Auntie Daisy wraps her hand around another glass of white wine. Her dark purple matte nails tap nervously (or impatiently) almost immediately after touching the glass; her face doesn’t agree with this gesture. Stunningly white teeth bore from upturned, burgundy colored lips glisten like pearls under the dim kitchen lighting. The sides of her eyes are creased as she laughs until the other person blinks or turns away, then some heaviness leaks through her expression. All the married women over forty see loneliness in Auntie Daisy’s face. All the married men over forty see insecurity. The children see sadness sometimes, or at least something they know they would like to help abate. I hear the teenagers comment that she is “crazy;” they don’t respect her as an adult.
Daisy is coming up on her fortieth birthday. She has never been married and has no biological or adopted children. When she is not around, the family gossips about these facts. Daisy likes to travel and drink wine. She keeps up with the news and entertainment. Of her sisters, Daisy is the only one who seeks out conversations with people of all demographics, treating them as an equal regardless of age, gender, educational, economical or cultural differences (to a point). She is the middle child of three, and she was always the favored daughter. The eldest found a husband to provide for her; the youngest supported herself though she too found a husband. Though Daisy had a steady career she seemed to almost enjoy, which should (in any reasonable person’s mind) be sufficient to support her lifestyle, Daisy’s father often pumped money her way. This charity was not always in response to a request. Members of the family had assumed different reasons for the father’s generosity.
The sisters greet each other with smiles and warm hugs. They talk about how wonderful it is to see each other and how they should really make an effort this year to see each other more than just for the holidays. Food is eaten, wine is sipped, hands are alive with expression and joy, heads nod in agreement during conversation. People mill around the rooms of the house, sharing love and stories. When Daisy is in the other room, sometimes snarky comments or condescending laughs escape mouths. I wonder if she hears them. And if she does, does she care?
People have a hard time really listening to Aunt Daisy. Who listens to a forty-year-old, never-married, childless woman who works fair hours at a job she almost enjoys and travels the world sipping wine and keeping up with events while enjoying the comfort of Daddy’s cash cushion once she arrives back home?
My cousin, B, finally cut his hair; it no longer curls out from under his baseball cap like squid tentacles. Now he calls me John Lennon since money is too tight for luxuries like haircuts. That’s OK. He’s still young yet; he hasn’t experienced this mythical time much of the populace terms “real life.” I am pleased that he is doing well in his undergraduate studies; I hope when he finishes his degree the job market is better.
On this muggy summer day, my thoughts have already turned to winter and this coming Christmas. I had an idea last year about a deck of playing cards for the card players of the family; our faces would be the faces of the court cards and Aces. I chose to bring up the conversation to enlist my brothers and cousin for help. All three of them liked the idea immediately and said they would help collect photographs of the family (since they see them far more often than I do). My task was to find a printing company to actually produce the deck once we had put it together.
Of course, the most interesting and fun part of this project is assigning family members to certain cards. Who was going to be the infamous “Bitch” card (Queen of Spades)? I knew my choice. The role-casting had been self-entry on her part, an image she gradually built over time: impervious with a pessimistic kind of wisdom, but still soft inside (you just can’t say that aloud in a room other than family). I had many of the cards already planned out in my head; however, these would all change with the input of my brothers and cousin. I wasn’t intending that we had to choose gender-specific cards, but it seemed that I was ruled out by the assumptions of the other three. (Not that they are sexist, but they still have unconscious gender roles assigned and less gender flexibility. We were all raised in a “traditional” family structure with “traditional” gender-roles… so I’m the black sheep in this respect.)
Actually, that last thing I said, it’s not 100% accurate. B was raised by our grandmother primarily. My aunt and uncle both worked regular 9-5 jobs. They had some vacation, but not more than the average I suppose. My aunt chose not to stay home when they were young. My grandmother only lived a few blocks away, and she was retired. If she wasn’t watching the kids, she’d be recording movies on TV to add to her collection of one-time watched movies or she’d be reading another murder mystery. She had enough time on her own, about seven years since my grandfather passed away. My grandmother was a woman of action; she could only sit for so long, even with the company of her murder mysteries and TV movies.
It shouldn’t have surprised me one bit when B said: “So Grandma would be on the Ace.”
“Which one?” I asked.
“All of them. Grandma’s all the Aces.”