Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ramblings from my attic #98

A Crying Name

Sweaty and flushed, hair wisping around her face more out of the pony tail than in, she started to pad towards me. Her dance instructor reached out and enclosed her in strong arms; Suzanne’s blonde head bending down to rest on Lindsay’s. I could not hear their whispered words, but wondered why Lindsay had been singled out for comforting hugs. Had something happened during class? I helped her on with her shoes and led her out into the hallway.

“Is everything OK?” I asked.

“I was sad during class, so Miss Suzanne was worried about me” she answered, eyes watering and downcast.

“What were you sad about?”

“I told her I was sad because I missed Aunt Betty,” she sighed, squeezing a tear or two out from beneath dramatically opening and closing long lashes. I managed to keep a straight face, though I wanted desperately to laugh.

I’m not heartless, mind you. And I do cry for Aunt Betty, an Aunt I was very close to and whose hand I held as she lay dying. Aunt Betty died at age 87, several years ago. I have vivid memories of her memorial service when Lindsay, age 3, stood at the front of the church pulling the skirt of her dress over her face, letting it drop, pulling it up, letting it drop so that the gathered seniors of Pleasant Hill Retirement Community repeatedly got a nice view of her pink and white panties.

She didn’t cry when Aunt Betty died…she wasn’t old enough to understand the loss. Any first-hand memory Lindsay may have had of Aunt Betty has been supplanted by the image immortalized in a favorite picture. She and her Great Aunt are tossing a big green ball back and forth. They are in Aunt Betty’s Tennessee living room full of vinyl recliners and nick knacks. Aunt Betty is ensconced in her favorite chair, beaming; tickled pink to be playing with my little girl in overalls and pigtails.

“I miss Aunt Betty” is Lindsay code for unexplained sadness...an excuse for a good cry. I chortle to myself when I get the “Aunt Betty” explanation out of the blue from a child prone to high drama. But it makes sense that she has connected grief over the loss of a loved one with socially acceptable crying. She knows she’ll get hugs and comforting if she invokes the “Aunt Betty.” I picture Lindsay years from now. The tears start falling and her boyfriend asks, “What’s wrong, honey?”

“I miss Aunt Betty.”

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