Remember, remember when you were born.
When Ti-ti was born, the Aunties came to anoint her with their declarative magic.
“Oh, her fingers are so short she won’t ever play piano,” said Auntie Rosalyn, a piano teacher.
“And look at that widow’s peak,” said Auntie May, touching her own. “She’ll bury at least one husband, I fear.”
Auntie Angela said, “With a wrinkled forehead like that, this one is a thinker. Poor thing doesn’t realize yet she’s only a girl.”
And Auntie Penelope, trying to be a bit more positive, said, “Look at that face! It lights up like the moon. This one has the glow. No one can quell that.”
At the time, no one suspected that all the Auntie’s claims would come true, Auntie Penelope’s most of all.
Remember, Remember when you were young.
She was dreaming of not playing the piano when her father woke her.
“Pst! Wake up, little Ti-ti. Daddy needs your help.”
Ti-ti sat up and rubbed her eyes with her fists, then hugged her Boop bear close.
“I don’t wanna, Daddy. I’m sleepy, and Mamma said I don’t have to.”
Her father ignored her. He shoved her feet into slippers and wrangled her arms into her housecoat sleeves. Then he popped his motorcycle helmet over her head. Ti-ti knew what the sticky smudges on the wind screen were. She pinched her eyes closed so she wouldn’t see them. She kept them closed as he pulled her down the hall by her wrist, her head wobbling on its thin neck like a jack-o’-lantern, her own breath a hot puff in her face.
“Pretend you’re an astronaut going to the moon,” came his muffled voice when he’d positioned her where he wanted her in the yard. Ti-ti thought that was silly. You didn’t go to the moon if you were the moon.
They waited. Ti-ti kept her eyes closed. It only took a few minutes for the first tinks against the glass to come, small tinks, but not good enough for Daddy. He liked the big ones. Cold dew seeped through the thin soles of her slippers and Ti-ti suddenly needed to pee. She’d have to hold it. More tinks, faster tinks and heavier tinks, some almost like thuds. She opened her eyes to see the music of the battering bodies, her father dancing around her flourishing his gauzy nets, puffs of wing dust floating in the air like magic.
That night, he got an Actias luna, and he loved Ti-ti very much.
Remember, remember when you were in love.
The boys were not drawn to her like moths to a flame. She was too odd, too pale to be beautiful by modern standards. The sun was in. The moon was out. But Ti-ti fell in love anyway.
The first words he spoke to her were, “You into goth or something?”
“No, I’m into moth,” Ti-ti said, but he didn’t understand.
He called himself a metalhead. Ti-ti imagined him a knight. He wore a spiked collar, had spiked hair, and he spiked her cola to take her virginity. In the dark, her unconscious face glowed like the moon and he thought he pleased her, even in her stupor. The moon waned and Ti-ti fell out of love. She fell out of love for a very long time.
Then, on her twenty-fifth birthday, her parents threw her a party. Ti-ti’s father invited a colleague from the university, a first-year astronomy professor. He brought his telescope and set it up in the back yard.
“But it’s the middle of the afternoon,” Ti-ti objected. “What can we look at?”
“The moon,” he said, pointing to the pale disc already rising in the bright blue sky. “She’s not only for the night, you know.”
They were married six weeks later.
Remember, remember when you were old.
Ti-ti tended his grave at night and that disturbed the locals. She was reported to the authorities as a ghost, a grave robber, a witch, and a UFO. Oddly, no one mistook her for the moon.
When she lay over him in the wet grass, only a few small moths came to flutter at her face. The big ones were dying out. The Actias luna had become so rare that the university had commandeered her father’s specimen long ago and sold it to a museum.
Ti-ti was tempted to die, but her forehead was more wrinkled with thought than ever. She was still thinking, and that ought to count for something. And there was a new baby in the family, a little girl.
Auntie Ti-ti got up from the grave. There were still places to illuminate, still pianos to avoid, and children to anoint with declarative magic.