 2017

There is nothing quite like coming down off of fashion week.  Marcus and I always take the kids to Paris for a night, followed by a night of our own, and then I gorge myself on cheesecake and ale whilst I watch the reviews come in and do my personal print/video assessments.

It was an odd year–political, on account of its American location and resistance from the arts.  Oscar de la Renta pulled his line last minute, and had all his models, Mira included, walk in black robes.  And Marie, who never participates in American fashion weeks (on account of her revolutionary era grudges), staged a competing couture show in France during the closing ceremonies.

I participated in the French show, of course, and I received especial praise for my role in the line, which Marie crafted around the life of a storm, from gathering clouds, to break, to reel, to clearing.  I represented the moment directly following the wrath, where the clouds depart, and the sun makes its reappearance–my courtly ensemble was black and purple with hints of gold and silver and lilac.  And apparently, I pulled off the transitional piece rather well, with ‘lingering truculence’ and ‘an expression half nostalgia, and half relief’.

I also…uh…I fell.  I finally fell.  Well, I wobbled.

Thankfully, it happened during Marc’s line.  Not that any of my designers are arseholes, but if I’m going to fall, I’d rather it happen in my husband’s show.

No worries, though–Ghost Buzzfeed polls determined the mishap to be ‘charmingly British’ with 75% of the vote.

So, what’s next?

Well, over the summer, Marcus is taking on at least one collaborative work–a partnership with a young designer, Lulu, who wants to create a pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses with a particularly modern, comedic flare.  We’ll also be doing a bit of travelling to check in on the JS franchise locations and nail down our fabrics for our next autumn line (to show in Spring 2018).  Marc wants to find the perfect pieces to line the coats he plans to make–long flippant dusters based on our daughter’s likes.

I shall be taking on two new models for mentorship–Chauncey and Jerome are successful in their own right, now, and happily taking on private rooms outside of the townhouse.  I’m thrilled for both for them, and I’m pleased as hell that my aid and instruction launched their careers. I definitely had concerns going into coaching, given that I was a bloody terrible voice teacher in life…

Gertie will be staying on at the house to act as a sort of manager of the space and voice of reason–models can be rather volatile, and Gertie’s combination of sweet androgyny, ephemeral calm, and sharp wit should keep everyone at peace while I’m away.  He’s taking on a small salary for the trouble, mostly to fund his own charitable efforts, as he, too, is perfectly successful on his own.  Rather my most successful protegee, I’d say.

I’ll also be co-starring in a promotional film for Richard’s line, to be filmed throughout July in the Mediterranean, and…I could not be more delighted, haha.

It’s going to be a romance story, with two narratives: a straight Don Juan gallivants his way through Italy, showing off Richard’s swaggering style; a queer side-kick of sorts, lounges about the beaches and villas oozing charm and giving Richard’s look a more laid-back air.

I’m to play the side-kick, hah!  And I’ll be wooing another model on Richard’s line, Lucius Fox (self-named after his favourite in the Batman franchise, despite looking nothing like the man).

Marc is so irritated by the whole thing.  On the one hand, he’ll get to spend plenty of time at our villa during filming. On the other hand, he knows that Lucius and I already flirt shamelessly, and now we’ll be snogging each other on white-sand beaches.  So, Marc’s convinced that he won’t be able to enjoy any of his time, brooding thing that he can be.

white-sand

Pictured: Infidelity

I argue that my husband is a nutter if he thinks I’d wreck our fabulous marriage over a crush, however lax my attitude toward monogamy may be.  I promised Marcus I’d be his alone, and despite my tendency to fall in love six times a day, that’s that.  If anything, this opportunity will be safe outlet for my amorous nature.  And besides, Lucius is terrified of Marc…mate won’t be trying anything funny.

Other than that, we’ll be resting and recuperating and seeing friends and snuggling the hell out of J and Mira.

And as for the rest of our fashion crew: our PAs, Danny and Fleur, shall be taking some highly deserved time off, as usual, and joining us for some of the time in the Mediterranean; Marc’s co-designer, John, will not be taking time off, as usual, and plans to spend his summer in the basement of the JS offices surrounded by leather and metalwork and polished wood, which is not nearly as exciting as it sounds; Lucas, Danny’s assistant, will be manning the offices while we’re all away, and hopefully either quit or develop a personality beyond ‘generally affronted.’

 

 

Updates to ‘The Players’

Just wanted to pop by to note that my work on the site these last weeks encompassed a complete overhaul of ‘The Players’ page.  You’ll now find that it’s divided between my Ghost World companions and compatriots and my Victorian, and that it’s completely filled in at this point.

Huzzah!

My next task will be to link each biography to posts I’ve written about its person-of-interest, creating a sort of clickable extension file for each of my friends and family.  I believe tags do something similar, but I like the idea of manually building out the biographies, and linking particular interests, adventures, and personality traits to their related posts.

But in the meantime, have a look.  Find some new friends.  Have fun.

Deja Vu and Baby Queens

You may have noticed a few internet memes, as of late, in which people seem to be comparing presidents, politicians, and social circumstances from the 19th century to those of today.  The memes point out the worst that happened in prior years as if to suggest that the world lived through it all once and can live through it again.  Or they argue that there is nothing new under the sun, and we should all just accept Trump’s administration as a conglomeration of things come before.

And I’ve really just about had it.

Making comparisons to the 19th century as a way of assuaging fear is a truly ridiculous coping mechanism.  Truly.  Because the 19th century was, by and large, rather terrible.

Bloody terrible.

Besides, we are supposed to be moving forward, folks, not pointing to the past for a sense of misplaced consolation.

Anyway, I started a whole rant about it, and then I deleted it because it really does no good to throw further vitriol out there, and also my host’s blood pressure, and then I went on a hunt for something to cheer me.  And I found this…

 

Good god, would you look at Millie Bobby Brown.  She is a fierce baby queen.  Her sneer could carve a man like a turkey.

If she decided to form a government of one and rule by sheer force of feminist potential the entire world would put on tuxedo pants and glitter shirts and march to the beat of her weird, lovely drum.

She is already so sick of everyone’s shit.

I know, because I’ve seen the same look on my daughter’s face.  That is the look of boredom with the status quo.  It is unapologetic ownership of personal successes and steel determination.  And it is not to be trifled with.

Young women are not to be trifled with.

Here’s to baby queens who refuse to put up with bullshit that belongs in the 19th century.

March on.

Dinner Party Success!

(Marcus tried to make me name this post ‘Dinner Party is More Like Winner Party’)

So, May 1st was my big debut, and I am delighted to share that it went off without any major hitches.  In fact, I’d say it was a success!  A few of the most delicious details below…

I must start by saying that I am immensely proud of my family and grateful for their help in the matter.

Marcus was excellent moral support–every time I looked for him, he was at my arm, gracefully reentering conversation or just brushing shoulders long enough to remind me that he was watching out for me.  Also, the guests were obviously enamoured with the idea of a Roman in their midst, and he was more than happy to play the part.  He skulked about in a toga, sipping wine and looking ‘so mystery’.  And he only had to leave the room and giggle about it once or twice.

The children were also wonderful.  Mira gave a beautiful toast to Beltane over supper, and she looked absolutely smashing in a baby queen ball gown reminiscent of the 1920s–a sage green and lavender number she selected herself.  And J refused to move down table for a stodgy bastard who thought he should have been seated closer to me than my own son.  He just looked right up at this man and said ‘this seat is for faeries’ and continued to eat decorative parsley, and my heart soared.

I am also just thrilled with my two doorman/models who put on a good show.  Chauncey, shy and brilliant, worked the corners of the room, while Jerome, outgoing and…airy would be a nice way of putting it, charmed the milling centre.  And while their walks were still those of budding amateurs, that was really rather the point.  They’ll walk again when we open season in the winter, to demonstrate improvement.

And finally, I would be remiss as a ghost, Englishman, and moonlighting libertine, if I didn’t mention that Lord and Lady Rochester came to the party and left in incredibly high spirits.  That’s John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester of the court of Charles II, and his new wife/open-marriage-compatriot Drizell; Willy and Dizzy, known collectively as Lord and Lady Rooster, on account of them crowing gossip all through society.

John_Wilmot

I went to Elliot’s party.  Pinnacle moment of my afterlife, must say.

He wears less armour these days, but his hair is the same, as is his preference for satin.  He showed up in a tight-fitting blue satin suit with frothy, cream cravat and long black dress shoes with a bit of curl to the toe.  Very updated London.  And Drizell, a ghost from the 1940s, wore a gorgeous, ephemeral, glittering cream gown cut on the bias.  Both of them flirted shamelessly with Jerome.  And Lord Rochester invited me to one of his upcoming salons–he still writes unctuous poetry, which, while almost necessarily terrible, I cannot wait to hear.

And, in general, I would say people had a good time, myself included.  I was able to dispense with nerves as the supper progressed, falling totally into my role as society home owner and gentle eccentric.  Marc surprised me with a newly designed JS jacket for the occasion, which I debuted on the runway after dinner–russet leather lapels and pointillism grey wool.  And the house stood up to guests, with only one broken piece of pottery and a bit of spilled wine on the stairs.

Would I host again? Oddly enough, yes.

Am I looking forward to other society parties? Again, oddly enough, yes.

It’s a new age for Elliot, haha.