To me, she was a movie star. A red carpet unfurled itself and magically rolled forward to meet her every step. She could do no wrong.
She’s a full thirteen years younger than my mother, so by default that makes her big sis to me. Maybe that’s why I kept the teddy bear on my bed for so long.
I can’t say I remember the exact moment she gave it to me, but somehow I always knew it was from her. And there it lay on my pillow each night, protecting me from unknown terrors in the darkness, until it was threadbare and missing one of its glassy, brown eyes.
It’s funny. It all reminds me of when my mom revealed that my aunt had what she described as a life-sized Mick Jagger poster smeared across one wall of her bedroom. We all had a little chuckle about it and my aunt got red in the cheeks. Looking back on it now I have to admit it’s rather amusing to think she had a girlhood crush on a guy who basically looks like a caricature of himself. But back then, my first thought was wow, that’s pretty cool.
My aunt was a rebel. And I wanted to be a rebel.
But it shouldn’t have surprised me at all. I should have known long before this, because the signs were all there.
When she was no more than a few years old she thought it a good idea to serve an entire tray of coffee under her own supervision and without my grandparents’ knowledge. The tray and the majority of the scalding drinks upon it poured directly down her face and chest. They had to peel the layers of skin off her reddened body for days. But the young rebel was untouched, for the constant chiseling only served to whittle out the same brilliant smile and radiance of beauty the child had possessed prior to the incident.
See, my aunt was a rebel. And I wanted to be a rebel.
A few years later, a virtual cavalcade of Barbie Dolls would lie bald and dejected in my grandparents’ basement. All of them perceived victims of my aunt and her maniacal grip on a pair of scissors. Now, I’ve seen these dolls, and I can personally tell you they look like they’ve narrowly survived nuclear fallout. But I can assure you there was no act of mania involved. She was just trying to create a few new hairstyles, and start a couple new trends.
Because my aunt was a rebel. And I wanted to be a rebel.
So you know what I did? I got myself scalded by a cup of hot chocolate. Yep. I was at a little league game one chilly, Spring evening and I bumped into a friend on my way to chase a foul ball. I literally bumped into him. He sent the whole mug full down the back of my shirt. Of course, I didn’t set it all up that way. It happened purely by chance. But when it happened, I was instantly reminded of my aunt. Even as I held a cold can of soda to my back to drown out the searing heat, she never left my mind.
I thought what would the rebel do in this situation?
But I didn’t know and I wondered if even the rebel knew herself. I wondered if the same thoughts crossed the rebel’s mind when it happened to her. I wondered what poster I’d hang on my wall as a teenager and who I’d buy a teddy bear for. I wondered how red my cheeks would get when it all became the object of playful reminiscence.
And I started to notice that in all the time I wanted to be a rebel, I was more like the rebel than I’d ever known.