Every year, in April, my mother’s younger sister drives up the Mass Pike from New York state to visit me for a night. My aunt looks like a movie star of the Meryl Streep ilk; she is tall and blonde, glamorous in a totally unassuming yet powerful way. These times we spend together are like stolen moments — away from family we get to bond as the youngest of both our families and as women.
To hear my mother tell it, my aunt was wild in her younger years, with long blonde hair and even longer peasant skirts, tiny bikinis and big work boots. When my brother was born she sped up from Boston to meet her sister’s first child, a trip which has become immortalized in our family lore. I imagine her with her windows open, an old Volvo, maybe, her hair blowing out into the wind and Bob Dylan on the car stereo. In her excitement to get there she was doing 90 on 95; she was pulled over by a Maine state trooper. When she tells this story she always mentions right about now that “he was incredibly handsome.”
He asked her for her license and since she just kind of threw things into a satchel those days, she had to search for it. As she searched, she (for reasons totally unclear to me) handed him the various contents of her purse, engaging him in the search while explaining that she was in a hurry because her first nephew had just been born and she had to get there. Somehow, as she handed him object after object, she also managed to hand him a small plastic bag of marijuana. This, or maybe her beauty, confirmed for him that giving her a ticket might not be worth his trouble, so, instead, he chuckled and sent her on her way. Heck, it was 1970, pre-Homeland Security, so what do you expect?
Last spring, on her way to visit me, she got pulled over for “not noticing” a red light at the bottom of my hill. This time she had her license. What she did not have was any marijuana ... until she came to my house.
That night, after we ate dinner, I pulled out a joint. I wasn’t deliberately trying to get my aunt to do drugs with me. It was just that her interest had piqued after some discussion and we decided it might be fun. Or profound or something. If there was anyone in my family whom I might be able to do this with, it was she. We lit up, and after a few minutes of inhaling, I began to feel nervous. Suddenly it felt like the strongest pot I’d ever smoked and this all seemed like a very bad idea. I then got worried that she, too, might be having a strong reaction to the marijuana, and the more obsessed I became, the more she looked like she might keel over and die from the joint. I imagined my mother killing me in various painful ways.
We went to bed, she in my room, and me on the couch. However, my mind was swimming with danger scenarios and I kept jumping up every few minutes to make sure my aunt was still alive. Every time I arose I’d call out, “Are you OK?”