Moon in Leo
Marie and Danny were sibling outcasts, she would explain, not complaining, more like bragging. Colonel Robert Aidan “Sir,” their soldier dad would taunt them as “Louella’s girls.” He was probably surprised that Danny didn’t end up gay. He never paid enough attention to realize that Marie was. “I don’t think he knew that girls could be other than Mothers or Whores, dutiful wives or dependent daughters, defined by the men who commanded them.” She would say it with a look of reverie, not bitterness. She never cared enough about Old Robert to resent his dismissal of her. By the time he came back from the War, she was an opinionated, intellectually pampered 5 year old, already sure of her self-determination. She refused to go, a year or so later, when Colonel Aidan was deployed to a base in another state. Her doting maternal grandparents agreed that she was happy at the private school they paid for near their home, that she would be best for now staying with them while Bobby and Louella settled in to their new home.
With Bobby, Jr. already baking in Louella’s oven, Bob, Sr. was glad enough not to be embroiled with a recalcitrant 6 year old. It wasn’t until 3 years later, with Bobby, Jr. and little Stevie underfoot that Bob, Sr. insisted his daughter join the family to help her mother with the boys.
Marie felt nothing but resentment toward her father and younger brothers. They were all obnoxious brats as far as she could tell, not because they were boys but because they were not much classier than classic rednecks. But then, a year or so later when Danny was born, she immediately felt an intense connection with him. She was instantly, totally, irrevocably in love with this youngest brother who embodied all the best qualities of their wild, crazy, by now desperately unhappily trapped mom, plus even more endearing qualities of his own. He was a beautiful, imaginative dream of a child, she would say so fondly. I knew what she meant. When I knew him, though ostensibly I was the child, he was right there with me. Everybody loves Danny. Except, of course, his dad and brothers, because to them he did not embody the proper archetype of man, or boy. Men aren’t gentle. They don’t care passionately about ideals or art or beauty. Men are strong and fierce, tricky against opponents, which includes everyone. Men don’t trust, certainly not women, rarely other men. Maybe, if they’ve gone through combat together. “Louella would swear her Bobby had been different when they were young and so in love.” Marie would try to explain what she could not understand. It was all unreal to me, stories I loved to be told. I loved feeling safe and adored, being schooled in my heritage by my marvelous, mystical aunt who had done so much, been so many places, known so many kinds of living unheard of by my schoolmates and their families, those I thought of as the real world.
Aunt Marie’s stories, like my mom’s, were about other worlds, far from what I could expect here and now. They told me stories so fantastic, to them merely history, and I felt my world expand into unknown possibilities. Now I tell my stories — real, fantasized, some combination, and feel in touch with my matriarchal core, my lifeline, maybe a call from destiny. Yeah, typical psychotic megalomania. Hey, if paranoids can have enemies, megalomaniacs can have great destinies, or at least great fantasies. I am loved, lovable, in love, so fantasies can be true.
My dad, Danny, for all his faults, is so much better a man than his dad, Robert, for all his self-absorbed glory. Aunt Marie, sparkling gem among the living when she was with us, if I ever attain honor as an artist, that honor belongs to you.
Morning birds are singing. Sunday morning. I’ve nowhere I need to be. Or, maybe I need to be walking in the Spring dawn, sharing my secrets with the birds.