Good Vibrations

Aunt Rue loved the Beach Boys. She owned at least three copies of every album they made, and though she bought the collection on CD, she always maintained that nothing beat the original vinyl. She’d tear up when she explained the intricate vocal arrangements on California Girl or talk about the brilliance of Brian Wilson.

I’d just smile and nod. My mom and I visited Aunt Rue every summer at her cottage on the lake. She had never been to California as far as I knew. She wandered around in brightly colored 100 percent polyester caftans, with multicolored bangles jingling on her wrists as she belted out Surfin’ USA or her absolute, number one favorite: Good Vibrations.

“Doesn’t that just make you feel great?” She’d say. “Carl sang lead on that. He was terrific.”

Sometimes I wanted to tell her that she should move on, but Aunt Rue always made me laugh. Going to her lake cabin was my only vacation, and it was there that we went after my dad walked out. It was a tough summer, and I wasn’t in the mood for Aunt Rue and her Beach Boys.

“Music always helps,” she said. “The right sort anyway. Not that depressing crap you listen to. Open up your heart. Thing’ll get better in time.”

I didn’t want to listen to Good Vibrations, but it was hard to ignore when Aunt Rue played it full blast and sang along.

She was right, of course. The pain faded slowly. I adjusted to my parents living apart. I met my first boyfriend on the lake that summer.

We lost Aunt Rue this summer. She died of stomach cancer that snuck up on her so fast, she didn’t have a chance to fight it. She left me her collection of albums, which at first I wasn’t going to take, then I thought of all the good times. The good vibrations.

Sometimes I hear a Beach Boys’ song on the radio, and I smile.