That means you get a re-run from May, 2011.
Cherishing the Dancing Lady
I woke up with one cat wedged where I bend when I sleep on my side. I’d left a blind up so the first thing I saw was blue, blue sky. It was 9am – late. The second thing I saw was my other cat, the large black mound of her, staring directly at me from her perch on the dresser.
My dresser is piled with useless things like unmated socks and priceless things like outdated pictures of my sons. But in the middle is a figurine, a delicate Royal Doulton lady in a swirling dress. Something here looked out of place, but it wasn’t the cat. It was the figurine.
I cautiously crept out of bed, knowing if I startled the cat she might knock it over.
When she knew she was dying, my Aunt Katie – not truly my aunt, but one of the
Mom’s oldest friends – asked me to choose one of her prized Royal
Doultons to remember her by. I’m not that kind of girl, I thought to
myself. And I’m not. I don’t collect things that must be dusted, nor do I collect things that might break. I’ve learned that neglect and carelessness are not kind to something you might accidentally begin to cherish.
Katie and her husband Gale didn’t have children. They had an immaculate perfect house that awed me as a child. So orderly, so neat, so controlled. Going there was a treat, in spite of the nervous vibe that practically radiated off Katie when we were tearing about. She loved us very much, but didn’t really know what to do with us. My sisters were scared of her; I bonded with her, no doubt because I failed to notice her discomfort when I lifted every lid, peeked behind every door and dove into every closet.
Ignorance is bliss, and it led to a wonderful friendship that blossomed long after my childhood. When Gale died, Katie lived the loneliness of a widow who had loved her husband too long and too well and too exclusively. She began failing quickly, her heart broken more than her body. I used to visit and bring her flowers, and we would gossip and drink tea and miss my mother together.
When she knew she was sick, she hauled me into her perfect living room and stood before the special cabinet. I’d never touched that cabinet – Sommerfeld girls were lively, but we were well disciplined. It housed the famous dancing ladies in all their china finery, their names printed on the bottom.
I was a tomboy; this cabinet held mostly mystery. Which one would you like, she asked me. I said nothing. I could not stand in that moment in that room with this woman I adored and contemplate that she was leaving me. I’d had enough loss without commemorating yet another one.
The biggest one there is spoken for, she told me. And that one, with the most elaborate colours. I couldn’t do it. I said if she wanted me to have something, she should just choose. We drank more tea.
A few weeks after her death, there was a knock on the door. A woman I’d never met handed me a bag stuffed with tissue paper. We smiled awkwardly, and she left.
I opened the bag, and took out my dancing lady. She was the smallest one in the collection, the plainest in a white dress. It was the first one Uncle Gale had bought her. I tipped it over to read the name on the bottom, but I knew.
She’d left me herself.