She was larger than life, the favorite aunt. Do you know the one that I mean? We all have one-one who stood apart from the rest in our youthful eyes. She was the one who jumped with you on the trampoline-just because. She was the one with tootsie rolls tucked in her sweater pocket. She was the one that left dark lip print smudges on temples and rosy just pinched "I'm soooo happy to see you!" cheeks.

She wasn't like the rest of them, who shoo-ed us away when they were having their grown-up talks. She would pull me close and hug me tight instead.

She smoked. Funny thing about that, I hadn't recalled that she did until I went looking for a photo of her. There she was in the old crinkled family album. She was in a faded, curled at edges not quite natural colorized photograph. She was wearing that big smile and holding onto that sleek cigarette, just so, between her pointer and middle finger. She looked glamorous, all fashionable like. Her hair was perfectly done, her make up, too heavy (not that I would ever tell her so) and her perfume was thick. She wore a heavy floral scent that reached out and enveloped you. The memory of that scent when she squeezed me in close jumps out at me, as if she were near again. She reminded me of a movie star.

She was a star, you know, in her own right. She was a singer. She has this full bodied voice-throaty and husky. She was a "professional" though at the time I didn't know it meant she was paid to sing. I thought it meant she was ready to be in the movies, like Grace Kelly. She used to sing to me at the drop of a hat. Yertle the Turtle was never the same once it was heard with that singsong voice. I can picture her now singing to me about a confused worm waking up to the dew drenched world and trying to set up a secret rendezvous with his tail because he thought she was attractive. (That song always cracked me up.)

I loved her voice. It was beautiful. She was beautiful-Darkly tanned, dark hair, dark eyes. She had a loud voice, or should I say, she voiced her opinions loudly. She was a very strong minded woman. She was bold splashes of paint standing before a pastel backdrop.

She would just as easily wrestle with us on the bed and play hide and seek. Then she would stop by the mirror, smooth out her hair, press her lips together and look "perfect" again, just like that. She was the kind of woman who didn't cotton to standard behavior. She made up her own rules. She made us banana splits one winter, just cause she felt like it. "The hot fudge'll warm us up" she would wink.

Then, suddenly, she was gone, swept from my life with no explanation. My uncle divorced her and that was that. I asked once, at Christmas, why she wasn't there with us. The adults looked uncomfortably at each other before shoo-ing me off to distract my cousins before Santa arrived. I knew better than to ask again.

Now years later, I think about her. She may have been a part of my life for a short time, but in that time she had impact. She will always be my aunt, divorce decree or not. I have a surreal shift of sorts, as if I am her-THEN. It is odd. I wonder how my niece and nephew feel now that their aunt has been suddenly swept out of their lives with no explanation. A question I am sure my aunt wondered about. I don't have to wonder hard. I already know. They will try not to think about me, perhaps they will pretend I am on a very long vacation until I fade away to memory-until, one day, they will open an old photo album and catch the scent of vanilla.

thank you ...

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