Cinco De Madre

by Bill Maranda

Cinco de Madre

Marilyn's obituary lists six children, which is "technically" correct, but wholly inaccurate.

Thirty-six would probably be a more accurate count, as Marilyn treated all her children's friends as if they were her own.

When this sad news was passed among the friends of these six children the various responses came back with a similar message;

"Your mom always treated me as if I where one of her own."

As noted in a recent e-mail from Jeno's wife,

"Mike always told me how kind your Mom always was to him when you were kids and he has the fondest memories of her. He always said that Mrs. Maranda treated me as if I was one of hers! "

Back in the 1960's some of the other kid's homes had that plastic cover on the furniture, grass and bushes we kids weren't allowed to trample on and a father with a loud mouth.

The Maranda's was always the feel good, friendly home, where happiness abounds with laughter, a big fenced in yard to play in, a rec room with slot cars and a Lionel train set. And everybody pets were always welcome.

That big color TV in the front room was for the kids, which functioned more of a "baby sitter" of sorts, as the parents had a portable black & white TV on the kitchen counter. At times peace and quiet for an adult could be at a premium.

This was a home where relaxation, craziness and fun seemed inherently normal.

In her later years she often stated, "Today is my lazy day".

Perhaps that came from having six reckless, wild children and an endless stream of their countless careless friends invading the crazy-land we called home. The rolling rampage of birds, fish, rabbits, dogs and cats, gribbles and mice, turtles and snakes strolling through the house didn't help matters either.

And, yes, Jesus had his endless fish and loaves of mana, but Marilyn had a bottomless jar of peanut butter to go on those unlimited slices of chalky Wonder bread.

Much like Jesus, Marilyn fed the masses with love and true affection. She treated all the neighborhood kids as she would want her own children to be treated.

This is a family were even the pets ate well. Animals that likely died of cardiac arrest due to the steady diet of fattening foods, seasoned with salt and spices, bacon grease poured over a bowl of rice.

And when these creatures of God passed, Marilyn was ever so gentle in explaining the facts of life and death to all the kids in the neighborhood. Then the next dog or cat came along, to help us relieve our pain.

She had us make a game of naming our new found friend. Always considering how to "move on", to get past these peculiar aspects of life.

Once the family was stacked with that sixth child, Marilyn convince her husband Stanley to move the family up to Winnetka. Not only for the wooded parks and the beach, but primarily so the kids could attend New Trier East high school, considered to be the best public high school in the nation at the time.

She convinced Stanley that an increase in property tax would surely be offset by the cost of private high school for six children. The family didn't own a car, all clothes were passed down and the house was a "gut rehab" by today's standards. But boy o' boy did that move ever pay off big time in the way of scholarships for half the kids after high school. Marilyn sure hit the nail on the head with that one.

Rick did so well at U of I his name is prominently engraved on the wall in the main campus library, which is now a family joke:

"He got an award all right, the "Smart-Ass" award.

And Marylin was an avid guitarist. She taught Jim and Mike how to play her style of country music. Then the Beatles came along, ......... So much for that idea.

First Jim joined "The Tornados" in while in Chicago. Then Mike put together a band in the new neighborhood, The Vipers.

Of course, the Maranda basement was always the perfect studio, with Marilyn tactfully offering tips and advice. She would caution the boys on not playing too loud, as too much volume was a sign that you really didn't know how to play the notes correctly. Take care of your equipment, it's expensive. And the reason the country musicians at the Grand Ole Opry stand in a straight line on the stage is that no one musician is more important than the rest of the band.

Over and over and over again, the boys would play the same song, until they got it right, just like Marilyn taught them. All the boys took her advice to heart, and were so well versed they performed on TV's Public Broadcast Station talent show. Surely the neighborhood was impressed!

After high school Marilyn worked in Washington DC in Elenore Roosevelt's secretary pool during the war. This came in handy later in life when the kid's needed a paper typed for school or a resume after college.

Marilyn's father was trained French chef which came in handy. When her father made the turkey dinner for the various holidays, grandpa would round up the bigger kids to peel the vegetables and the shrimp, taught them how to develop the correct thickness and color of the rue to make gravy and proper carving techniques for the bird.

All these basic details carried on from one generation to the next. Once again, all the kids were able to get well paying restaurant jobs during the summer school break.

There's even a photograph floating about of Debby and Bob's daughter, a tiny little Alyssa peeling shrimp, just like her great grandpa used to do. And we all rest assured, someday Alyssa's son Ben will learn the culinary arts as well.

Marilyn's children often heard tales her parent's life in New Orleans. This before they moved up north to Chicago, as these distant relatives were a high class, the highfalutin type, a grandfather who was one of the original King of the Madi Gras.

Now let's face the facts.

Marilyn was by all means the true definition of a French bon vivant, she thought that life should be fun and exciting, a pleasurable experience.

Pleasurable, not like "work".

Life should not be "work". Not at all, not for a single minute.

Life should be like a day off from work.

So once in a while when she felt like having a pleasant problem-free-day she would call in sick, to spend time with the kids at the beach, take in a matinee movie or, what the heck, .... Just for the fun of it!

At the end here things did get to the point for Marilyn where her life was work, real hard work, too. Not like a day off, not anymore.

Too many steps to fight! As she would say.

Now we can hear Marilyn saying just one last time with such earnest, confidence and meaning, with anticipation of taking in an early matinee then having a nice lunch complimented by an afternoon nap, one last time.

Just one last time.

Now she has called up to God, the Maker of Life, as if she were calling into the office, wanting that one last work-free pleasant day off to spend with her kids.

She's calling in to God, a huffing and a puffing and coughing, and then turns to the kids to say,

"Did I sound sick?"

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