In Memoriam: Auntie Eva
Originally uploaded by panopticon.
It was one year ago that my Aunt Eva died. She was just shy of 56 years old.
All my life Aunt Eva had a unique place in my heart. She was my Auntie Mame figure.
She had no children of her own to spoil, and from the minute I was born she decided was an angel on earth, if not the actual Second Coming. It's nice to have someone think that of you - even when you know perfectly well it's untrue and undeserved.
In my childhood, I was berated on an almost daily basis for my innate love of reading, drawing, and pretty things, all of which were considered sissified and shameful.
But what others criticized, Aunt Eva encouraged. She surrounded herself with objects of beauty and didn't blame me for wanting to do the same.
In my first memory of her, we're in a gift shop. It smells of eucalyptus. She's holding up a stained glass butterfly to the light and asking me to admire it.
It's fitting. We shopped almost every time I visited her as a child. Marathon trips, starting with a grand restaurant breakfast, pausing for lunch at some place with hushed conversation and nice china, and ending as the stores were closing for the night.
She never bought me a baseball, a hockey stick, or a soccer ball because that was what I, as a boy, "supposed" to want.
Instead, I remember birthday boxes full of goodies of every description, most of which nobody else would have given me. Always lots of books. Beautiful books, my favorite thing in the world (then and now). And every one of them inscribed "With Love from Auntie Eva XOXO" in her clear, almost calligraphic hand.
But it wasn't the presents, really it wasn't. It was the message behind them: You're okay, there's nothing wrong with liking the things you like, and I love you the way you are, no matter what.
Any gay man or woman reading this - or any straight man or woman who didn't fit the description of "normal" as a child - will appreciate how much that means.
I miss you, Auntie Eva. Wherever you are, I hope the stores are open late, your credit is unlimited, and they have your size in every color.
I'll never forget you.