A SHINING STAR, OUR FAMILY JEWEL, AUNT MURIEL LIEN
Imagine a six year old child sent to get the mail. No big deal if you just walk to the mail box or simply take it from the mail drop on your porch.
Well, that is not what happened. In the small community of Brevik, Minnesota in the early 1940’s, we had the Brevik Post Office. My Aunt Muriel, two uncles and my Grandmother ran Lien’s Resort. Just walk up the hill, past several cabins and you would be at the Post Office.
Not me. I picked up the mail with no problem but finding my way back home was. I wandered around the cabins, and the lake until Fran Berger found me, picked me up and held me tight. She knew I was lost. She walked me back to my Aunt’s waiting arms. I was crying and so very scared. You can never imagine how wonderful it felt as she held me tight and wiped away my tears.
I was plagued with impacted ear wax as a young person. The only way to remove this wax was with a syringe and warm water. Patiently Aunt Muriel would warm water, put it in a glass, hand me a towel to put on my shoulder to hold a pan that would catch the water. She would slowly squeeze the syringe filled with water into my ear. If this were done too fast, I would get dizzy. Finally, after flushing with the warm water, the core of wax would be freed. Then in a teaspoon she would warm some oil over the burner on the stove. Then it was dropped into my ears and covered with a cotton ball. Only someone as gentle and patient would take the time to care for a niece as my Aunt Muriel did.
When any of my seven siblings were sick, she would cook for us the things we liked. I know that is why we recovered so fast. If she was cooking something and knew it was our favorite, it would arrive in the least amount of time. One of my favorites was fish soup. She made the best fish soup. It was made with fish stock, barley and veggies. What a treat it was when that grey soup arrived. Everyone knew it was for me.
Thoughtful, kind, and always thinking of others, is how she lived her life. She was also a full time caregiver for my Grandmother who was riddled with arthritis and an uncle who was epileptic. When my Mother was so ill with kidney disease, Aunt Muriel was our angel. She attended to Mother’s needs and the needs of our family. I am not sure we could have managed without her and the other members of the Brevik community.
Birthdays in our home were celebrated with your choice of meal, cake, presents and company. On my 12th birthday, my Mother was in the hospital giving birth to my twin brothers, Ronald and Donald. I knew Mom would not be able to fix my birthday cake, and I was feeling very dejected. I was happy to have baby brothers, but the day before my birthday?
Well you may have already guessed it, but the birthday cake came through the front door followed by the ever thoughtful Aunt Muriel. My birthday was celebrated with her homemade cake, ice cream and presents.
I loved spending the night with her. It was not hard to pretend you were a Princess, because that is how she treated you. She fixed meals that I liked, she showed me how to tat and embroider.
In the morning she bathed me, put on the best smelling powder, combed my hair and put it in French braids. Oh was I ever cute! Then from a special drawer she would take out a box containing glass vials of perfume. She would break off the tip and put the perfume on me.
After breakfast, I was ready to get on the school bus. Up the hill, she would walk with me and wait until the bus came. I would board the bus and wave good-by. Little did she know, but bouncing on the bus over twelve miles with that perfume made me queasy. I was so glad to see the school and get fresh air. It took me a long time to tell her to please forget the perfume, because I knew it would hurt her feelings.
I will never forget how upset she got when someone was teasing a child. She spoke with disgust, "Don’t do that, he is just a child".
Three years ago, she got a rap on her door. She did not recognize either of the men, but graciously invited them in. Soon the coffee, treats, and conversation flowed. The two men were researchers and writers from Brevik, Norway. They were interested in the history of Brevik, Minnesota. As the oldest member of the community, she was able to tell them its history. They kept in touch, sharing more information and about a year later, they rapped on her door again. She knew how she would be spending the next several hours and looked forward to it.
As a Lady of 92 years, her interest in family, community and world events, is unmatched. A conversation on almost any subject can be had. She never ceases to amaze me.
I am only recalling a few of the very special times spent with Aunt Muriel. I am sure many of you in the community where she lives have your own special recollections of this special lady. She is a storehouse of information, so someone is always calling her or stopping in to get some questions answered. She is never too busy for a cup of coffee and a treat.
I thank God daily that He has allowed us to have our "Family Jewel" with us for all of these years. Thank you Aunt Mona for all you have done for all of us. We love you.
Gwen Welk Workman, July 14, 2010