As I wrote in my sort-of-whiny and somewhat-navel-gazing post last week, I’ve practiced a rather opt-out attitude toward the Holidays in the past few years.
Some years my “decorating” consisted of switching the turkey napkins for the reindeer ones
I remember only too fondly and well the famous Marilyn Christmasses celebrated at my late great Gramma Peterson’s when I was a kid. Nat King Cole on the stereo. Gumdrop tree on the table. A luxurious evergreen so bushy and tall Aunt M would often have to crop it so it’d fit in the living room. (We believed her when she told us the top, complete with angel, was in the bedroom overhead.)
A Marilyn Christmas Classic: The Cousin Lineup
After that, during Dude Man and my Early Married Years, there were the amazing Aunt Eleanor Christmasses: lobster, shrimp and, if you saved room, an incredible roast beef dinner complete with popovers. Gramma Whitmore, who made it till a week before her hundredth birthday, would hold court while Eleanor cooked, champagne glass in hand.
‘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.)
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.
‘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.
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.
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