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08 May 2009

Making History: It's About Time

I posted recently about my trip to the Popular Culture Association Conference, where I gave a presentation about how I think time works in romance fiction -- as a circle of redemption and celebration, where there's time to do it over and do it right.

I hope to sum up those remarks for this blog sometime when life and my own fiction writing don't get in the way.

Some other time.

Because this time I'm on the road again, visiting friends and family on the East Coast, to celebrate my cousin's kid's bar mitzvah, my son's PhD degree ceremony -- and my sister's wedding this May 17.

You may already have seen this news photograph, from the New York Times last November, of the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Connecticut.

But you may or may not know that the woman on the left -- the little one waving that precious piece of paper so joyously -- is my sister, Robin Levine-Ritterman, half of one of the eight same-sex couples who sued the State of Connecticut for the right to marry and who won it last October.

Robin's body language is so naturally exuberant that I'm not surprised the Times photographer wanted to capture it.

And it's about time, too.

Because next week when they actually do get married it'll be seventeen years to the day after May 17, 1992, when Robin Ritterman and Barbara Levine -- and a big, noisy party of friends and family -- came together to eat and drink, to sing a capella and dance the hora, to hug and weep in celebration of this couple's commitment to becoming loving life partners.

Even if that first time no legal or governmental entity recognized it as a marriage.

And even if there were those among the crowd who weren't unambiguously delighted.

I've already written about this love story on my own blog. About the family arguments that burned up the phone lines in the months before the ceremony: Is this really necessary? Won't it be traumatic for the nieces and nephews? How about those in the family with strong religious sensibilities? Isn't this all a little... uh, blatant?

I wrote that in the end everyone attended. And brought all the kids (who were and still are fine -- not a trauma in sight). I suppose it helped that our families love to party; perhaps another way to put it is that we were brought up to recognize the life wisdom of celebration, of taking these precious times out of time to mark and measure a lifetime that's always too short (which is also a way of living your life, at least part of it, in romance time).

And because we loved Robin and Barb more than we loved our old habits and preconceptions -- and loved each other enough to want to share the joy and hardship of change.

Funny how that works -- funny how recognizing someone else's right to love makes your own family and romantic relationships stronger. Or so I believe and so, I'm convinced, more and more people will come to believe as they're faced with the choice of supporting or losing beloved family members. And as the tapestry of birth and death and sickness and kinship and community embraces us all in its "fine close weave" (as the writers of the PBS adaptation of Mrs. Gaskell's Cranford put it).

My sister, my sister-in-law and my struggling, squabbling family all made history. I write historical romance.

It's a fine close weave.

L'chaim and mazel tov.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Pam, you've got me crying happy tears. Your sister's story is touching and uplifting -- and yes, absolutely, it's time!

The objections to same sex marriage stupefy me. And even the support sometimes illuminates hypocrisies that have me shaking my head. My own rabbi, an uber-liberal who acknowledges same sex marriages (and blesses the offspring thereof) on the bimah, won't perform an interfaith one (if his silence when I mentioned how hypocritical it was, since you can't help who you love, was an answer in itself).

The loveliest wedding I ever attended was on the beach at Southampton LI at dawn one summer morning in 1991 as my dear friends Kevin and James made a lifelong commitment to each other. As they exchanged vows and rings, seemingly out of nowhere a cluster of butterflies began to fly about their heads. A Disney animator couldn't have done a better job of drawing happiness. Kevin and James are still together (as are many other gay couples I know) and have a family as well (through artificial insemination in one half of a lesbian couple) because they both wanted to be fathers. The 2 couples share custody of the twins. For the past several years they've lived in California, and yet, thanks to a bunch of bigots have been denied the chance to legalize their union, while scads of hetero Hollywood starlets and himbos make a mockery of the marital commitment by getting caught with their knickers down with someone other than their spouse, and get divorced right and left.

I pray for the day when objections in to same sex marriage will have gone the way of miscegenation.

In the meantime, hooray for Connecticut -- and a huge Mazel Tov to Robin and Barbara!

4:31 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Congratulations to Robin and Barbara, Pam! How wonderful your family can have another celebration of their marriage and how wonderful that the state recognizes the celebration this time. It's so heartening to see same sex marriages recognized by more and more states and so frustrating to see California going the other way...

Last fall I went to a 30th anniversary party for two men who are among my closest friends. They have one of the strongest relationships of any couple I know.

I know so many same sex couples who've got married in the past year, to whom it means so much. I know other same sex couples who don't feel any need to be married (just as I know opposite sex couples with the same view), but they all agree that it should be every couple's choice.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Tracy and Amanda, I accept your well wishes on behalf of the spouses-to-be.

And as should be evident from the post (have I ever used the word "love" so many times before?) what rung so clear to me was how one sort of love brings forth another -- the deep embrace of the romantic and the familial. Which I think romance fiction can often do with great wisdom.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I should emend the last comment: it's a beautiful thing when the romantic and the familial come together in a circle. A pity is doesn't always.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

That's a great point, Pam. I love romances where one sees how the love story plays out against and interconnects with the tapestry of family relationships.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Yea!!! I hope everyone has a wonderful time at the wedding (I've now been to more same sex weddings than straight ones; there was such a run on them duing their short window here in CA, and I was overjoyed to attended each and every one).

2:53 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks, Kalen. I think we're all so touched by this phenomenon because it's born in change and struggle and makes the old and conventional new and precious again.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Mazel Tov to your sister. What a wonderful post!! I'm so impressed that your relatives, despite their reservations, attended that ceremony all those 17 years ago. Wow! That took courage on many of their parts, to set aside their beliefs (which some may call prejudices), simply because loving Robin and welcoming Barb into the family was far more important than their beliefs.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Hi Keira. Yeah, it was a wonderful moment, especially for our and Barb's parents, who helped each other through it, and reaped the rewards.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

I love that picture and it adds special meaning to find out that Robin is your sister. No doubt your whole family will have a wonderful time validating a choice you all made seventeen years ago.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Caffey said...

Pam congrats to your sis and her mate on her upcoming wedding! I'm thrilled for her! Huge hugs!!

8:12 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks so much, Mary and Caffey.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Mazel tov to Robin and Barbara, and thanks for sharing this wonderful, moving bit of family history with us.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Mazel tov to Robin and Barbara indeed. And my kudos to your family for their ability to put LOVE first all those years ago. I think it is wonderful that they all learned the important lesson to celebrate any time you can. Life is finite and too precious not to celebrate the moments born of love and persistence and commitment. More important, God's love is far more infinite than most religions preach, as infinite as the variety and scope of his creation!

6:40 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks, Janet and Louisa.

And Louisa, even though I'm deeply secular in my personal convictions, I do think the religious reference is apposite -- to what I called the "circle of redemption and celebration," and more generally to the romance worldview (also see these remarks by romance scholar Dr. Eric Selinger).

8:14 AM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I'm posting late, Pam, as I always seem to do. May your family rejoice and celebrate May 17. You all show that what we do out of love, true love, never fails to make our lives better.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Great to hear from you, Diane. And great to hear the sentiment.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Mazel tov to your sister and her partner. I think it is so great that they are finally going to be able to legally celebrate their love for each other.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

It is great, Elizabeth. Thanks.

4:28 AM  

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