Monday, July 25, 2011
I have this aunt. My father's sister. She was sent away when she was 16. I didn't know that she was sent away. I was only 5, but it was a devastation and a mystery to me. To my 5-year-old self, she was a beautiful fairy princess with beautiful auburn tresses and the sweetest kindest voice I'd ever heard. One day she was gone. I asked Dad, and Grandmother, "Why did she go? When is she coming back?" The answer was she wanted to live with her father in California. I wrote her endless letters. My first line was always, "Dear Junie, When are you coming back?" Nobody had an answer. Even she avoided this answer. All I knew is that she said she loved me, and I believed her. She told me to write stories, so my 6, 7, 8, 9 year-old-self wrote her stories. I rarely received a letter back, but on holidays I got to say hello to her on the telephone. Where and what was California, anyway, and why did she and it sound so far away? She came back to visit a few times, once with a new husband with a pony tale. I remember my grandmother, whom had a beauty shop where the livingroom was in most houses, talked him into cutting it off. I remember there were 2 Christmas trees that year, one in the livingroom with all the white lights and white birds that Grandmother always put up...and a more trafitional one with gingerbread men and candy canes.I thought that was so neat...it was so special when Junie came, we had 2 trees. I never heard my aunt say a bad word. If I was with her and her car stalled, she was upset...and said, "sh, sh, sugar!" I do remember her always seeming somewhat irritated..using this term, "Oh Mother...when speaking to Grandmother...and always used the word "appalled." She was always "appalled" at everyone's behavior. What DID "appalled" mean anyway? I knew it wasn't good, whatever it was. I don't remember how old I was when I was told why she was sent away, but it was most assuredly to keep me from doing the same thing. My dad told me she was caught with a black boy in my grandmother's car in Center Square Easton. It was 1969, and even north of the Mason Dixon line, it was frowned upon. My dad lost his temper, pulled her from the car, beat her, and then sent her to California where her father would "deal with her." When I asked my dad what the police did when he hit her, he said, "I told them, 'she's my sister and I caught her with a nigger...'" apparently the policeman allowed him to carry on then. One time I was angry with my aunt for never writing me back when I was about 16. I could hear my father say, "She writes her religiously and can she take time to reply?" I wrote a letter venting. I never meant it to be mailed. But..somehow, my mother saw it on my bureau and saw to it that it got mailed. I knew the shit would hit the fan when she received that letter. She wrote back alright. She sure wasn't sweet then. "I'm trying to get my fucking life in order..." she wrote. I'd never heard an adult use the word fuck before. Now I understood the word, "appalled." I am not saying my letter didn't deserve some attitude correction, but I wrote to tell her I was sad and angry that I took so much time to write to her and she never wrote back. It most certainly was not an approptiate response to even a rebellious 16 year-old's letter. I s'pose this is when I realized that my feelings really didn't matter..whether it was Dad, Mom, Grandmother...that I had grown used to. But Aunt Junie? It was a sad day of realization. She visited again for my uncle's wedding where she didn't seem to have much interest in me and made irritated comments about my juvenille behavior when cute boys were around. She was never taken off the pedestal, but I didn't feel like she loved me anymore. I didn't hear a peep from Aunt Junie from age 17...then on classmates.com when I was 40...there she was. Wanting to be all chummy and close. She was living in Scotland at the time. She sure wrote me a lot then. I thought my childhood dreams were realized. The fairy princess was again manifesting and my 5-year-old dreams had come true. She promised to write books with me and send me presents that she's been collecting for years ....my dad warned me to be careful, she'd hurt me. But alas, I did not listen, I was too overjoyed that someone who seemed to understand our family dynamics was now my ally. She wrote me endless letters of her side of the story ...growing up, always making my father and grandmother look like horrible villians. I let her tell me, to vent. I felt she deserved her say. I never judged her. I felt she had a right to her side and her feelings... and then one day I received a letter calling me the "Born-again Bitch from Hades..." with no explanation except that she felt I had told her new lover's daughter about her ex-husband's so called financial ruin. One, I had no clue who her new lover's daughter in Scotland of all places was...nor of the circumstances surrounding her past with her ex-husband...and if I did...why would I tell anyone? Dad was right, she'd hurt me. I backed off. Then dad got sick, very sick. Junie and I finally started talking on the phone. Things seemed fine between us. Dad died. Junie moved back to our hometown. I saw her only at dad's funeral, a memorial service a few months later ..and at Christmastime when she was "forced against her will" to come to a gathering at her mother's for Chinese food. I arranged the occasion. I wanted family photographs. I wanted true Kodak moments. I got them, along with a lot of bitter arguements before and after, but I got the fucking pictures. Pictures of her with her aging mother I am sure she will be glad we took...someday. She was back in our home town for 2 years...and I still hadnt seen the lovely presents she'd saved for me all my life or the time together for coffee much less writing. She called me on my 46th birthday. She was supposed to take me to lunch. I am a slow learner when it comes to people I seek approval from. I expressed some feelings about current family hurts and concerns...and all of a sudden she turned on me like a viper. "Ya know, I don't have the money to take you for lunch. I have a phobia towards fat people. I have no idea how people can get themselves into such a state. You retain water, you have no neck, what is wrong with you? You've gained weight and so has your husband even since your father died. I will not take you to lunch. It makes me too uncomfortable to be seen with fat people." She said more...I hung up. She wrote me an e-mail saying I misunderstood her concern. Yeah, right. I could be as thin as Twiggy and I will never allow myself to be so humiliated again. I blocked her. A few months ago, I found her son, my first cousin, on facebook. I'd known about him, seen pictures of him, heard stories of his life. My first cousin, the son of my childhood fairy princess, the woman I adored, NEVER TOLD HER SON I EXISTED. It is wide awakening, when you finally learn at age 46, there is no such thing as a fairy princess.