“Hey, Aunt Marilyn! Everybody’s up!”

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‘Missing the Most Marvelous Aunt the World Has Ever Known’

The quote serving as title of this story came from the wee toddler lips of my Oldest Younger Brother Scott. When he was very small he would march into our Aunt Marilyn’s room very early in the morning and announce that “everybody” was up — “everybody” meaning him.

That’s my Aunt Marilyn standing in front of my Mom. She wasn’t much more than a toddler herself in this photo. But I bet she was a lot of fun, even then

See, when Aunt Marilyn was in the house you wanted her up and around and with you at all times. She was that much fun. So much fun to be around that we kids would actually fight over who got to sit next to her at family dinners. (I only realized years later that we were unintentionally hurting our other perfectly-good aunts’ feelings — not to mention our very fun mother’s — by doing this.)

Two sisters and their mom, my Gramma P

But kids are kids — and naturally unfiltered — so fight over Aunt Marilyn we did. We adored Aunt Marilyn. Maybe because she was rather like a kid herself. For one thing, she was our mother’s younger sister by almost ten years. She was a high school kid when I was born. For another, she remained single — living in her parents’ (our grandparents’) house — for most of our childhood, so she was always there — and eager for fun — when we visited.

That’s All-American Teen Aunt Marilyn, complete with saddle shoes and bobby socks, between Perfectly-Fine Aunt Shirley and my Gramma P. My Mom is holding “Everybody’s Up!” Scott while I glower through the car window

Even after she found the Amazing Arlyn and got married, she didn’t “settle down”. She continued to play croquet and badminton (See “Howie and the Muscle Shirt” for a funny badminton story) with youthful gusto and was apt to say things like, “Who wants to go out in the snow with the rodel?” when it was, like, a zillion degrees below zero. (I just googled “rodel”, which is a kind of sled, and found one that looks just like Aunt Marilyn’s for sale for $1,175.)

That’s Marilyn, in bridal gown, natch, greeting well-wishers in the background. That’s my Starter Hub and me front and center

Aunt Marilyn hated the hot summer and absolutely adored winter. And not just for the skating and skiing and rodeling. She was a Major Fan of Christmas. I can remember like it was yesterday going to our Gramma P’s for Christmas. Marilyn was always in charge of the fun, both before and after she and Arlyn got hitched. (Arlyn, bless his little Dutch heart, really got into the swing of those Swedish Christmases. Though I bet he didn’t really have much choice.)

A scene from a Marilyn Christmas. That’s my Mom whispering her wish to a plastic-bag-bearded Santa

Since we were Swedes, the festivities were always on Christmas Eve. You can read all about these special festivities and even watch a video of the Very Last One in “A very Marilyn Christmas”. If you listen carefully, you just might be able to hear Nat King Cole on the stereo.

Aunt Marilyn in the kitchen stirring up some fun. I’m thinking this wasn’t Christmas, since the cooking is happening on top of the stove

Ironically, it was during her favorite season, while she was skiing with my mom out in Colorado (pronounced by Marilyn as “color” with “adoh” on the end) when she first felt the manifestations of the Parkinson’s Disease that would torment her for decades and ultimately take her life just last Saturday.

Winter won’t be winter without you, dear Aunt Marilyn. And as for Christmas? I feel like just skipping it this year. But that wouldn’t be at all what you would want. So I’ll break out the gumdrop tree and the teensy cordial glasses in your honor. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll skip the homemade brown paper “oven bag” to roast my turkey. I’ll no doubt burst into tears, but I’d rather my turkey not burst into flames.

Rest in peace, dear Aunt Marilyn. Christmas — even with teensy toasts and gumdrop trees — won’t be the same without you

New York City. October 2019

 

“Swim, Sandy, swim!”

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‘Equal time for dogs’

My Porn Star Name is ‘Sandy Peterson’. In honor of Sandy the Dog, the beloved Pet of My Youth, pictured above in a moment of not-unusual adorableness.

But before we get to Sandy, a quick word about that word game. Maybe you played it too. It’s the one where you take the name of your beloved pet, add your mother’s maiden name, and, voila!, you’ve got your Porn Star Name. (The Child’s is ‘Tuna Henry’.)

I must admit ours are pretty tame. Over wine at my dining room table I’ve heard some easy-to-imagine-clad-in-fishnets doozies: ‘Pinky Parker’, ‘Missy Goodbody’. Though the Dude’s is ‘Duffy Miltner Flockmaster Cromartie’, which is pretty darned racy.

But back to pets, which is the point of this piece. A couple of weeks ago I waxed nostalgic about felines of yore in ‘The Cat Who Ran Away from Home and Broke My Heart’.

I finally found a picture of me with Aunt Marilyn’s Herkimer, the first cat I adored. And tortured with two-year-old abandon

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The Days of Wineberries and Roses

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‘Listening to the Warm: sensational summery sounds’

Forget Rod McKuen. It was Henry James who nailed summer. He once famously said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon’. Go on; say them out loud. Better yet, murmur them.

‘Summer af-ter-noon‘. Mmmmmmmmm. You can practically feel that hammock swaying.

Now you’ve already heard me go on about the tastes of summer — I’ve waxed ravenously poetic about such seasonal delights as watermelon and corn and berries-somebody-else-picks and glorified rice and even (yum!) Jello Cake.

But I haven’t talked much about summer sounds. You know the ones I mean; sounds that really say summer. Fireworks. The ice-cream truck. And, for me anyway, that fwap fwap fwap sound that happens when you clip playing cards onto your bike spokes with clothespins and ride home from the Carlyle Municipal Pool gnawing on a frozen Milky Way.

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That’s my Bob

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‘Your family is who you think your family is’

My Middle Younger Brother Roger is many things: filmmaker, banjo player, wind miller, and maker of the best chili on the planet. Who knew he was also a trailblazer? Yes, Roger was a member of a ‘blended family’ way before ‘blended’ was a term stuck on the front of ‘family’.

That’s Middle Younger Brother Roger standing behind the couch and behind Mom

See, back when Roger was just a tyke, my dad was transferred to Memphis for his job and our young family landed (somehow, I’m not sure how or why, I was only seven at the time) in a very large house near a university. To help pay the rent, my parents took in boarders — a couple of college guys, one named Bill Something-or-Other and another named Bob Sipowich. They lived upstairs, kept to themselves. Everything worked out fine. Except for the time we kids (there were three of us at this point) all came down with the measles over Christmas at my Gramma Peterson’s so we had to stay there till we got well and the boarders didn’t feed or water our parakeet Petey while we were away and he (gasp) died.

Anyway. That was traumatic. Just had to get it out.

That’s Roger, practicing Dad’s “Whoa-Back” move, at about the age of this story

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