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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Forging Links

My favorite aunt, June, aged 87, just passed away. She was the spunky little blonde who passed herself off as "old enough" so she could sing in San Francisco night clubs during the Depression. My Norwegian immigrant Grandpapa, Oluv Nicolaisen had had a stroke and died, leaving Nana and her eight children to work odd jobs, trying to pay the rent and buy food.

I've always thought Aunt June's life would make a great novel: beautiful girl lies about her tender age so she can sing in night clubs and bring home money to help her ailing, older sister afford doctors and medicines.
Ailing sister eventually died of tuberculosis. June met tall, dark and handsome Uncle John, the love of her life, and they settled into an upper middle-class life across the bay, raised four kids and helped Nana live comfortably till the end of her days.

Aunt June had none of the leg-ups that I, her niece, had.
I had parents who, coming out of that great Depression, scrimped so that I could have my music lessons. The government provided me with a nice low-interest loan. That, accompanied with a sizeable scholarship, parent aid, and work-study enabled me to attend one of the best music schools in the nation. And when I got a paycheck from one of my music gigs I didn't have to place it into the family earnings pool.

I don't know if I would have had the grit and determination to stand up, night after night, and sing in smoke-filled, raucous beer halls, having to fend off tipsy men, listening to off-color remarks.

Of course, Uncle John took her away from all of that. World War II ended. My dad and uncles returned to civilian life and tried to put horrific war memories away. The prosperous fifties arrived and all of us baby-boomer cousins were born.

At sixteen, I started taking voice lessons with Aunt June. I remember standing in the crook of her big grand piano while she sat in front of the keyboard, trying to play scales fast enough to keep up with my agile voice. Unlike me, she'd never had the opportunity to take piano lessons. She helped me prepare for for my first important audition and came to my first important performance.

My uncle Bobby said, "You're just like June."
But I knew I wasn't.
I was soft and timid, sheltered by a kind, self-sacrificing father,
pushed by an ambitious mother.
I don't know why God, in His grace, placed me at this time in eternity,
instead of those hard, un-aided, if-you don't work-you-don't-eat days.
May I never take for granted the gifts and opportunities afforded to my generation of women.
May I always carry with me the memory of my favorite Aunt June.
I'll miss you, Auntie.


  1. Oh Dena, I was so involved in this beautiful story that I hated for it to end. Thank you for blessing me this morning. What an incredible tribute to your precious Aunt June.

  2. Thanks. All this week I've been remembering lovely times with my Aunt June. She had a glorious voice and when we had our Nicolaisen clan parties, she'd bring a suitcase of music. I was thrilled when I got old enough to sing duets with June.