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Sequin People - Take a Risk to Shine

Updated on October 22, 2016
Aunt Marion in Sequins at 87
Aunt Marion in Sequins at 87

A tribute to my special Aunt Marion and to those who aren't afraid to 'stand out':
by Billie Kelpin Olmon 2005

*** Update on Aunt Marion - See Note Below

There’s a certain group of people in this world whom I like to call “sequin people”. We all know them. My Aunt Marion is one. I knew it from the first time she dropped that tiny round sliver of silver into my hand. I must have been only five. I remember staring at the little piece of purposefully-processed metal that sat in my palm. It was cupped with pleated sides, and, were it not for the pinpoint hole in the center, it might serve well as a tiny bowl that a delicate butterfly might use for sipping.

Even though I was only five when I first watched Aunt Marion sew sequins on my cousin’s satin baton twirling costumes or on my Uncle Bob’s square-dance shirts, I knew that wearing sequins involved work. Sequin by sequin, silver threads laid silver rows and golden threads laid golden rows. And rows that built on eventual rows became designs on costumes that marched in parades and shimmered on the dance floor.

Through the years, I always knew Aunt Marion sparkled. I’d see her in her 30’s and 40’s and 50’s in skirts with sequined swirls that floated over layered crinoline as she left on Uncle Bob’s arm to a Friday night dance at any one of the Square Dancing Clubs in Milwaukee. I’d see Aunt Marion at Christmas and New Year’s and anniversaries - always in sparkly sweaters or shinny gold tops. Sometimes, she wore silver. And through the years there were always presents for my daughter and myself – shinny presents - rhinestone hearts on silver necklaces, a hand-embroidered red Mexican jacket with the senor in sequined sombrero and senorita in sequined shirt. There were earrings and bracelets that also glittered; the angel pin Aunt Marion gave me to remember Uncle Bob had diamond wings.

But it wasn’t until two years ago, when Aunt Marion was 85, that I realized the connection between the sequins, my Aunt Marion’s psyche in wearing them, and the power in doing so. My daughter was performing with the Mamma Mia tour at the MarcusCenter in Milwaukee and my cousins, college friends, and my Aunt Marion all agreed to meet at the theatre to celebrate the performance together. As my friends and I waited for our entire group to assemble, I turned to see Aunt Marion coming toward us from the parking lot in spiky heels that Nicole Kidman might wear. Even in the burnishing orange and pink of twilight, Aunt Marion was sparkling as she walked towards our group. Her sleeveless top shone with blue and green and red and silver sequins that danced as she moved. She made me smile, and when I looked at my friends, they were smiling too. An airiness seemed to sweep over us in some manner that I couldn’t define. Aunt Marion was coming to see her grandniece perform, and it was obvious she was proud – the sequins said it all. She touched my heart as people always do when they honor the child you bore.

The next day as I drove home to Minneapolis, my cell phone rang with calls that seemed to add some type of concluding paragraph to the essay of the evening before. There were praises for my daughter’s voice and warm pleasantries of “we’re so glad we came.” But in each conversation was something else – some mention of Aunt Marion: “It was so good to see your Aunt Marion again.” “Your aunt looked so beautiful.” “Your Aunt Marion is so cute. How old is she again?” And in those comments seemed to run an underground stream of thought: “”I hope that I can be so vibrant when I’m 85.” And perhaps the question: “I wonder if I’ve ever sparkled in that way?” was hiding in the corner of unspoken thoughts.

Aunt Marion has always, and will always, sparkle - for she’s a sequin person. In the psyche of sequin people seems to be an understanding that life provides enough black all on its own and is in no need of more. Perhaps it is sequin people who realize that we are created from the same star stuff of the universe – and the reason we were brought into existence is to not only exist, but to shine. Perhaps they feel that when the conductor points to their section of the orchestra, it’s their turn to play their solo with unabashed pride and confidence. (Sometimes they even dare to stand and play when no conductor has pointed to them.) But sequin people are more than confident. They are believers; they believe in themselves and in others belief in them. They believe that they have the power to light up a room and have no doubt that room needs light. And it is that belief, in and of itself, that is the light. And even if there are times that their light feels as if it's dimming, sequin people teach us that the proverbial show must go on. They teach us the paradoxical truth that sometimes the outside light of something as simple as a line of sequins seeps inward.

Einstein has said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle.” To me, sequins themselves are tiny miracles, and my Aunt Marion taught me about their power to transform. Wearing sequins takes work – inside soul-type work often with threads worn thin by life. But having seen the faces of my friends as my Aunt walked toward us that day at the Performing Arts Center, I realized that the work is worth it. The world has always been attracted to bright and shinny objects, and we can dare to be one. My Aunt Marion continues to dare to be one, and every time I see her I become more and more willing to shine.

*** I wrote this essay in 2005 when my Aunt Marion was 87. She passed away December, 2012 at the age of 94. I was able to fly to Milwaukee to see her in the hospital and was able to hold her hand during my visits to her room. Toward the end, Aunt Marion took my hand and with filmy eyes that were filled with love, she pulled my hand to her heart and held it there. I had told her on the Wednesday when I arrived, that my plane was leaving on Saturday. My Aunt Marion died an hour after I left the hospital - on Saturday, December 1. I will always love you, Aunt Marion.


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    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Touching piece, Ms. Billie! Your Aunt Marion must have been so blessed to have a wonderful niece like you!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      You shine girl for your Aunt! This is a wonderful story an so sad that she is gone now, but you live on with all the sequins.

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 3 years ago from Newport Beach

      Dear "Cat", Thanks so much for your comment. I notice you're from LA. We live in an RV in the OC at NB (gotta love those initials)

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      Bless your Aunt Marion and how she touched the lives around her with her bright and sparkly presence! You have written such a beautiful story of the profound love between you two - deeply moving and upbeat at the same time. How refreshing!

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 4 years ago from Newport Beach

      CelebrateUSA, Thank you for your lovely comment. I appreciate the "vote up". ( That feature always alludes me when reading other hubs and I have to pay more attention to it.) Every time I say the words "my Aunt Marion" the "my" feels special. I feel innocent and little again and it feels good. I'm glad you enjoyed the essay! Cheers to you today!

    • CelebrateUSA profile image

      Ken Kline 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      BillieKelpin, You truly warmed my heart. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. Thank you so much for sharing and uplifting us today to gain a better appreciation and look for those sequin people in our lives. Voted up and truly awesome!

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 4 years ago from Newport Beach

      Kim, Now you made MY day! You're very sweet and a great writer! Peace

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Okay. You have made me smile today and now I can't help but let the tears flow for the beauty of your Aunt Marion, the sparkles of the sequins, the days when someone nice takes the time to make you smile one minute and cry the next. SO Voted Up and Shared.

      Thank You!


    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 5 years ago from Newport Beach

      Sweethearts2, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I think the nicest thing a writer can hear is that something he or she wrote, might get passed along. You made my day!

    • sweethearts2 profile image

      sweethearts2 5 years ago from Northwest Indiana

      What an inspiring and pleasurable hub. I have known a few sequin people and will borrow that description from now on. Thank you for sharing

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 5 years ago from Newport Beach

      Jantamaya, you're very kind. BTW, your question on How to Show some you care is STILL getting such beautiful answers - just now read the lastest. That question is spreading a great deal of wisdom around:)

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 5 years ago from UK

      What an admirable, wonderful story! A delightful and inspiring hub. Your Aunt Marion would have liked it, and she would be proud of you! I had a smile on my face all the time while reading it! Wow. Loved to read it. It must be voted up and shared.

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 5 years ago from Newport Beach

      From your hubs, Sunshine, I'd put you in the "Sequin People" category! Looking forward to reading more of your intriguing titles.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      When or I should probably say if I ever grow up I want to be like Aunt Marion. She sounds like she was the life of the party. Her light was always shining. I'm like that most days, unless my light burns out. Thank you for sharing your aunt with us. It was a pleasure spending this time with her and you.

    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 5 years ago from Newport Beach

      Here's to you Diane and Ida! I wish I would have written down all of Aunt Marion's comments during our Sunday conversations in one book. Usually I could only find a scrap of paper at the time, so I have all of her home-y wisdom scattered among my mess of an office. I'll have to gather that and make a "Mondays with Marion" essay. Best Wishes to you and Ida.

    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 5 years ago from Fontana

      Aunt Marion was an amazing person. I love the older pics. It's like watching her through time. I have Ida W. Moose, a mentor and godmother who is 79 years old.

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 5 years ago from Florida


      I am so sorry to hear about your aunt. You will always feel her spirit and love.


    • Billie Kelpin profile image

      Billie Kelpin 5 years ago from Newport Beach

      Bobbi, Thank you so much for sharing that! Your Aunt Dora sounds wonderful. My aunt and I talked every Sunday on the phone and then on Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I called to ask her what to do because I thawed the turkey too early! She told me they used to keep the turkey on the back stairwell for a week, so not to worry. She decided to make the whole turkey dinner for her daughter, her son-in-law, and her grandson and his wife on Thanksgiving - "just to see if I can still do it." She did, and on Friday, we talked and laughed that 2000 miles apart we were both taking aspirins for all the fuss and bother we went through cooking the dinner! On Sunday morning, my cousin found my Aunt Marion lying on the living room floor, collapsed in pain. She died this Saturday. Enjoy your time with your Aunt Dora as you give her the wonderful gift of your presence!

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 5 years ago from Florida


      That was such a beautiful story about your aunt, so sweetly written with words of love.

      My favorite Aunt Dora is 88 years old. And she sparkles and shines with love and a positive attitude. She is our second mother and she has liver cancer---but that does not stop her from going.

      She is taking my sister and I to lunch on Tuesday. We spoil her all year taking her out to eat and shopping and at Christmas time she takes us out.

      I voted beautiful and awesome.

      Bobbi Purvis