Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Since I spent a long day on campus yesterday, I didn't get to write very much here in honor of Mimmie's birthday, so I thought I would rectify that today.

 Mimmie and Ma in 1933

After Mimmie died, I told myself that I was lucky to have had her in my life for as long as I did, well into my adulthood, especially since I never knew my paternal grandmother at all; lucky to know her so well, not as some holiday and vacation grandma who lives in a distant state, as family relationships are today for so many others.

I reminded myself that she is in me when I bake apple pie, and take such pride in the end result, that my preference for staying home over traveling comes from her, my interest in gardening was shared with her (though she much preferred flowers to veggies), that reading a good book gives me the same pleasure as it did her.  I tried to remember to be thankful that she had lived as she wanted, pretty much independently and in her own place, until she had to stay with my parents so my mother could care for her, only a couple of months before she finally left us.

But still, during the summer of 1993, I looked around the world and it appeared to have changed in some subtle way.  The colors were different, I thought; the blue sky on a sunny day suddenly didn’t seem to be quite so vivid.
Unwrapping the objects my mother selected for me when she packed up the trailer, pausing to find a special place for a well-worn incense burner, a set of tea bag holders, and an elegant vase shaped to look like a dark-haired woman whom Mimmie often said resembled me, I came across the recipe box.  The index cards inside were in groups, rubber banded together, just like a database. Mimmie, whose lifestyle was old-fashioned, who lived without electricity and indoor plumbing long after most of her neighbors, nevertheless was a modern thinker. She believed in the future, and so transforming those neatly-written cards into an electronic database seemed natural.
Later that summer after she died, I dreamed I saw Mimmie again, in the kitchen of her mobile home.  She was tiny as ever, but without the extreme thinness of her last year.  In my dream, the trailer was located in a sloping unmowed field on the side of a mountain with evergreens scattered around.  We had tea and she told me everything was all right. When I awakened the next morning, the sky was robin’s egg blue.

Mimmie in 1980

Mimmie had her own special way of describing things, and she loved old sayings.  One of her favorites was this: Why is the Hudson such a deadly river?  Because it will kill fish (Fishkill) on the east side and it kills cats (Catskills) on the west side.

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