I had a dream last night. One of those incredibly vivid dreams that seem so real that you carry them with you, hold the images in front of you for hours afterwards. It was about my aunt with whom I have not spoken in years. She is/was my mother’s sister. She and my mother were estranged when I was about 7. I remember the arguments although I have no idea what they were about. I have no idea whether she is still alive.
Anyway, in the dream we were talking together and about Julia. I was feeling guilty that i was talking to my aunt about Julia. The guilt is left over from the years that my mother warned me and my siblings not be to be in touch with my aunt or her family because they would . . . I don’t even know what they would or could do. Just that it would be awful. And so, even when I could, I did not get in touch. And she never reached out to me.
But in the dream, we were at the New York Toy Fair (a real event that I frequented a few times in the 80’s when I was working for a production company that was trying to break into the kids tv biz.) and I wanted to buy a game for Julia. My aunt was advising me on some game that I did not know of. And then, she said she had something to tell me - - - at which point the alarm went off. Damn! I lost the dream and there was no going back.
She is a person that I’ve always wondered about. She could draw very well. According to family stories, she wanted to go to art school after high school, but my grandmother insisted she go out to work. She became a legal secretary. She married the boy next door. Really. Their wedding was only months before my parents’ wedding and I was given to believe that my aunt purposely planned to get married before my parents to upstage their event. My aunt and uncle lived in my grandmother’s house -- a two family in a town which would become a rough neighborhood in Jersey years later. My grandmother bought the house from the bank as the Great Depression was winding down. Bought it at some kind of deal to compensate my grandmother for the savings that she lost. My aunt lived on the second floor and raised her children in that house. My parents, although they bought a two-family house with my father’s parents, looked down on my aunt and uncle for not going out on their own and buying their property as they eventually did.
I was given to believe that my mother and aunt were close of children and young adults. My two cousins are close in age to my siblings and myself. They were young families together. After my mother and aunt parted ways and while my grandmother was alive, we would visit her in her downstairs flat but did not visit with my aunt and uncle. As a very little child, I remember spending many if not most weekends with the entire family in an out of the two apartments. So, it was a distinct change when that stopped. Of course, us kids wanted to visit and play. And my cousins would sneak downstairs to see us when were came to visit my grandmother and eventually and after much whining, we would be allowed to go upstairs to their house to play in their rooms with their toys. We, my brother and one sister and I, were not as careful as my cousins with toys, and I am sure we broke some of our cousins toys. And I remember my girl cousin having a very beautiful room. I was impressed, even as a 9 or 10 year old, at how beautiful the decoration was although I can’t for the life of me remember what it looked like. I recognized some natural ability to put things together. To make something beautiful. Something that my mother could not do. My mother’s choices went together, matched, and she was neat, very clean and tidy, but there was no inherent style or flow in the house I grew up in.
Through my child eyes, my aunt’s great flaw was that she was a great preserver. Her living room furniture was always covered. When the sisters were still friendly, my aunt’s couch and chairs was always covered with white sheets. I know that my cousins and siblings played and tumbled in that room -- there was no play room or basement to send the kids and I remember the sheets on during Christmas and Easter. We all dressed up and looked our best, but the furniture was being preserved. For what? For some better guests? For some better time? We probably tried playing tents with some of the coverings. It was a favorite game in our house. Years later, when we were all apart long enough to make us strangers, the upstairs living room was covered in plastic with plastic runners on the floor. It was still beautiful to my eyes, but it crackled when I sat down and was cold or sweaty.
One very odd thing was that, even years after the sisters stopped talking, the bought identical household items. My aunt and my mother bought the same stove, the same tv, the same rug. Even after they had not spoken for years, the houses matched. My mother was always angry about this. I thought it was magic. My mother saw conspiracy. The matching thrilled me.
Just one more thing. Throughout my life, especially during my teenage years, when my parents yelled at me in bursts of anger, they would call me by my aunt’s name. This, if nothing else, kept a connection with this aunt that I no longer knew. I don’t think that I looked like her but I think I was the only sibling who was called by her name, so I reasoned there was some connection. I have no idea what it was.
I went to a meeting with Julia’s teacher and aids and our lead therapist to set up consequences for Julia picking at her skin when she is at school. We are going for big consequences that will really get her attention and turn her attention to what she is doing. The idea is to give her a specific number of warning reminders when she begins to pick and if she doesn’t change her behavior or the activity, she will be sent home. As much as this might be a great treat for some kids, for Julia, who wakes up quicker on weekdays when she knows she is going to school, this is an awful consequence. And i predict that it will not go on for long. We’ve agreed to use the system (which is still in the works) for three weeks with the hope that it will draw Julia’s attention to what she is doing so strongly that she will stop doing it. Julia has gotten and will be getting positive reinforcement for any good behavior, but we all feel that this rather drastic negative reinforcement is necessary for change.
Julia’s body is healing slowly, and she is picking less, but the healing is painfully slow. I still bandaid and bandage, not as many as two weeks ago, but too many to keep count. It is depressing to watch the number of bandaids decline so slowly.
I spent time today cutting out Julia’s halloween costume -- a purple ballerina dinosaur. There is a party on Saturday -- the first Julia’s been invited to in a very long time -- and she is excited to wear it. I tried to persuade her to be “just a ballerina” but not very aggressively. I do not sew anymore. There was a time that I was pretty good at it but that is so far in the past. I remember what to do, how to do it, like riding a bike, like all those automatic things that come back. And the pattern is very easy. And I feel that joy, like gardening joy, at doing a well known task. At picking up a strength and making something to please Julia.
Yesterday, getting ready for school, Julia asked if I was going to put on makeup for her costume. She loves to have it put on, always have, but only for halloween. She asked me if I would buy her, her own make up and I agreed. If she wants to play at this very grownup pleasure, I will not deny her. I told her that she could not wear any make up for school or for church. No one would care at church, but I was thinking more about getting out of the house to be at a service on time. i contemplate hours in front of the bathroom mirror, which I am not adverse to, but just not when the school bus is coming or I have announcements to read at church.
And the kitchen got its coat of insulation sprayed into it on Tuesday. Drywall starts on Thursday.