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