Friday, February 10, 2006

Dear Aunt M,

I'd like to tell you what I remember and love about Marlee. I don't know where to start or finish, all I have are funny warm memories of a little girl I love. Marlee is that small smiling child who will always be, in my mind, seven years old. She was seven when my own daughter was born and it was during that time when I reconnected with my own family and yours. Although I visited and played with her several times when she was a baby, I fell in love dearly and bonded with seven year old Marlee.

You came to visit us at Dad's during the summer of '99. I was so thrilled when you offered to take care of my girl so I could go run some errands. But I really wanted to bring Marlee along with me and spoil her a little bit. Because I'm so much older than my little girl cousins, I've always felt more like an Aunt to them. I remember Marlee doing a little leap of joy when her Mama said she could come into town with me. I buckled her into my teal ford escort and off we drove. We hit the mall, payless shoe store in particular. She pranced up and down the aisle, eagerly trying on all kinds of shoes, but she eventually settled on a pair of sparkly flowery sandals that had just a hint of a high heel. I remember her little seven year old feet, she had long toes. We paid for them and immediately she put her old shoes in the box so she could wear her fancy new ones throughout the mall. She kept looking down at her feet as she walked; I think she felt happy. We spent the rest of our time shoving quarters into those cheap toy machines so we could fill our pockets with as much junk as possible. She got one of those messy stinky globs of goo that she was particularly pleased about. One thing about Marlee that surprised me was when I ran out of quarters, she wasn't disappointed. She had such a gracious and grateful way about her. Then of course, we went to the dairy bar and pigged out on ice cream. That was such a fun day, I will always treasure that memory. Although I think I recall Aunt Marlene raising an eyebrow at the high heel on the sandals, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

You know, I just don't remember Marlee ever being in a foul mood. She was one of those kids who made the best of her situation. When the answer was "no", she rarely pouted or became angry. I remember her wanting to buy a scoop-necked shirt while shopping with the the family last Thanksgiving. It was quite a flashy shirt, even a tad risqué. Although she wasn't allowed to buy the shirt, she simply exhaled a slight, almost inaudible sigh and put it back on the clothing rack. I felt startled that this little 13 year old was so okay with herself that not getting the shirt didn't really matter. Even as an adult, I could follow her lead to become a better person.

I usually smile when I think about Marlee playing with one of my girl's Barbie dolls. It was a ballerina doll with pointed toes and a pink tutu. My girl had received it from her father one Christmas, maybe the Christmas of '01? We had stopped by your place to rest for the night during one of our trips home from down south and my girl had all her new toys with her. Marlee spread all those fancy girly toys on the living room floor and began playing. She was especially fond of the ballerina Barbie. So fond, in fact, that she kept twirling it around and around while singing a little song and fluffing the tutu. Well, Marlee gave Barbie one twirl too many because a foot came flying off. Marlee sucked in air and looked quite embarrassed. You and I reassured her that it was just an accident and really no big deal. In fact, my girl never noticed her Barbie's disability for quite some time. Recently I told my girl exactly how Ballerina Barbie lost her foot and she decided to keep the doll in a special place so she could always think of Marlee when she played with it. I see that one-footed pink doll and I'm always reminded of a happy singing Marlee.

Whenever I'd stay at your house, Marlee would so graciously lend me her bedroom. She'd sleep on a little cot right outside the door while I slept on her comfy bed with little girl sheets that smelled of watermelon shampoo. I remember her telling me that I could use her turtle lamp if I was afraid of the dark (just in case). I also remember her little face peeking through the door crack in the morning (you know, just to check if I was up yet). No sooner would the words "good morning Marlee" escape my lips and she'd come bounding in, chatting me up with all the things she'd been patiently waiting to tell me.

It was as if a wave of wide-awake happiness followed her and washed over me whenever she'd come into my personal space. I love her and I miss her.

I remember chatting with you on a bench while my girl and Marlee played together in the pond. We had come to visit and I think Marlee wasn't quite ten. There she was, splashing in the water and burying herself in mud as though she were three years old alongside my daughter. She wasn't afraid to be joyful, even if it meant getting a little muddy. Well, a lot muddy. She wanted to be completely buried in the mud. I'd bet more people would be less strung-out if they took some time out to play in the mud. Marlee knew how to have fun.

Who can forget Marlee at Dad's wedding? She was the giddy little girl with flowers in her hair. I see her shining face, cheek to cheek with Amber, and I see a little fairy. She was almost pixie-like with her short little hairs that were growing back in from the onset of her diabetes. She darted about wearing Amber's shawl and following her around as if they were the best of friends.

The last time I visited with Marlee was Thanksgiving of '04. What I recall the most was how she had grown so much. Somewhere between footy pajamas and bell-bottom jeans, Marlee had started to grow into a stunning young woman. I was honestly taken aback with her beauty. There she was in a sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. She had long, simply brushed hair and no makeup. Yet, she glowed. I may have gushed over her a bit too much because I was so surprised. But my little Marlee wasn't too grown up, as I remember her sitting on her father's lap in the living room. "Was she the girl rocking with your Uncle T?" my husband asked me this week. "Yes, she loved to be rocked", I told him. Marlee loved her family and was loved dearly in return.

Marlee, no matter what age, will always remain my seven year old adorable cousin. That is how I want her to linger in my memory, with joyful, smiling, chubby cheeks. I have begun gathering all the pictures I have of Marlee. I'd like to make a collage to hang somewhere special in my house, a place where she'll be seen, remembered, and talked about often. I want my own children to remember Marlee and always know how extraordinarily bright her light shone.

Love, R


Blogger Momma Star said...

That is a lovely tribute.

Hugs and kisses.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Oh my, that was very moving. Really, I got such a feel of *her.* I'm so sorry she is gone but she is clearly not lost. (HUGS)

11:57 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Although it's not quite the same, I can relate to the confusing mess of emotion that accompanies grief. My sadness isn't mixed with anger, however, and I can only imagine the difference and empathize with you. I have a picture on the dashboard in my car of me, the baby, and Gramp at my brother's wedding. I look at it every day, and it makes me happier to know that just 3 weeks before the end, he was happy and with family. It covers the speedometer. Much more important. Gather your pictures and look at them. You will eventually feel more happy nostalgia than anger. Remember that I'm here if you need a private ear.

4:11 PM  

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