“Sing it out … sing it out!” My sister Marion would encourage me as I practiced a song I’d hoped to perform at karaoke some night. “That was beautiful! You should absolutely sing that one!” she continued, scrunching up her face and pumping her arm in the air with earnest enthusiasm.
Then came the day when I realized she was tone deaf. How did I learn that? Well, we had another sister, Lena, who, age-wise, fell between Marion, the oldest of eight children, and me, the middle child. Lena encouraged me just as Marion did, but Lena loved to sing, too, although we’d never heard her do so.
One day, Lena decided she would take singing lessons. Marion and I were then routinely treated to Lena’s practice sessions which consisted of repeated—and memorable—renditions of You Light Up My Life.“Sing it out … sing it out! That’s beautiful!” Marion encouraged Lena.
However, having had some musical experience that helped train my ears, I knew when a singer was off-key. And Lena, bless her fun-loving soul, was off-key more than she was on. But I cheered her on, right alongside our sister Marion—whose face was scrunched up and whose arm pumped the air with earnest enthusiasm.
And I continued to sing for my sisters’ opinions. Just for the hell of it.
My sister Marion has recently joined my sister Lena in their eternal lives, on a new adventure on some other physical plane. And, as most of us do, I am thinking about the funny stories, the memories that make me smile despite my grief. In short, I have Marion on my mind.
There is the fact that Marion had a unique voice. She waitressed most of her life and was last employed at a well-known diner called Kelly’s. Guy Fieri, host of the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, included Kelly’s on one of his cross-country tours of classic eateries. When he talked to Marion and heard “that voice” (as we in the family called it), he said, “She’s it. She’s the real deal.” And that’s how Marion found herself on television, being interviewed by Guy Fieri.
The family keeps Marion close by telling stories in Marion’s voice. Literally. Most of us do a fine impersonation of that unforgettable voice.
So many stories, so little space. I’d like to share only one more that is my personal favorite. Marion wore many hats and she had a big personality. I think this story shows two of her best traits…a strong mom who took her child-rearing responsibilities seriously, and a woman of quick wit.
This took place during the time when there was a tremendous amount of public debate surrounding whether spanking was a good thing, or child abuse. Marion’s youngest son, a pre-teen at the time, was upset because she would not let him have his way about something or other. He thought he’d get to her by threatening a call to Child Protective Services. He was wrong.
She picked up the phone and handed it to him, saying, “Go right ahead. And then call 911 ‘cause you’re gonna need it.”
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