‘A Holiday Tribute to an Aunt I bet Yule wish was yours’
I was feeling a touch of the Christmas Blues the other day. Remembering The Old Days and how we kids used to peer out the car windows at the Christmas trees lighting up the picture windows of the houses in the small towns along Route 50 on the way up to Gramma’s house. And how, once we got there, we’d run as fast as we could to the Tree to see just how big it was and to shake the wrapped presents to guess what was in them.
When Christmas Blue, what do you do? Well, I called my Mom. (Thank goodness I still have one.) She knew exactly what I was talking about, and exactly what I was missing: The Marilyn Christmas.
See, my Mom, like me, was the older of two sisters. (She also had three brothers, but this story isn’t about them. Sorry, Uncles Ronald, Mark, and Carl.) This story is about Aunt Marilyn. And about how gosh-darned terrific was the way she would “do” Christmas.
After the seven of us Henrys — all crammed into a car without seat belts — made that long drive from Southern Illinois, we’d get to Gramma’s house where Aunt Marilyn would greet us wearing little Christmas-ornament earrings. Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis would be playing on the stereo and the whole house would be decorated and smell like Christmas Heaven.
Aunt Marilyn would have decorated my Gramma’s house — including putting out a little gumdrop tree — and helped her make a humongous Christmas Dinner — which was always on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, which was the Swedish Way. We’d have korv (yum) and lutfisk (urk) and a big ole turkey and later on — after one of my Uncles would mysteriously disappear right before Santa’s arrival — my Dad would make his famous Oyster Stew and my Aunt Marilyn and Aunt Shirley and Gramma and Mom and I would eat fruitcake and play Scrabble.
Somewhere along in here Uncle Carl, who lived in Colorado (which my Aunt pronounced “color” -ado) would call — Aunt Marilyn would answer the phone “Merry Christmas!” — and everyone would pass the phone around to tell him about everything he was missing, including The Game.
The Game was, basically, the centerpiece of a Marilyn Christmas. Every year, Marilyn would think one up that we would play while “Santa” was handing out the presents. This was invariably a word game, usually involving puns — the sillier and groanier the better. Sample: “Who has his own state university?” “Wayne (!)” I know, I know. But, trust me, this was fun. A lot of fun.
That last Game question was from the Very Last Marilyn Christmas. Which was lo these thirty-odd years ago. (I found a video my Filmmaker Younger Brother Roger made of it. If you have a very large coffee mug you might want to tune in. I don’t think Aunt Marilyn would mind.)
Speaking of Aunt Marilyn, she’s been dreadfully ill these past few years. But I bet she still wears little Christmas ornament earrings — or even little Santas. And I bet she still answers the phone “Merry Christmas”. I’m going to test that theory tonight.
Meanwhile, here’s wishing you all the merriest of Christmases — even if you don’t have a Marilyn in your life.
New York City. December 2018
21 thoughts on “A very Marilyn Christmas”
Great post! Love the pictures too 🙂
Why, thank you so much, Rhonda. Hope your Christmas was ‘Marilyn’ and bright!
It was bright, despite the darkness that preceded it. I’ve got to say that the thing I most appreciate about your blog is your use of real life pictures. You inspire me!
What a nice thing to say, Rhonda! Yes, using pictures is something I’ve learned to enjoy; many times I have a batch of photos in mind before I have a blog theme
A lovely trip down memory lane and I too have many similar black and white photos and memories…,Thank you for sharing yours …Happy New Year 🙂 x
Happy New Year right back! Thank you for the lovely comment. So glad you could relate to my memories; so pleased I could remind you of yours!
The sign of a well writen post when it triggers memories for others 🙂 x
Wonderful post. Your pictures look like they could have come from my family album. We had some of the same traditions only we loaded up in central Illinois and drove south. Thank you so much for sharing. It brought back many fond memories from my Christmas past.
Dear Gina, first…Merry Christmas! So glad my memories helped trigger yours. I do get rather nostalgic this time of year! We’re so fortunate, aren’t we, to have experienced family gatherings like these. ?
The Cousin Christmas line up is a super picture. Another lovely post x
Thank you — and Merry Christmas! — dear Orla!
Really wonderful Alice. Thanks for the memories. Merry Christmas!
Thank you, dear Sharon. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas jam-packed with future memories!
And a very Mari-lyn Christmas to YOU!
Loved your tribute to your Aunt Marilyn. She is special and has kept her good outlook all through her illness. Glad I got to know her. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
So glad you got to know Aunt Marilyn, Ruth! She is truly one of a kind. Wishing you a Merry Christmas — or should I say a ‘Marilyn Christmas’!
Lutefisk. My grandma made it for Christmas Eve. Her’s was delicious. My mom attempted to make it for St. Lucia’s Day — but margarine.
I had 6 aunts and 2 grandmas and as happens with all of us, they slowly faded into the never land from which there is no return. I lost the last one — with whom I was very close — this year. I’m very happy that the last year she and my uncle were in their normal lives (and minds) I got to spend some time with them in their house. I have felt the “blues” off and on this year but I understand the reasons and I know that it’s not so much that all of this is lost to time (sad) but that it all really did happen (happy). Merry Christmas!!!
So glad your grandma made “delicious” lutefisk! My Gramma made delicious food (her thumbprint cookies and sweet rolls were to die for!) but she liked to “bury” her lutefisk in a bowl of custard. It was such fun to watch the newbies dig into that bowl!
Also so glad you enjoyed fun family Christmases! And your thought at the end is perfect — those Christmases are lost to time — but they all really did happen. We were lucky girls indeed. Merry Christmas! And thank you for sharing xoxoxo
Wonderful piece, Alice. And terrific title, too. What a special person your aunt is.
Thank you so much, Jim. I’m thinking you can identify with a lot of this, Fellow (partial, anyway) Swede that you are! Wishing a very Marilyn Christmas to you and yours