By Joanna Bastian
The same year my great-aunt Rosie was born, her 17-year-old sister Jean gave birth to my mother Carol. Being just a year apart, my mother Carol and her Aunt Rosie were playmates and confidantes, as close as sisters. They had sleepovers and play dates, inside jokes and secrets.
When we visited Grandma Jean and Grandpa Harvey, Aunt Rosie would drop in for a visit. She was a whirlwind of punch lines and vivacious color. When she stood and announced she was going to the restroom, Harvey would complain that Rosie used too much toilet paper. With a flourish, Aunt Rosie whipped out a roll of Charmin from her ample bosom. “Don’t worry Harvey, I brought my own!”
The front of her shirt was like the bottomless hat of a magician. Car keys, wallet, lipstick, Kleenex and more appeared and disappeared with a flick of the wrist. My memory includes an endless string of colorful scarves and a white rabbit, but I’m willing to bet — hesitantly — that she probably never tucked woodland creatures into her brassiere.
Eventually, my mom moved to Idaho, Jean and Harvey retired to Florida, and Aunt Rosie remained in Ohio. I would come home from school and find my mom doubled over in mirth, the long cord of the kitchen phone jiggling wildly with waves of her glee. It was either Aunt Rosie on the other end, or Grandma Jean talking about Aunt Rosie’s latest antics. Grandma Jean often said, “just sit on Rosie’s porch, and life happens!” They were a treasured trio who loved and laughed regardless of the time and space that separated them.
If Aunt Rosie was the life of the party, my mother was the joy. Once, while we were waiting for my mother to arrive at a get-together, my father leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Watch how the room lights up when your mother walks in — see how everyone smiles?”
My mother Carol was the first to die, and my Grandma Jean soon followed. Aunt Rosie’s communications with me were always a reminder of the closeness that the three women shared.
One morning, shortly before the holidays, I had the most vivid dream. I was suspended in space, planets and stars in prescribed orbits were all slowly moving according to plan. In the distance, I could hear Aunt Rosie laughing. She was somersaulting through time and space, having a grand time. I could feel the wind blow as she rushed by, a smile and a wave she gave me. I looked down to see a sunny meadow below — dotted with white and yellow flowers. Carol and Jean stood ready, knees bent and arms extended, their faces upturned expectantly to the sky. Falling through the blue came Rosie, tumbling into their waiting arms. The three rolled to the grass in laughter.
I awoke still holding that sense of joy, but also a bit of sadness. Rosie took her leave from this world while I was dreaming that morning, and I’m so grateful she passed me by on the way.