Every now and then my Aunt Millie thought maybe she should have had kids with her ex-husband Frank. She was forty-seven and living alone in her condominium in Corona del Mar. After twelve years of marriage, she and Frank had failed to conceive, and despite their other problems, this seemed to be the clincher. It became apparent that Millie was not able to get pregnant.
My mom was more than willing to give Millie the chance to experience the joys of child rearing when my parents went to Bermuda. I was seven when Millie watched us for a whole week. She showed up at our house, eager to make us waffles and her special chicken dinners. She planned out games we could play at the dining table like, “Go Fish,” or matching games where we’d flip cards and try to match pictures to test our short-term memories. Claire was very good at that game. Our cat Pumpkin jumped on the table and walked through the games, lying down on top of our cards
“One of you move the cat,” Millie said, “I can’t touch that thing, it will put me in my grave.”
After a few days, Millie’s eyes developed red lines like mini lightning bolts traveling across a watery sky. Longhaired Pumpkin scratched and kicked her hair around the living room, indifferent to Millie’s extreme allergies.
“I do so love cats,” she reminded me as she sat on the sofa looking at Pumpkin from a safe distance. “I had half hoped I had grown out of my allergy to cats, but my nose is runny, my eyes are itchy. I guess I’ll have to survive the tempest of dander that this cat produces.” I listened to her, more absorbed with my Fisher Price action figures on the living room floor. Millie opened the curtains covering the sliding glass doors to the backyard before getting comfortable on the couch again. The small TV was playing commercials when suddenly it was announced that “The Yellow Submarine” was coming on.
“Yay,” I jumped up from the camping excursion my action figures were enjoying and turned up the volume on the TV. My younger sister Claire came in after hearing my excitement and sat on the couch next to Millie.