Muriel in the 90s

On Thurs­day, June 26, 2007 at 2:45 p.m., Mil­dred Muriel Gill passed away from com­pli­ca­tions of an embolism.

Say­ing goodbye

Muriel was my Grand­moth­er’s sis­ter and my father’s Aunt. She was my Great Aunt Muriel.

Muriel was a big part of my life. Since I could remem­ber, Muriel and my Grand­moth­er Lor­raine, lived togeth­er on Pine­hurst in High­land Park.

Since I can remem­ber, I went to their home every week­end. Well, actu­al­ly, I went every Fri­day and by Sat­ur­day after­noon I called my mom to come and get me, because Muriel and I would get into a fight.

As much as I loved her, I despised her too. She was the insti­ga­tor of the fam­i­ly. Or so we thought.

Lat­er on we found out that it was actu­al­ly my grand­moth­er who had a beef with every­one and would feed Muriel infor­ma­tion, and Muriel had the ‘mouth’ to actu­al­ly say some­thing. But Muriel her­self, did­n’t have a prob­lem with anyone.

It nev­er failed that I would over hear her and my grand­moth­er talk bad­ly (gos­sip) about the fam­i­ly, or my moth­er in par­tic­u­lar. They nev­er got along with my moth­er. And I would of course, come to the res­cue and stand up for her. A fight would ensue. The sight we were, a 7 year old fight­ing with some­one in their 50s.

Muriel in the 50s?

From those ear­ly week­ends, My Aunt Muriel taught me so much. From his­to­ry of the fam­i­ly, to gar­den­ing, to play­ing games and, my most favorite lessons, artistry.

Muriel was a wealth of cre­ativ­i­ty. She could sketch, she could draw, she could sew any­thing from just look­ing at it, she could cook. She enjoyed life.

I remem­ber exact­ly the shelves in her base­ment that housed her oil paints, her pas­tels and her easel. I could go down there and get those items and she would show me how to draw a land­scape, how to paint a tree, how to use a fan brush to cre­ate a bush with blos­soms on it.

There are even a few draw­ings that I can draw from mem­o­ry, blind­fold­ed, because they are so ingrained in my being.

She was always proud of the artis­tic accom­plish­ments I made. When I became a graph­ic design­er and worked at Alpha­Graph­ics, I would show her jobs that I had cre­at­ed for clients from scratch. She would mar­vel at the cre­ativ­i­ty I accom­plished. I would just beam with pride.

When I made my first quilt, she acknowl­edged the hard-work I put into it and gave me the con­struc­tive crit­i­cism I need­ed to be even better.

When I learned how to make crepe’s from scratch, she was impressed that I learned such a del­i­cate art.

When I paint­ed my first water­col­or land­scape with daz­zling blue oceans and glo­ri­ous green cliffs,
she was impressed with the way that I mixed the col­ors to get the hue I need­ed, and showed me how cre­ate more real­is­tic clouds in the sky.

She intro­duced me to exot­ic foods that I had nev­er eat­en before, like:

  • kiwi - I had nev­er had any­thing so intox­i­cat­ing in fla­vor. Too bad she was aller­gic to them.
  • bing cher­ries — My sis­ter nev­er liked any­thing cher­ry fla­vored, so we nev­er had any in th house, but Muriel would buy a whole bag and we would sit out on her porch and just each and spit (the seeds) all day.
  • hon­ey crisp apples — so sweet and delicious..dipped in caramel.
  • man­darin oranges — I always got those when I did­n’t feel good.
  • toast­ed ham sal­ad sand­wich­es — who knew you could toast your bread for a sand­wich?! And her ham sal­ad was the ONLY way I would EVER eat ham!
  • Morn­ing Glo­ry Muffins — bran muffins that had so many dif­fer­ent fla­vors! Right out of the oven with but­ter was the best was to start a morning!
  • Plums - Such good­ness! I remem­ber she always had plums in the sum­mer and I would sit on her porch and eat one and the juice would just drip down my chin and make such a mess!
  • LEMON BUNDT CAKE! — My favorite dessert! They made it wrong for years (by under­cook­ing just a bit) and there would be this sort of mass of lemon con­cen­tra­tion of dough at the bot­tom of the cake, that was the BEST part. Unfor­tu­nate­ly they learned they did it wrong and ever since then they could­n’t recre­ate the mistake.
  • Beef Stroganoff — The one meal I would ALWAYS ask for. It was my favorite of her meals!
  • Christ­mas cook­ies — Muriel made the best cook­ies. Birds nests, sand­buck­les, russ­ian tea cakes, bacla­va, fudge, rum balls…and they were always to be found on her cook­ie tier dis­play on the porch in the winter.
  • And too many more to men­tion here.

I should add, that my grand­moth­er helped her cre­ate most of this stuff, but I do believe that Muriel always picked the menu.

One sto­ry I real­ly need to share is one regard­ing the whole wheat nuts. They are nuts that I can still find at Cub that are nut sub­sti­tutes. They are odd­ly shaped and real­ly delicious.

When I first had them, I sat between Muriel and Lor­raine. Lor­raine was in her chair, Muriel was in her spot on the couch (they were sort of next to each oth­er) and I was on the floor between them.

Well, we each had our lit­tle pile and I had mine on the cof­fee table as we watched the night­ly news. Muriel was all done with hers and reached over and took mine. Well, I sort of shuf­fled my pile over a lit­tle and she took some more, so I shuf­fled again. This went on until I was clos­er to Lor­raine. Unknown to me, Lor­raine had fin­ished hers and took one from my pile, so I scooped them all up and shoved them in my mouth so they could­n’t have any.

There were so many oth­er things she taught me, but a few mem­o­ries that I will list are:

  • Typing/piano exer­cis­es for your hand (looks kin­da like the Vul­can greeting)
  • “Bo wo skadeetin dodit wadits. Itten bit­ten wid­dle did­dle. Is-pid­dly-oat­en-doat­en. Bo wo skadeetin dodit wadits.” Don’t ask, I have no clue, but we would say that alot.
  • How to cre­ate a sort of toy­house with flour-glue, a box with 4 sec­tions in it and fab­ric scraps.
  • Kitchen tools and be toys too. I would always play with their old fash­ioned veg­gie steam­er (it opened and closed, and I would pre­tend it was a spaceship)
  • How to play chess
  • How to sort of play piano (sort of)
  • Love of music
  • Bar­gain shop­ping and mak­ing sure I always had the lat­est trends
  • Doing dance rou­tines in her liv­ing room (and lip sync­ing) and giv­ing per­for­mances for her neigh­bors (who did­n’t always get what was so great about a 6 year old dancing)

She was my men­tor, my tutor, my Great Aunt and my friend. And I miss her so very, very much.

I love you Muriel and you will always be a big part of my life and I will tell my grand­chil­dren about you and I pray that I will be the teacher to them, that you have been to me.

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