Janice Packwood – Commitment

“Years opened up.”

[When we were children,] maybe just on a Sunday, and you’d bring a picnic lunch [to a park] and stay up there ‘til it would get dark, because it was over the 100 degree mark. I had gone up to this park and that’s where [Ann] was. Her dad was the ranger. [Later, as adults], we both remembered playing with [another] girl and being so sad when they would leave. We finally put [these memories] all together, one time [when] we were sitting down by the river and talking. All of a sudden it’s like parts of your life would just open up. That’s rare. I couldn’t tell you everything that happened that day sitting there at the river, but years opened up, and opened up, and opened up. [At that time,] we were still trying to figure it out, because we knew we were so much alike and we were so bonded. We didn’t understand it all yet. I was married and she was a nun, but we knew what the other was thinking. We could pick up their thought waves, all that stuff. We were very good friends in that process.

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[We moved to Minnesota partly because] the whole family was blown apart [by my coming out]. They were so fractured, nobody knew how to talk anymore. We had friends that bought a resort, up north. We’re both on disability, so we said, “Hey, why don’t you just let us go and hang out at the resort and keep [up] the place?” They both had jobs in the city, in St. Paul and Minneapolis. [We said,] “You don’t even have to pay us. We have our money that’s coming in. We’re fine.” So we went up there.

[Another reason we moved to Minnesota was because we were arguing.] We’d never argued [before] because we only had each other. [In Minnesota] I came into my own, she came into her own, then we came back. We had that [experience] added to everything we had underneath there, but it’s still been hard. We’re both very strong willed. We never worried about not loving each other. Other people were worried about that, but we never were.

I once said to [Ann], when we were still so alone and not out to even our kids or anything, “If we lose what we have here I am going to be so pissed, because we have a gift here that rarely does it happen. If we lose it I’m going to be just so mad.”

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[Youths from Odyssey] took parts in our Holy Union. One girl even wrote a poem for us and [another youth] sang. He had a beautiful voice. We did not have a marriage, because we were two women. Therefore, we planned it the way we wanted it. We walked ourselves in, our grandkids brought in symbols of what represented us as a couple through the 25 years we’d been together. The grandkids had known, by then, for three years. Our kids had known for 20 years, but they hadn’t come full circle with it. They were the very last people to walk in the church.

We didn’t do traditional what-you-would-do [for a marriage]. We weren’t a heterosexual couple. There is no laws of how we need to have our Holy Union, because it’s not accepted as legal. I didn’t care. It was something I needed to do at that point in time. We thought that 25 years, in terms of being in this community, said a lot. You know, you do good if you can get [a relationship] past eight to ten years.

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson on 13 December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.