We didn’t kiss relatives on the mouth. However, one summer when I was maybe six or seven, my family hosted a large family gathering in our back yard in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The day was sweet and lazy, aunts and uncles chatting and smoking on chaise lounges, some snoozing in hammocks, cousins playing store or school or movie stars in my sister’s and my playhouse, which was tucked behind the wisteria. Lunch was fried chicken, potato salad, candied yams, biscuits, and iced tea on picnic tables. Late afternoon, when the sun was growing pale and everyone was leaving, Uncle Jack kissed me good-bye on the lips. That wouldn’t have been so remarkable, except that earlier in the day I’d overheard Aunt Gertrude whisper to Mother that Uncle Jack had been diagnosed with cancer. I just knew he’d now given it to me. I didn’t say a word to my parents because I didn’t want to worry them, but that night, as I lay crying in my bed, picturing my early death, Mother heard my sobs and came to my side.
“What’s wrong, Judy?” she asked, rubbing my back through my shortie pajamas.
“I’ve got bad news. I have cancer,” I said.
What did you believe when you were a child that you know, now that you’re an adult, is not true?