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My Very Godmother

by Debra Rogers about a year ago in immediate family
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Dear Aunt Joyce,

I'm not sure I can do this. It's too hard.

I know what you told me once, "Just pretend you know what you're doing. No one will know the difference."

That was one of my favorite memories of you. I had just come home from Germany after my husband of twenty years had kicked me out of Army housing and bought me a one-way ticket back to the states. You picked me up to take me to dinner, just the two of us. Patsy Cline was playing on the car stereo. Warm air was streaming through the open car windows. The night sky had that rare phthalocyanine green quality when the sun has set behind the mountains but when the air is so clear that the lights from the city don't get hung up in the smog. We talked about my plans for getting on my feet. I had come home with my suitcase and a broken heart. You made an appointment for me with an employment agency, and told me, "Just pretend you know what you are doing. No one will know the difference. If they have a machine you don't know how to operate, just say it's a different type than you are used to working with." My mom told me once that you had gone for a job interview and the man asked if you could take dictation. You said you could, and that you made up your own shorthand on the spot, and pretended to take down a letter he dictated, went into the other room and typed out the letter from memory. Of course you got the job! And then you did make up your own shorthand which you used over the years you worked for him. Because you were so "very".

You were so very glamorous. I mean just look at the pictures of you! I never saw you without perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect figure. Every photo of you is perfect. From my perspective as an insecure, unphotogenic child, I saw your glamorous beauty as effortless, as unattainable.

You were so very energetic. I remember walking into your house and the aroma of Sunday sauce, Carbone's sausage, and fresh Romano cheese filling my heart. You were already outside doing yardwork, trimming your roses or pushing a mower. At holidays you made my favorite cookies, the recipes handed down from your first husband's mother. And, because you knew I didn't like fish, when you prepared Christmas Eve dinner, you made a pasta sauce just for me that had no fish in it. I don't remember ever seeing you relaxing, you were always moving. I never saw you just sitting around watching TV! After you retired, you learned to tap dance and went around to retirement homes with a dance troupe to entertain shut-ins. You always called me "Lazy-Bones" because, even as a child, I could never hope to attain your level of energy.

You were so very confident. You got a job as a flight attendant for a private travel club when your kids were grown. It was at a time when private air travel was still luxurious and you were still glamorous! I was so impressed with the confidence I thought it would take to apply for such a position, but I knew you could do anything you wanted to do, and do it perfectly. In the 1960s I had wanted to be a stewardess until I realized I was both unqualified physically (I wasn’t pretty, I was knock-kneed, and I had problems with my balance) and temperamentally (I really was a “Lazy-Bones"!) So I saw this as one more rung on the imaginary ladder of the unattainable "very" that was you.

You were so very loving. You loved with a fierceness learned at your father's side. It's not that your mother didn't love you, or teach you to love, but your mother was so crushed by her own mother that she didn't have as much room in a heart that still held the hurt from her own childhood. Or was love your strategy for getting through life, held out as an instrument in the same way that Grandma held out her cool sarcasm? I wish I had learned to love in the way you loved, instead of using hurt as armor to protect my own heart.

You were very much more than me. More than I could be, or hope to be. I couldn't live up to you. Now I realize you were only trying to encourage me, and that you could have no idea that other, lesser mortals were not as "very". I just want you to know how very much I love you and miss you. How very glad I am that you were my godmother. You've been gone a while now, but I know where you are. You've done so much for me whether you know it or not, but as your goddaughter I do have one final request:

Save me a seat.

immediate family

About the author

Debra Rogers

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