Saturday, September 16, 2006
My great-aunt told us that she wanted her party last night to be for just the family. She had something to tell us when we were all assembled, and naturally I worried intensely about this beforehand, even after the reassured me that she had nothing negative to share with us. When someone I love turns 85, even a remarkably spry 85, I do start to worry more about their well-being.
First of all, I should tell you in case it wasn't abundantly clear already that I am intensely close to my immediate family. My mom, my dad, and my brother are all major fixtures in my life and I spend time with all of them by choice. My aunt and my great-aunt are two people I consider to be among my best friends, and we also spend a great deal of time together. My aunt takes me to plays, movies, and for long bike rides by the ocean, and my great-aunt takes me shopping, out for lunch, and both my aunt and my great-aunt have travelled with me around Europe.
Family get-togethers in our household are frequent, loud, fun, and never a drag. We celebrate everyone's birthday with great enthusiasm, and we take great joy in giving presents, reusing wrapping paper an obscene amount of times, and seeing who can find the funniest or the raunchiest card.
These occasions are by no-means solemn dinners marked by awkward questions about whether I "have a boyfriend," or if I'm "going back to school soon." We talk, laugh, eat, share, and genuinely enjoy each other's company. They know me, and they know about my life. When Kylie called me drunkenly from the bar last night insisting I come drinking with her and her friends, I didn't for a moment consider leaving my great-aunt's party to join them. It just wasn't in the cards, but more to the point, I genuinely wanted to stay at home and throw balled-up wrapping paper for the cats, eat birthday cake, and watch my great-aunt read and chuckle at her latest batch of funny cards.
I don't believe that I've been "blessed," because I don't deserve this amazing family of mine any more or less than any of the people I know who have dreadful and sad family lives. I just think I've been particularly lucky.
Maybe this background helps a bit to explain a little bit what happened next.
My great-aunt got us all together and told us that she'd decided to distribute to us a portion of our inheritance in advance. This way, I suppose, we could enjoy this money while she was still around to encourage us. She said we could spend it on whatever we wanted, and she didn't plan to judge us for blowing it all at once or squirreling it away carefully for years and years (as my brother will probably do).
She gave each of us a card with a cheque inside. The actual sum of money is a small fortune to a girl who has $40 in her bank account. It's enough to fly me to Australia and back at least four times.
Her card just about made me cry, and I don't cry in front of people. It's written in her immaculately neat blue script, and it reads:
About 4 1/2 days after you were born, I met and saw you for the first time -- as you were wearing white cloth eye-covers (and not much else), you probably didn't even notice at all. Nonetheless, my "bonding" reaction was instant and strong, and it kept deepening as time and my involvement with you went on. You are, and always will be, a very special person in my life, I'm proud of you, your talents and other enviable personal qualities.
Much love, ______"
I nearly died after I was born. My liver didn't work properly because of my parents' incompatible blood types, and they wanted to give me a blood transfusion during the height of the tainted blood scandal. My mom refused to let them give me blood, and I'm glad she did because I could have ended up with AIDS. But the result was that it was touch-and-go for a while there. I was so jaundiced that they had to keep me under bright lights wearing only little cloth sunglasses and a diaper. That's the incident my great-aunt is referring to, and while I was completely unaware of the situation at the time, I have been aware ever since of how afraid everyone was of losing me. Maybe that's part of the reason why they love me so intensely now.
Somehow sharing this card with you, my readers, feels like I'm giving you a more personal piece of my life than ever before.
On a more practical level, it means that my assertions that "maybe" I'll be coming out to see some of you far away people this spring and summer has become a "will."
So check your calendars. I can't fly to everyone's abode, but I can certainly go see some of you, and I fully plan to do so. My great-aunt has given me a wonderful gift that goes far beyond dollars and sense. She has given me the ability to connect with friends that are separated from me only by distance.
That, and she's given me a promise that the prospect of paying my small Mastercard bill will no longer give me an ulcer.
In other news, Rain gave me less than 24-hours notice to perform in his show tonight as a stripper/prostitute/foot fetishist. I won't tell you why he cast me in this role, but suffice it to say that it wasn't my personality that got me the job. He was an hour late for our meeting yesterday and the script is an unbelievable 10 pages long. I asked him what he wanted me to wear and he said "think Bjork, except a prostitute." Oh god. The things I do for my friends. He doesn't just owe me one, he owes me about ten. One for each page of that dirty, bizarro script of his.
The photos above are of me and my great-aunt in London. I think they sum up nicely her fun-loving and independent approach to life. I should be so lucky to be as lively as she is when I'm 85!