“Not So Lovely Feelings…”
We are heading into the holiday season. Like many of us, I’ve already begun to feel the anxiety of gifts, decorations, which invitations do I accept and which do I refuse. I always, and I mean always overextend myself around Christmas. I do so both financially and energetically. “Oh Lord, please! Please Lorraine… not this year. Please try, try really hard to be kind to yourself.” This is my fervent prayer. This is my mantra.
I am going to try!! I am going to try to be kind to myself this year!!
“I am kind to myself……THEREFORE I will only give of myself in ways I can easily and fully support!!!” Better.
I gotta get hard core with my conscious intentions right about now! Why???
I am going home for Christmas this year. Home being Trinidad which only out of habit, do I still call home. I’ve been gone now some 45 years, and though I’ve been back quite often, it has been at least 4 years since my last visit.
My 84 year old aunt still lives there, as does one of my dearest friends, a woman I have known and loved for over 50 years. We met when I was three. Aunt Pat (let’s just use her middle name shall we?) is my mother’s only sister. She somewhat co-parented me along with my divorcee mother. Once my favorite aunt, she’s the one who taught me a fabulous new word when I was two. “Vogue!!!”
It was the 1960’s and Auntie Pat wore a host of hip wigs which I wet-set and styled for her every weekend. I styled flips with bangs, bouffants and boy-cuts, afros curly and blown. I washed and set, and teased and styled, then netted and pined to Styrofoam heads all lined in a row in proud anticipation of her Friday evening visits. I was 7, but I was good!! On weekends Aunt Pat threw fashionable cocktail parties in her bachelorette garden flat, terrazzo tiles gleaming, the scent of Lancome perfume mingled with Cuban cigars and Frangipani blossoms sweet and heavy in the air. Sitting under the constant whirl of ceiling fans, my fabulous “aunties” and there Castro bearded boyfriends argued world politics, and local news, classic literature and the Karma Sutra. They reveled in their collective brilliance. Auntie Euline, Auntie Barbara, Auntie Doree, Auntie Marva, the legendary lovelies of my childhood, sat high heeled and crossed legged, the clink of ice on crystal barely chilling the warm dark rum and fresh coconut water. These women were masters of the art of flirtation and seduction. Not the overt crude kind of teasing modern women engage in, but a subtle silky butterfly winged kind. With the turn of a phrase, the tone of a quip they parried and spared and touché their evenings away. They wore mod mini shirts and Shindig boots, big afros, and frosted eye shadow. Their wide hips undulating to the latest Mighty Sparrow Calypso pronounced a sure winner at that year’s Carnival competition. My Aunties were smart and sassy and sexy and hip. They were……Vogue.
My mom on the other hand was a Montessory school teacher and church organist for the San Fernando Catholic Church. She had a quiet beauty my mom, one that spilled past her twinkling eyes and ladylike demeanor. While crossing the street one afternoon, a man stopped the car, leaned out the window, and loudly proclaimed of her “my God, you are a juicy woman”! My mother was all soft curves and honey warm skin, her contralto voice echoing the Ava Maria from the balcony of the catholic cathedral. She was kind and strong and determined. My mother never made it to “University”, because in her family only one child was afforded that opportunity.
Choosing my aunt was a no brainer, as she was always the better academic student. So off my aunt went to study International Relations at the The University of Vancouver, in her home spun dresses, $87.00 in her purse, carrying the hopes and dreams of the family on her slim dark shoulders. Her sister was left behind.
In those subsequent years, my mother married, taught school, and gave birth to me. She divorced my then abusive dad, was excommunicated from her beloved Catholic church, and surrendered her heart to an all consuming forbidden love affair which would leave her empty and hollowed out at it’s end. My mother eventually left Trinidad to make a better life for us in America. In doing so, she left me behind for 2 years with my Aunt Pat and my great aunt Una. They were the worst two years of my life.
On my Aunt Pat’s return to Trinidad, she became the head librarian at the Library of International Relations at the University of the West Indies. She never married, never had children, eventually proclaiming herself “unlucky in love”. She grown more bitter and angry as the years passed the feeling that life had fundamentally betrayed her giving her an excuse to be cruel. She is old now and lives alone, save for her many illnesses, her treasured companions.
These two sisters, polar opposites on the surface, bore only one thing in common. Me. The only child in this fiercely matriarchal clan, I became the repository of all the love, fear, hopes and aspirations of both theses women who loved me beyond measure, beyond bearing. They bestowed upon me a kind of love which carries a high price. At some point, I was going to have to choose. Which one would receive my full allegiance, my mother or my aunt? With etiquette classes at 3, and violin lessons at 4, I was being trained, groomed, and shaped into a very particular young lady, well mannered and well behaved. The expectation of my going on to university abroad, where I would become a doctor or a barrister or something “proper” was clearly understood by all. That worked for a while, until the rebel in me broke free and I declared at 11 that I was going to be an actress. That’s pretty much when my world changed in every conceivable way.
I am a woman now, and a mother. I have known great love and heartbreaking loss. I am my mother’s daughter….and more.
My Aunt Pat and I are now extremely distant. Our relationship has fallen into strained listening and polite responses. The years have yielded resentments and unforgiveness between us. There is no lack of love I think, but that small sweet island where we first met, and laughed, and claimed each other as “favorites” has long since drifted out to sea and been swallowed by the deep. I do not know what’s left of it if anything, if there remains some sliver of land on which to stand, on which to meet before she dies. Though barren and soggy I must try to raise it up to the Light, to the warmth of the Sun. The thought that there is no lovely left between us…. breaks my heart. And so I journey home, to this place that is no longer my home, in search of, in hope of.…lovely.