Hazel & Edna
Hazel and I were born in Blue Earth, Minnesota, where an 8 foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant stands sentry near the local Wal-Mart. I remember the day the giant was erected. As he rose. my best friend whispered to me, “Oh my good golly,” she paused, and looked at me with sparks shooting from her eyes, “a jolly green erection.” My laugh turned every eye our way. My face reddened, eyes turned down, but Hazel pointed her chin up, and said “You are a clever one, Miss Edna,” leaving the crowd to think that I said something witty and wise. Hazel’s brazenness filtered over to me, only after she died. Hazel’s absence sparked that change. I envisioned her hovering above me at different moments, pleased with my new found spunk.
When Hazel passed over I recalled Red Rover, the childhood game where we met. Until my dad was killed, and she went back to work, my mom homeschooled me. I attended public school for the first time at 10. We played a game that first day out in the field at recess with locked arms grabbed wrist on wrist. My team screamed, “Red Rover Red Rover send Hazel right over!” A girl with cinnamon hair and the bluest eyes I had ever seen locked those eyes on me before starting across the field. Hazel ran into my arm hard, rolling her weight against me until we landed a giggled embrace. At ten I felt the world shift.
Every day, Hazel encouraged me to “grab the bull by the horns.” She is the reason I made it through high school. We spent hours together at the library pouring over tomes. Whispering stories and details from books we journeyed through enchanted kingdoms, high society teas, factory workers sweaty struggles, and illicit sex. We grew up in the Blue Earth public library. In between the arts and literature Hazel touched my hair. “It’s so black.” she whispered, “like a raven.” She made a sound that cooed shivers through my shoulders. I turned to face her. “Yours, Hazel,” I picked up a strand and gazed at it, “looks like fields of wheat tinged red by the sun’s low hanging light.” Hazel pulled me to her, I lowered my face to hers and we kissed. Mouths open, lips wet, our tongues explored each other’s dark caves between the 700s and 800s in Blue Earth Public Library, our love fest began. It didn’t die until Hazel passed, at 83. We fell in love between the stacks, and we loved each other every day that we lived.
In '72 we bought a Victorian house in Blue Earth. Its staircase spiraled to the second floor. Back then, Hazel would swing one leg up over the banister, slide down, body forward, arms up high--"Woo Hoo!" she'd hoot. Not me, she was the brave one, my friend, my lover, my life. She slid for the day we might walk out in the world, hand in hand, not hand in hiding. Our sexuality remained hidden for nearly 50 years. We were born into a world that didn't understand us, wouldn't accept us, might even persecute us. We knew that, and pretended to be roommate spinsters.
Funny story this one coming: Hazel had t-shirts made. Spinsters-in-Arms headlines a picture of the two of us 73 year old ladies touting Rugers, shoulder to shoulder shooters, in front of the Eagle's Eye Shooting Range. That idea was Hazel's. She wanted me to be able to defend myself should she pass first. One day, Rugers in hand, she asked a patron at the range to take that picture of us. She entered it in a contest and won $750. "This is our chance to show everyone who we really are." Hazel said. She used all the money for t-shirts, when they came, she showed me one. At the bottom of the tshirt it said, "sharing guns and a bed since before you was born." Ha! You reach a certain age, and something like this just needs to be out there. We wore our t-shirts with pride and gave them out free to every member of Eagle Eye Woman's Trap Club.
It isn't really true that we fell in love between the stacks. Well, it was Hazel's truth, I suppose. It was not my truth. For me, it was the day she lay on top of me in the field where we played Red Rover. It was the moment I looked up at her and saw sky peek through the slits where her eyes were, framed by the sunlit grasses of her cinnamon hair. We were never persecuted, people got it. Hazel said that "They must see the love in our eyes." I think they could feel it ripple like waves between us. It ripples still. I feel her, I'll feel Hazel in me until I stop breathing and join her in the waves that strum the universal hum.