I’m not one to call people just to talk. It’s usually for a specific reason or question. But I’ve been feeling guilty that I never call Aunt Jackie, and she always reaches out to me, so I decide to give her a ring. I probably feel even more guilty because she’s getting older (she’s 83), and the older relatives get, the more you feel you should talk to them. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s what goes through my mind.
Aunt Jackie is my Great Aunt. She’s my Dad’s Mom’s sister-in-law. I unfortunately didn’t get to know my Grandma that well because she died when I was in 7th grade. Aunt Jackie never felt like a grandmother, but she was the oldest family member I knew.
I call her cell and she doesn’t answer. I call her land line at the assisted living place where she lives in Toms River. She answers on the third ring. “Helloooo.” Hi Aunt Jackie! “Hi! Who’s this?” Lindsay. “Oh my, what a treat!” We catch up for about ten minutes. She asks why I called and I honestly tell her I felt bad that I never call her. She asks about how everything is going in California, and she never forgets to then ask how Mike is doing. I never have to worry about an awkward silence with Aunt Jackie because she never stops talking. And when she thinks the conversation is over she is the one to end it. “Thank you so much for calling, I’m so happy to hear from you! Send Mike my love. Bye-bye.”
Aunt Jackie was a cool person to know growing up – she lived in New York City and was the only person I knew who did. When Dad was growing up, she took him to Broadway shows. I think she always took him for his birthday. For the five of us, she had a promise. When we each turn 21, we can take a train to the city to spend the night at Aunt Jackie’s. She will take us to 21, or correctly, the 21 Club – the famous restaurant in the theater district where casts go after opening night to hopefully celebrate their show’s success. Afterwards, we get to see a Broadway show. How cool is that?
Scheduling problems, or I guess college field hockey, detained me from visiting for my 21st birthday, but it did finally happen when I was 23, and LMonny came with me (but that’s a story for another time).
In middle school, I had to interview someone for some project. I forget exactly how I made my decision, but I decided to interview Aunt Jackie about being a travel agent. That was Aunt Jackie’s job. And she was cool. And she lived in New York. And she traveled all over the world. Who could be more appealing or fun to interview?
When I was in college, Aunt Jackie made the trip to see me play field hockey. This was a really big deal to me because not many people came to see me play. My parents, of course, were always there, but I never had many fans in my family. She kept talking about coming to see me play – she had played in high school – and she was finally able to make the trek from New York to Long Branch my senior year. I think it was even the last game of my career. And it was definitely miserably cold and rainy, and Aunt Jackie stuck it out and watched the entire game.
And then, when I performed in New York, Aunt Jackie wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She came to my first two productions – my parents haven’t even seen me act. Not in person, anyway (except for college, but I had no lines).
Aunt Jackie has been there a lot for me in my life, but nothing compares to when she let me live with her for two weeks. It was last minute and unexpected, and I was nervous how she would respond when I asked. But Aunt Jackie didn’t even hesitate when she told me, yes, come, stay here. I was so relieved and so grateful.
I had been living in New York with my acting coach, and things ended badly. I guess I should explain. I was paying her $600 a month to live there – 400 for rent and 200 for private coaching. She was back and forth between the New York apartment and her house in Jersey, and this month she just asked me to leave the money in the apartment. I had a scheduled time with her for my acting session. Sometimes she had to change it around because of scheduling conflicts, but she always found a time for us. This month, she couldn’t do it when we were scheduled. She tried to change it but nothing worked, so she never ended up coaching me. So, I left her $400. I thought this made complete sense. Apparently, I was wrong, and ungrateful, and I had better give her the $2o0 – and get out of her apartment.
I was home in New Jersey when I got her livid phone call. I was at Mike’s, actually. I tried to explain that it wasn’t because of me that she never coached me this month, but she didn’t want to hear it. Long story short, I had to get out of there. Immediately. Trust me, the feeling was mutual. I was moving to Hoboken in two weeks anyway, so I just needed somewhere until then. Enter Aunt Jackie.
I can’t talk about how horrible She was – I don’t even want to say her name because I’m afraid she’ll try to sue me or something for writing this blog – but her best friend was AMAZING to me. I got back to the apartment to pack and bring all my stuff to Aunt Jackie’s. She wasn’t there, so at least I didn’t have her breathing down my neck. I took one look around and realized there was no way I’d be able to pack everything for one cab trip – I had to take a cab because I didn’t have my car in New York. I couldn’t handle it just yet; it was going to take all night. So I walked down the street to the bar where I still worked – The Barking Dog. I sat at the bar and tried to relax and prepare myself to go back and do this, when someone was suddenly sitting next to me. Her best friend, Alyssa. I was nervous for a second, but she quickly spoke. “I know. It’s OK. You didn’t do anything wrong.” I start crying. She takes me outside and I try to tell her what happened but she already knows. I’m so happy I can talk to her about it because she’s the only one I can talk to who knows my acting coach. I’m just relieved.
Alyssa and I walk back to the apartment. She helps me pack. She keeps me calm. And she has her SUV, so we pack up her car in one trip – walking up and down four flights – and Alyssa drives me to Aunt Jackie’s place. I can’t even explain how wonderful a person Alyssa is. She saved me that night.
Now it’s two weeks with Aunt Jackie. She lives in a small one-bedroom apartment. It’s way bigger than what I’m used to, and a way better environment to say the least. I gladly take the couch. I spend my days commuting to the Barking Dog and to Spence where I coach field hockey, and once a week at the Actor’s Project, rehearsing. When I get home at night I have Aunt Jackie asking me how my day was, then asking if I’d like to go to dinner with her. Uh, yes please. Sometimes I feel like she’s was waiting for me to get home. I’m her new roommate and she loves it. She’s always telling me how hard I work and how busy I am. I start to believe her. Yea, you know what, I am pretty great!
Aunt Jackie always has a story to tell. And they can be pretty awesome. I love hearing about her life in New York when she was younger. I love hearing about her husband and my Great Uncle Clint – an amazing cartoonist and serious alcoholic. I especially love hearing about Grandma Stetson and Aunt Jody. She knew them so much better than me. I’m a little jealous. At the end of my two weeks I start hearing the same stories. Aunt Jackie forgets that she already told me. What can you do? She’s 80.
Back at her apartment, she breaks out the chest of pictures. I look through every single one, and she explains who is in the photo and what was going on in the photo. There are a bunch of Uncle Clint’s drawings and cartoons, too. They’re amazing. Nothing is framed. Everything’s just sitting in this box in her apartment. I tell her she should frame them or make a book or something, but she waves me off, like they’re not that important even though she could never possibly part with them. I work up the nerve to ask her for one of Clint’s cartoons. It’s based in Ocean City, NJ and I have to have it. I love it. Mom gets it framed for me and I hang it in my Hoboken apartment. I have it now, in California, but I need to buy a new frame since it was too big to transport.
Soon after I moved to Hoboken, Aunt Jackie moved to her place in Toms River. She was sad to leave New York. I was sad for her. She’s such a New Yorker. Mike and I went to visit her once. It was bizarre – her unit is set up exactly like her New York apartment. She lives way, way, down the hall away from everything. When she took us to walk around, I thought we’d never get to the cafeteria for lunch. That hallway is so long, and Aunt Jackie has to take breaks along the way.
Aunt Jackie is the only “Great” I’ve ever really known or had a relationship with in my family. She can be a handful sometimes – the older she gets, the more she demands – but you can’t help but love her. She’s a cool lady, and she says everything in three’s. I text Mike and tell him Aunt Jackie sends her love. He texts me back. “Good good good.”