Marilyn’s grandmother on her father’s side was also named Marilyn. They were namesakes, a quaint word rarely used in our contemporary times. It meant something to our Marilyn, the one we’ve gotten to know on Pine Street, that she had a namesake, and was a namesake. Sharing a name cemented a bond between the women across the generations.
At one point in her travels, our Marilyn began to write the life story of her grandmother and namesake. She never finished the writing of it, sadly. If she had, we could conveniently find the journals in her attic, and bring Grandmother Marilyn into our version of the Pine Street story more directly. As it is, we will have to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks.
Imagine Pine Street nearly one hundred years before Franny moves into her apartment. It is around the time Franny’s building is being erected, following a dreadful fire that destroyed much of the town. The local brick factories are working around the clock, and men come from all over the valley to earn a few dollars a month – an astounding wage for subsistence farmers and ranch hands – in exchange for their hard labor.
A small girl arrives in the company of her parents. Her father is a minister with an alcohol problem; her mother is a minister’s wife, a full-time job in and of itself, with a husband problem. This little family has relocated often already in the small girl’s memory, a result of the alcoholic’s chronic need to start over.
The family finds rooms in a house near the only church in town. The church is Catholic, not at all the father’s denomination, but he determines that living near it places them in a sphere of holiness. The mother sighs, and sets about making their rooms as livable as possible. The girl is small, but big enough to work at the rooming house as a kind of kitchen and scullery maid in exchange for a few dollars off the rent each week.
The girl is called by her middle name in order to avoid confusion with the maternal grandmother who is her namesake. Her middle name is Ursula, or little bear.
Her Christian name is Marilyn, and she will see hardship and loss, but also joy and prosperity. She will live long enough to have a namesake of her own.