My sister-aunt Mimi and I dancing

We Were So Close to Heaven

I grew up in a city where I played inside or in a fenced park with close supervision. On the weekends, I stayed with my grandparents in the suburbs. My mom’s youngest sister Mimi was in charge. She felt like a sister with three years between us and a room to share. We roamed freely, spending days on the narrow beach along the Westchester Sound and in the pool beside the shoreline where I sometimes grew blisters from the sun. We floated like baby Manatees in the sound, rolling around and dipping Sugar Daddys in the salt water. When we did encounter adults we knew, we answered their questions with dutiful sweetness. Then we turned away and ran so we could continue our unplanned business.

At home there was a tiny TV on a high shelf in my grandfather’s den. We didn’t watch it. Instead, we made up song and dance routines that we performed for anyone who would listen. We played hide and seek all over the house. A favorite spot was my grandmother’s closet where I slipped between soft dresses and smelled her perfume. Hearing “Ready or not, here I come!” was chilling. I would lift my shoulders and deflate like an accordion in anticipation of being found.

My sister-aunt Mimi and I performing

Performing for my mom

Bedtime was the best time. I would move over to Mimi’s bed where we played the silliest made-up game. She’d say orange and anchor her leg on top of mine. I’d say lemon and slap my leg on hers. She’d say kumquat and I’d say apricot, leg atop leg. So many fruits and giggles until my grandfather opened the door and told us to be quiet. Soon we’d sleep spooned like puppies and grow like moss, firm and rooted.

We are bound forever through summertime and freedom. Nothing can replace or be remotely like those moments. We wrote our own script every day with no edits or direction. We were so close to heaven.