I’d never slept at Aunt Maureen’s because she hoards, but Dad stayed with Mom at the hospital. One night with Maureen’s junk wouldn’t kill us, he said. Maureen had 12 statues of the Virgin Mary: Mary stamping the life out of a serpent, Mary cradling the baby Jesus, Mary gazing at her bare feet. Two crucifixes hung in every room and a few more poked out of boxes or sat at strange angles on shelves and little tables. In the worst one, Jesus was a foot tall and you could see the muscles cramping in his legs, his starving ribs pushing against sagging skin. I threw up when I saw the spikes stabbed through his hands and the blood dripping down his face from the crown of thorns. Maureen made me soup and said suffering wasn’t supposed to look pretty.
At bedtime, Maureen gave us rosary beads and Paul wanted to swap my pink for his blue, but Maureen said when girls get too comfortable with boy colors and vice versa, the path toward righteousness gets littered with sin. I asked if Father Coughlin was a sinner for wearing a purple dress all through Lent. Maureen said that was enough out of me and we all bowed our heads and prayed for Mom.
Paul slept on a sleeping bag on the floor and I slept on the daybed, and all around us stacks of boxes and garbage bags of clothing filled the room. There were two unopened toasters, a laundry basket filled with coat hangers, a wall of license plates from every state, a bag of uninflated basketballs, and a floor-to-ceiling stack of bibles. It was awesome and scary and amazing and gross. I told Paul I couldn’t wait to tell Mom about all the stuff, and he said we might not see her for a while and, besides, Mom had seen this stuff already.
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