Saturday, October 11, 2008


As this new life grows inside of me, it makes me reflect on the cycles of life. As these incredible tiny people enter this world, some of the people we love leave this world. On Thursday, my aunt Marilyn Nelson passed away. While I'm not able to go home to celebrate her life and memory with family and friends, I'd like to share a few of my own thoughts and memories about my aunt.

When I was younger, my family would go up to Bemidji, Minnesota for weekend visits. Marilyn would always get up early with my brother and me while my parents slept in. We'd drive into town to the Mr. Donut and pick out some donuts and long johns to bring home. Weekends at her house would be spent swimming and fishing in the lake in the summer and cross-country skiing on the nearby trails in the winter. Marilyn also always had cool craft projects for us to do. My brother and I would sit at her kitchen table while Marilyn introduced us to the crafty world of dreamcatchers and mini-sculptures with Sculpee. We'd become obsessed with these crafts, and once we got back home, it would be our favorite pastime for the next several weeks.

Chris, Marilyn, Pearl, and Me circa 1984

Marilyn has left a lefse legacy behind. For as long as I can remember, my family has celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with healthy servings of Marilyn's lefse. Every year, her tiny kitchen would be turned into a lefse-making labratory for days at a time. In the past 5 years, I've started to get in touch with my own Scandanavian heritage, making my own krumkake and this past year, lefse. I don't think my own will ever hold a flame to Marilyn's secret recipe. She perfected it through the years, making it impossible to replicate. We enjoyed many holidays at Marilyn's house. The whole family, including her beloved dog Pearl, would enjoy huge meals all together. Holiday mealtimes will always remind me of Marilyn.

Marilyn not only piqued my interest in crafting, but in music too. In 1990, Marilyn was brave enough to invite my brother and me to join her on her annual trek up to the Winnepeg Folk Festival. We joined her circle of friends and their families for camping, music, and bonding fun. Later that year, a young man she worked with gave Marilyn a mix tape of rock songs. She thought her neice might appreciate it, so she made me a copy. For a year, this was my favorite tape, and I loved rocking out to Europe's "Cherokee" and the Beastie Boys. From folk to rock, her eclectic taste always interested me.

Many of my friends might know her as my "pink aunt" for the hundreds of pink items she and her partner bestowed upon me between 1997 and 2007. Among my favorite pink items is a plastic pink colander, a pink kitchen stool, and a 1950's era "bust exerciser". I probably received more than 300 items over that 10 year period- all because I said my favorite color was pink in 1997!

Cynthia and Marilyn at our wedding in July 2007

In the 9 or so years between my first meeting Tom, and finally getting married last year, Marilyn has always been a huge supporter of us as a couple. She and Cynthia knew from the beginning that Tom and I were meant for each other. We've always loved spending time with them, and have appreciated their liberal mindedness and humor. Marilyn has been an example of strength and independence for me throughout my life. She will be dearly missed, but always remembered!


Kristin and Peter said...

I'm sorry to hear of Marilyn's passing, Karine. I know your "pink aunt" always meant a lot to you. My prayers are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I hope that your tribute to Marilyn will be read aloud at her memorial service. You speak from the heart. I know that Marilyn would have been honored by what you have said about her. No matter who we are, each of us wants to believe that we have mattered to someone. You have certainly delivered that message.
Not being able to come home to grieve with the people you love has to be hard, Having Tom to share this hard time with you is not the same, but knowing he shares your loss, should give you comfort. Mom Lewandowski