My Aunt Rose Ann used to call me Miss Piggy when I was a baby. She used to bring me toys every time she visited until my mom asked her to stop. My mom said that it would make me expect to get a present every time I saw her.
My Aunt Rose Ann was Catholic — converted like my mom — and I used to tell her about all the things that I learned about Jesus at school. I remember whispering to her in the back bedroom so my Bubbie wouldn’t overhear (she did not love Jesus).
Aunt Rose Ann used to take me places — to the bowling alley, the zoo, here and there. She was fun, and I always knew that she loved me a lot.
But Aunt Rose Ann wasn’t perfect. She was very sick. She was schizophrenic. She didn’t work, never married, never had kids of her own. She lived upstairs from my Bubbie, and later moved in with her.
My mom did not keep my aunt’s illness a secret from me, but she didn’t give me many details, either. I know that when my aunt first showed signs of mental illness, she was studying medicine at college. She had a breakdown and wandered outside, naked. Note that naked will always, on some level, equal crazy for me.
But the time I was on the scene, her symptoms were under control. I only remember one time that Aunt Rose Ann had a psychotic episode. Honestly, it was no biggie. She didn’t do anything scary in my presence. Except this: My mom offered her my room while she adjusted to her new meds. I was maybe four years old, and I remember it like it just happened. Fuck, I wanted my room back.
Days passed and my aunt didn’t emerge. She slept in my bed, haunting my room forever more. I cried to my mom, who did nothing. What could she do? She needed to look after her little sister. Finally, at long last, my aunt emerged from my room, adjusted and refreshed. I’m sure that she thanked me. I’m also sure that she had no idea how she had planted those seeds within me. I would never be crazy.
I never let anyone else sleep in my kids’ beds. Ever. Go ahead, call me superstitious.