There is a sneak in me left over from childhood.

I was the one who quietly picked up the phone to listen in. I found a way to walk up our old wooden steps without making them squeak. I listened to adults talk at parties and heard things I shouldn’t have. I crawled out my bedroom window and sat on the roof, in secret.

Somewhere along the line, it must have occurred to me that rules had give. They had weak spots, places to push. Except for church. Church had no give, and neither did napkin on lap, kindness or sisterly love.

But the world really opened up when I realized that, for some members of my extended family, rule breaking was a given. A delight! Great Aunt Mary would sigh through her lips as if she was turning us down, but she never did.

“Go ahead,” she would say, “you can shake the soda cans/use the all sheets in the linen closet/hold onto the wheel while I drive.”

Just don’t tell your mother or climb trees, we heard.

She came to live with us and mopped the kitchen floor every night. When our parents joined a local theater group, we waved goodbye at the front door and she made sure we didn’t escape the house. She slept in tight rollers that pressed against her head, and she liked to sleep in on Saturdays.

“Are you awake?” I would whisper in her ear.

“Count to 200,” she would whisper back from her pillow.

But this Saturday was my sister’s First Communion, and since our father was stirring the hollandaise and our mother was pulling down serving dishes and finding white tights and picking up after the dog, they needed Great Aunt Mary to drive to the store to get the sheet cake for the Communion Party. We had to be at church in an hour. People were coming. Continue reading