Marion Quick was born Marion Apolonia Gronski on February 19, 1927 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The Gronski Clan would not have settled in Wisconsin in the first place, but Marion’s grandfather, my great-grandfather, Barnabas Gronski, was…well….let’s just say he was an idiot.
In 1890 he was “leading” his family from Buffalo, New York to Iowa to join the Amana Colonies. When they reached the Illinois River, particularly the Upper Peoria Lake, the moron thought it was the Mississippi River and so he crossed it and turned the clan north.
He knew after the first two days that he screwed up, but he was not about to tell my great-grandmother, Olenka Gronski. At least he was smart enough to know that. She would have killed him, eaten him, then found the Amana Colonies herself. So he plodded on.
He was on the ball enough to know that if he kept going they’d eventually reach Canada and Olenka would skin him along with the squirrels they were eating. So he stopped. He had no idea where. Olenka looked around and asked, in Polish of course, “Where the Hell are the Amana Colonies?”
With a shrug of his broad shoulders Barnabas replied, “They must have moved again.”
So the Gronskis settled in Wisconsin. How Barnabas was able to keep it from his wife that they were actually in Wisconsin and not Iowa was talked about for decades. Olenka passed away in 1910, still believing that she was in Iowa. And he was revered for keeping it a secret. The fact that if he’d not been so ignorant they never would have settled in Wisconsin seemed to have escaped the story-tellers. Once, when Marion was repeating the story for the umpteenth time, I said, “But wasn’t he quite the dope for getting them lost in the first place?”
Arnold said, “Don’t be such a smart ass, Solomon.” I hear that a lot from him.
Barnabas and Olenka Gronski begat Roman Gronski. Roman and Sabina Gronski begat Marion Gronski. Of course, there were others begotten along the way. There was a lot of begatting going on in the Gronski Clan. But Marion is the most important since she and Arnold begat me.
Marion attended Saint Francis Blessed Catholic High School in Stevens Point. Just before graduating, her Senior classmates voted her “Most Likely to Succeed.” Of course, in 1945-for a woman-“to succeed” meant you marry a rich man. Marion decided to go against The Oracle and eventually marry Arnold.
She took a job as a secretary at the Barclay Paper Mill in Stevens Point. It was there that she met Arnold who was working as a mechanical engineer. It wasn’t love at first sight by any means. Guys sporting a bow tie and a plastic pocket protector just don’t attract the ladies.
It wasn’t until one of the company’s Christmas parties that Arnold and Marion got together. Even that was by accident. Marion was following Edward Pringel into a back office at the paper mill to seduce him. Instead, when Pringel turned right to go to the bathroom, Marion mistakenly veered left into a dark office where Arnold was preparing to sleep off the one hot toddy he’d consumed. Marion jumped his bones thinking he was Pringel. She couldn’t believe Pringel was such a good kisser. That’s what she thought, anyway.
The Gronski Wrong-Way Gene lived on. Marion decided Arnold wasn’t that bad of a guy after all. I’m not complaining about the ignorance of the Gronskis because, after all, without those mistakes I’d never be here. And what a shame that would be.
Marion is tall and thin. Of course, most people are tall as far as I’m concerned since I’m a squirt. I don’t think I ever saw her when her hair wasn’t pulled back into a little pony tail. Her blonde hair(Gamma calls it “dishwater blonde”)just comes down a little past her ears and she barely has enough to pull back. Marion uses anything she can find to tie her hair back; rubber bands, paper clips, duct tape. One time she used a huge clothes pin and it was sticking out from the side of her head. She looked like Pebbles Flintstone.
I don’t know why, but her favorite thing to prepare for dinner is pig’s feet and sauerkraut. The sauerkraut I don’t mind, except for the odor. It’s the same smell when Gamma is over and she takes her shoes off. I told Marion that once and she got pissed. “Don’t ever say that again!” She yelled, and Marion hardly ever yells; well, at me anyway. She yells at Arnold a lot.
And Arnold knows the kraut smells like Gamma, too. He’ll come home, smell the kraut and say to Marion, “Is Gamma here?”
She’ll look puzzled and say, “No, why?”
Then Arnold will recover quickly and say, “Oh, no reason. Just wondering.”
But the pig’s feet. Who would serve that to a kid? Pigs walk around in their own poo and I’m supposed to eat their feet? I don’t think so. I just feed it to Kenny, our cat. Arnold and Marion are always so wrapped up in talking during dinner they never notice me dropping meat to Kenny. And Kenny eats anything. Even feet that have been walking around in poo.
Marion is very religious. Thank God she doesn’t make Arnold and me go to mass as often as she and Gamma do. And the first Sunday of the month they actually have the mass in Latin. Marion makes me go to that one every time. I don’t know what the Hell they’re saying. But everyone else seems to know, because the priest will say something in Latin and everyone responds back in Latin; even Marion and Gamma. All of a sudden they know Latin? They never speak it at home, just at church. What the Hell is that all about?
Marion always smells like soap. We all take baths(not together)using the same soap, but Arnold and I don’t smell like soap, only Marion. Arnold smells like Old Spice all the time. Marion smells like soap and Arnold smells like Old Spice. I guess I’d rather have it that way than the other way around.
I think Marion is very good-looking. For a mom, that is. Arnold, not so much. It’s a wonder I turned out as handsome as I did. I mean, I’ve got girls in school passing me love notes. Not the girls I want to pass me love notes. No. Just the goofy ones. Go figure.
Marion’s eyes are really blue. Arnold calls her “My Blue-Eyed Baby.” What a dope. I mean, if he wants to call her that in private, fine. But not in front of me for cryin’ out loud. And Marion’s eyes are not always blue. When she gets really mad, which I’ve only seen a few times, her eyes turn red. One time, I think they were actually on fire. Maybe I just imagined it because I was so scared. Especially since I was the one that made her that mad. I’m rather perfect most of the time, but even I make mistakes sometimes. I might tell you about that later. Christ, I’m sweating just thinking about it now. I should go soap myself up.
And Marion is pretty smart. Actually, I have to say she’s not as smart as Arnold. Book Smart, I mean. Arnold graduated from UW-Platteville with a degree in engineering. Marion went straight from high school to working at the paper mill. She has more common sense than Arnold. Hell, I think even Kenny the cat has more common sense than Arnold. Except for the fact that they both eat pig’s feet.
Marion is a crafty person. I don’t mean crafty in a sly way. I mean our house in Moon Lake is always filled with crafty crap. There’s always doilies and goofy stuff lying around. Most of the junk we don’t even use. She made a little house from Popsicle sticks. Christ, we did that in third grade.
Every Saturday she’s got to watch this television show, Krafts with Karen, on one of the four stations we get. Pretty damn clever how they spelled ‘crafts’ with a ‘K.” Quite the witty people working there at Channel 9. It’s this older woman about 40, Karen, who shows ladies how to make more crafty crap. Gamma would describe Karen as being “big-boned.” Marion sits there and takes notes for Christ’s sake. I mean, I don’t even take notes in History class and here’s Marion taking notes on a goofy craft show. Karen talks so damn fast! I think she gets paid by the word. Good thing Marion took shorthand. She’s writing just as fast as Karen is blabbering.
I watched it one time and they were making snowflake coasters out of yarn. And different colored snowflakes for Christmas; like green and red ones, too. Who’s ever seen a red or green snowflake? Jesus, what a dopey show. We never even used the coasters. Marion made a stuffed monkey one time that looked scary as hell. Kenny the cat started humping it like it was his own personal Love Doll. When he was done with it Marion tossed it in the trash. I kind of felt sorry for Kenny.
I’ve only seen Marion cry once. That was when Grampa Gronski died. I was only six years old and I was at home when Marion got the call from Gamma. Marion started crying right away and I didn’t know why but I figured it couldn’t be good. I didn’t think anyone had died or anything. After all, I was only six years old. I knew enough to give Marion a hug. I saw her hug Gamma once when Gamma was crying because one of their goldfish had died. We didn’t even have any goldfish so I knew it couldn’t be that. I hugged Marion anyway. She smelled like soap.
Actually, Marion cried at Grampa Gronski’s funeral, too. Gamma didn’t cry that much then. I thought it rather peculiar that Gamma cried about the goldfish but not Grampa Gronski. I still think it’s rather peculiar. I suppose Death affects everyone differently.
That poor goldfish.