Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Efficiently clearing my plate to do what? That is always the question that presents itself. What do I most want to spend time on? The choices are tantalizing.

Casting around for something to write here, considered the following:

1) I respect Meryl Streep, believe she is extremely talented and I like most of the movies she has been in, but I can't stand pretentious Hollywood awards programs. Yuck. "Greatest" is compared to what? I think Pollack said late 20th Century, fine, even no contest. But this morning a headline on AOL (that I now can't find) was asserting someone said greatest of all time? How could anyone alive possibly know? It seems so now-centric, as if all other times don't mean a thing. Or is that because it is so now-centric that the comparison is early or mid 20th Century (ie, Katharine Hepburn)? And what's with the sexist greatest actress stuff anyway? Hasn't language evolved so that those in the craft prefer just "actor" for both genders now?

2) In other Hollywood news, Cheetah, a chimp who might have been in Tarzan movies, has died at a sanctuary at age 80. I never watched Tarzan, hardly watched TV as a kid, in fact. But still, this seems notable. For me, because of the animal, of course. The pictures show a wonderful elderly face. I wanted to learn more, was frustrated by the dearth of information. Discovered that much of this is "alleged;" some insist chimps can't live to be 80, others assert the roles were composites, records were poor or nonexistent, and there is no way to know if any particular chimp was in a movie. Regardless, there is not much on this Cheetah, except that he was undoubtedly old, lived in a Florida sanctuary (that seems to have been started by retired circus performers), and died recently. The detective in me is fired up. It should be relatively easy to discover if he did indeed come to the sanctuary from Johnny Weissmuller's estate fifty years ago, wouldn't you think?

The absence of details reminded me of what I wrote here, about Myrtle McSpirit.

And that reminds me of this, from A Visit with Mimmie: Catskill Mountain Recipes:

Ann K. Eckert, 88. How can someone's life be reduced to a couple of inches and a small headline in a newspaper column? There seems to be nothing odd, aside from the obvious, about obituaries until a loved one dies, and then a front-page story is not enough.

Among Mimmie's possessions, my mother discovered an old photograph and a letter. Mimmie is about seventeen years old in the photo and she is with a young man. Years later, in 1938, long after she had married and moved to West Shokan, Arthur Johnson wrote to her and enclosed the picture.

I have a copy of a cookbook which is inscribed: "To Gina on her Wedding Day. With much love and many happy memories of the good times we have had together. Mimmie." And from several years later, a letter: "Hope you will have a very Happy Anniversary. It will be your seventh won't it? As you know I am very happy with my granddaughter and her husband "A lovely couple."

Mimmie. That single word says more to me than a front-page story ever could. I have been told that "mimmie" was coined by my oldest brother, too little to say the word "grandma" clearly. And so she was "Mimmie" to us, and never "Grandma."

Inspired by Mimmie's wedding gift to me, by the collection of recipes which my mother gave me after Mimmie's death in 1993, and by Mimmie's occupation as a cook, I originally envisioned a cookbook. The text soon began to lead me as I wrote it, "over the river and through the woods." It took shape, becoming an account of rural life, a guidebook of household hints, gardening ideas and delicious recipes.

But this transformation is appropriate. Mimmie was a fine cook; she loved flowers; and to her, cleanliness truly was close to Godliness. Most important of all, she was an avid reader until shortly before her death, when failing eyesight prevented enjoyment of her favorite hobby. Those of us who shared her love for reading would recommend a book, or take a recommendation; later we would steal happy moments, sitting at her kitchen table in the sanctuary of her home, discussing its contents.

"Janette came to visit me a few days ago, and brought me the book you gave her for her birthday, Ironweed. I have finished it and thought it interesting. I gave her the one to read that you gave me by Patti Davis. I thought that very good and enjoyed it."

Mimmie rarely went out; she preferred to be home with her cats and her plants and her books. For someone with so focused a view, her taste in books was broad, and included both fiction and non-fiction. She devoured the books we brought her, whether they were mysteries, romance novels, household hints, humor, best sellers or academic publications. She especially enjoyed biographies of former politicians.

What is the single most important thing that you are doing now? "I guess the most important is visiting with Anna. Certainly that seems like it's most important. That's real. Books isn't (laughs), which is what I like to do next. I think I feel better if I've visited with her for three or four hours, then she went home all happy, then I set there reading a book."

"Still read a little, read a good book about Lincoln that (Aunt) Jean sent me. Never got the book you wrote about, The Beans. But will this winter."

"No books at the present time. Miss you."

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