I met my aunt Melanie in the summer of 1974, an August of high bright days, so dry that my father had to oil our front lane to keep the dust down. I was fifteen, midway through high school and deadened by its sameness. I could scarcely remember what had preceded it, or begin to imagine what might follow.
“You don’t remember me, do you? You were so little when I left.” Melanie climbed into the front seat of our station wagon, next to my father. This was my mother’s usual place, surrendered out of courtesy since Melanie was a guest. She had arrived with her stepdaughter Tilly on the Greyhound bus from Pensacola, Florida. Tilly, who was eight, shared the backseat with me and my mother.
“Not exactly,” I said, though I had heard about Melanie my whole life: my mother’s sister, the youngest of seven, the midlife baby who’d surprised my grandmother after two miscarriages. I was an ‘oops,’ Melanie would tell me later, a confession that shocked and thrilled me. I’d never heard an adult allude to such matters. We were not that kind of family.
There was a rustling sound as she rifled through her shopping bags. “For Regina,” she said, handing me a small unwrapped box. Inside was a pair of earrings, the dangling kind I admired, decorated with tiny seashells. These were made for pierced ears, so I wouldn’t be able to wear them. . . . Read More.