Gilding the lily / Dorar el lirio

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

MY AUNT LILLY, WHOM I mentioned yesterday, was the first of my maternal grandparents’ six daughters and seven children. She was 18 years older than the youngest daughter and nine years older than My Mother the Dowager Duchess. I don’t know why her nickname was spelled Lilly and not Lily. I guess no one knew any better. I never even thought about it until her grandson pointed it out to me less than 10 years ago.

My grandfather had a violent temper. I was told he was abusive. He used to, suprisingly, confide in me; he told me about the abuse he suffered from his father. Lilly quickly learned to stand up to him and I think protected the others from his unreasonable anger, although I don’t think she was able to do much to save the second child, the only brother.

My mother idolized Lilly, although she and her sisters regularly complained about how bossy she could be. Most of them could be quite bossy themselves, just not with Lilly. Never with Lilly. I adored Lilly and my Uncle Aaron, whom she married in 1940 after dating him for years. My mother considered him a big brother and idolized him as well. Dale and I both, and even The Kid Brother, grew up adoring them.

Aaron gave me advice (unsolicited but always appreciated; he had a way). I felt loved, appreciated, even liked when I was with them. We saw them often, more than any other extended family despite the fact that we saw almost everyone at my grandparents’ every Sunday. I don’t know what it was like to grow up with them as parents, but as an aunt and uncle, I couldn’t have asked for more. San Geraldo also became very close to them. They were immediately kind and warm, and welcomed him into the family.

I think I’ve told this story before, so forgive me if you remember it: My mother’s nickname in the family was Mimi. When she was young (less than 10 years old) and Lillie and Aaron were dating he started calling my mother Mimi Magoo. I have no idea why. I think he just liked the sound (and her). That quickly became simply Magoo. When she and my father were married and had children, we were all called the Magoos (while my mother remained “Magoo.”) The day Dale got married, my mother hosted a cocktail party (the wedding was sudden when my brother-in-law flew in from London to sweep her off her feet; they had met in Edinburgh four months earlier). They would leave for England together two days after the party. Lillie and Aaron were two of the last people to leave. Dale, who cried easily, had held it together. Then Aaron hugged her and said, “Dale, no matter where you go, you will always be a Magoo.” Dale burst into tears and ran from the room. Sometimes, being a Magoo is the only thing that matters.

Click here for another story about Lilly and Aaron.


MI TÍA LILLY, A QUIEN mencioné ayer, fue la primera de las seis hijas y siete hijos de mis abuelos maternos. Era 18 años mayor que la hija menor y nueve años mayor que Mi madre, la duquesa viuda. No sé por qué su apodo se deletreaba Lilly y no Lily. En inglés, Lily significa Lirio. Supongo que nadie lo sabía mejor. Ni siquiera lo pensé hasta que su nieto me lo señaló hace menos de 10 años.

Mi abuelo tenía un temperamento violento. Me dijeron que era abusivo. Sorprendentemente, solía confiar en mí; me habló del abuso que sufrió por parte de su padre. Lilly rápidamente aprendió a enfrentarse a él y creo que protegió a los demás de su ira irracional, aunque no creo que haya podido hacer mucho para salvar al segundo hijo, el único hermano.

Mi madre idolatraba a Lilly, aunque ella y sus hermanas se quejaban regularmente de lo mandona que podía ser. La mayoría de ellos podrían ser bastante mandones ellos mismos, pero no con Lilly. Nunca con Lilly. Adoraba a Lilly y a mi tío Aaron, con quien se casó en 1940 después de salir con él unos años. Mi madre lo consideraba un hermano mayor y también lo idolatraba. Tanto Dale como yo, e incluso El Hermanito, crecimos adorándolos.

Aaron me dio un consejo (no solicitado pero siempre apreciado; tenía una manera). Me sentí amado, apreciado, incluso querido cuando estaba con ellos. Los veíamos a menudo, más que a cualquier otra familia extendida, a pesar de que veíamos a casi todos en casa de mis abuelos todos los domingos. No sé cómo fue crecer con ellos como padres, pero como tía y tío, no podría haber pedido más. San Geraldo también se acercó mucho a ellos. Inmediatamente fueron amables y cálidos, y le dieron la bienvenida a la familia.

Creo que he contado esta historia antes, así que perdóname si la recuerdas: el apodo de mi madre en la familia era Mimi. Cuando ella era joven (menos de 10 años) y Lillie y Aaron estaban saliendo, él comenzó a llamar a mi madre Mimi Magoo. No tengo ni idea de porqué. Creo que a él simplemente le gustó el sonido (y ella). Eso rápidamente se convirtió en simplemente Magoo. Cuando ella y mi padre se casaron y tuvimos hijos, a todos nos llamaban los Magoos (mientras que mi madre seguía siendo “Magoo”). El día que Dale se casó, mi madre organizó un cóctel (la boda fue repentina cuando mi hermano Law voló desde Londres para enloquecerla; se habían conocido en Edimburgo cuatro meses antes). Se irían juntos a Inglaterra dos días después de la fiesta. Lillie y Aaron fueron dos de las últimas personas en irse. Dale, que lloraba con facilidad, se había mantenido firme. Entonces Aaron la abrazó y le dijo: “Dale, no importa a dónde vayas, siempre serás un Magoo”. Dale rompió a llorar y salió corriendo de la habitación. A veces, ser un Magoo es lo único que importa.

Haz clic aquí para ver otra historia sobre Lilly y Aaron.

• 1940. She was not yet 22. He had just turned 23.
• Ella aún no tenía 22 años. Él acababa de cumplir 23 años.
• Brooklyn, 1947. With her two daughters.
• Brooklyn, 1947. Con sus dos hijas.
• I don’t know the occassion, but that’s Aaron holding a lit candle in front of his younger of two daughters, and Lillie with the corsage. Behind her is Aunt Sylvie (2nd daughter and 3rd of seven children); partially visible is my grandmother at right.
• No sé la ocasión, pero ese es Aaron sosteniendo una vela encendida frente a la menor de sus dos hijas, y Lillie con el ramillete. Detrás de ella está la tía Sylvie (segunda hija y tercera de siete hijos); parcialmente visible es mi abuela a la derecha.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

33 thoughts on “Gilding the lily / Dorar el lirio”

  1. Oh, to be a Magoo. What a lovely anecdote. You said Lilly was Lilly’s nickname. Was her name Elizabeth? Six girls out of seven children. We had five girls out of six children. My brother was the oldest. He tried to boss us around, but he didn’t do very well at it.

    P.S. Look! Now I know how to spell my name!

    1. Janoie:
      Truth is the spelling made sense because her name was Lillian, but two Ls do not make a flower.

    1. Wilma:
      I included the blurry photo because I loved seeing Lilly like that. I only received that photo recently. The wedding photo IS exquisite.

    1. Deedles:
      They do. And it’s nice to remember the GOOD family stories. Lilly and Aaron gave me plenty to remember.

    1. Mistress Borghese:
      I like the sound of it, although I think Deedles is on track with Scoot Magoo. A good name for a race car driver (or something).

      1. Or a cowboy wrangling upchucking cows! Upchucking sounds more rustic than vomiting. Time for a Stetson, Scoot.

      2. I was totally right! Scoot Magoo, King of the Cowboys! You look adorable in a cowboy hat, no matter your age.

  2. Good memories and great photos! It’s amazing to think of people getting married at 22. Even that seems so young by today’s standards.

  3. My middle name is Lillian…wonder if that is where the two L’s might have come from to make up the name Lilly.

    Lovely reminiscences of some wonderful folks–everyone needs an Aunt Lilly and Uncle Aaron in their lives. Unconditional love.

    1. Mary:
      I shouldn’t have played so dumb. Yes, the two Ls came from Lillian. I had never thought about the fact that it wasn’t correct for the flower until her grandson pointed it out to me. But I don’t even think that was the intention. Saul was Solly, Lillian was Lilly, Sylvia was Sylvie, Rose was Rozzie, Miriam was Mimi. That’s just what they did. Thinking about Lilly and Aaron has made me happy.

  4. ‘My mother’s nickname in the family was Mimi…. I have no idea why.’
    This is almost right out of “La Boheme” do you know this aria?

    1. Urspo:
      I do know the aria and the “Rent” version, too. My mother’s given name was Miriam and Mimi was a very common nickname for that.

  5. I think maybe Lilly was bossy because she stood up to her father and it’s just how she became.

    That Magoo story, with Dale, made me verklempt.

    I’m off now.

    1. Bob:
      You’re absolutely right about why Lilly was so strong and so bossy. Also, being the eldest of 7 made her the second mother. She was stunned (and embarrassed) when she was 18 and her mother had another baby, especially since as soon as she graduated she went to work to help support the family. She angrily said to her mother (according to my mother), “Another one?!? We can hardly feed the ones we have!” The others ranged in age from 16 down to 7.

  6. There is nothing better than having wonderful and loving aunts and uncles. You were lucky indeed to have these lovely two! That wedding photo is beautiful.
    I had two as well. I miss them and their influence in the family.

    1. Jim:
      I had so many aunts and uncles. But a few hold a very special place in my heart. Lilly and Aaron have place of their own! And, oh, that wedding photo!

  7. Oh, I loved this post! I don’t know if I remember the Magoos story, so it was fun to read that. I loved the photos.
    Funny thing about the spelling of Lilly: I had a student who spelled her name Lily, and I used to thing, “I guess they just decided to drop the other l.” Ha! I forgot completely about the flower using only one L.

    1. Judy C:
      So Aunt Lilly spelled it correctly for you! I suppose I should look and see if I’ve told the Magoo story before. After nearly 11 years, I can’t keep track.

  8. My upbringing was surrounded in cousins (male and female) from many sides of many families. Everyone was considered a cousin/aunt/uncle if you showed up to a get together with a plate of something. I was sheltered from my father’s death for years so my family became the family of all blood relatives ~ to this day!

    1. Ron:
      It sounds like you were surrounded by love. I had a large extended family, but they didn’t usually arrive with plates of something (that was the “hostess’s” responsibility. Of that large group, there were a few who were wonderful and saved the day… and my childhood.

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