There was this couple. They were rich and poor and in love and hated each other. They seemed excessive and glamorous to me, a tiny girl from the woods around Fox, Alaska. They had a motel, and a gold mine, and a salmon gutting business. They ate and laughed to excess, and adopted a daughter who had leukemia.
She was my first friend, this daughter, blonde and lucky– the one with the new Barbie dolls and excessive mother. My first memories are wrapped up in their house, sleeping on the floor, a bouncy horse melting in a nearby fire, the motel next to theirs aflame. I, on my father’s shoulders, staring at massive flames and imagined cries, watched with Judith. She always seemed tragic, my Aunt Judith. Her daughter died young. Her husband violently killed by a shotgun -wielding “associate” while defecating in his own bathroom. I remember my mother listening to the Beatles, A Long and Winding Road, over and over after his death. Hers was, and still is, my model for dealing with death. I today I listen to Perfect Day by Lou Reed on repeat.
I’ve looked in the mirror often lately, grimacing at the way my face follows the same aging plump decline as hers did, our shared history in the similarities. How can she and I be the only two in the family that look like this? What a trip genetics are… I share so much with her, or from her, a reflection of her beliefs, cultivated with outings to depression era glass shows and rich decadent fattening dinners. She doted on me for awhile. I guess she made me feel important, allowed to hang around a grown up. She was my first role model and cautionary tale. There was so much I didn’t want to be that Aunt Judith was, so much I still don’t understand about her choices.
I felt abandoned by her when I didn’t receive any response from my overly proud pre-Facebook motherhood. My gushing notes with polaroids, ignored. Holiday cards so well crafted with our photos, young and rich and so very full of our absolute rightness. The absolute convictions needed to strike out on our politized Gen X lifepath– alternative parenting! Co-sleeping! Waterbirth!
Those notes, I never thought to think about how she might have felt reading them.
How did she feel?
I have seen over this long #deashermanroadtrip summer a realization. Of how much we can not see around us. A teenager who dealt my ego a blow when she thought of me as an ADULT, for fucksake, made me realize how little I knew/saw when I myself was a teen. I could never see beyond myself. The next turn in the road obscuring what’s ahead. Is this my reflection of my relationship with Aunt Judy? I am only able to see the reflections in the curves up ahead.
I believe wholeheartedly in reincarnation. In a reincarnation like the hypnotist describes in Journey of Souls–that sort of reincarnation. I believe completely in the idea that multiple stories are going on around us all the time. There are a multitude of realities blending, in ways we can only surmise and postulate, into the narrative. There are crossovers, interactions of larger existence. I have a newfound understanding of the synchronicity around us–the “acausal connecting principle” of Jung.
I don’t know how much of me is Judith and how much of a connection we had. I do know that I have a strong feeling of just having come through some swinging doors, and learned something. I hope Aunt Judy discovered whatever she needed to find out in this lifetime. RIP Judith Anderson.