Aunt Aline was the wild one, the one who'd been married and divorced several times, the one who ran a bar in Louisiana (and snuck me in and served me ice cold Chocolate Soldiers, but always kept me near the back door, just in case the sheriff stopped in). She gave me beer and boiled peanuts, and let me light her cigarettes. She read me "Breakfast of Champions," by Kurt Vonnegut. And this all before I was 11...
She had a soft spot for my mother - her sister - and for me.
When I was very tiny, we made the familiar drive through the lowlands of south Arkansas to visit at Christmas time. Aunt Aline had decorated the top of the television set with a family of plastic reindeer, including two little fawns. I was enchanted, and asked if I could hold them. Of course, she said yes.
When we left to return home, she handed me a paper bag, and inside, the reindeer family wrapped in newspaper. My mother tried to tell her no, she would spoil me. I don't remember what Aunt Aline said, but I do know I left that day with the deer.
Somewhere along the years I lost them. But not really, because now they're where Aunt Aline is, safely and forever in my heart.
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
- Robert Burns