Our older people don’t mean any harm. Some are lonely and some are bored. They just need some attention and TLC.
One of the most valuable treasures in my life was my grandmother, my mama’s mama. To most she was Helen Montesi but we all called her Mimi. She was my playmate, my second mama, my protector and my warm safe place. She was unique and beautiful to me. She was everything.
When I was a kid, she made me clothes. She made my dolls clothes. She did needle work and liked to crochet some. I think she could make anything from anything. She used to tell me a story of how she won a sewing contest at Hale School when she was a kid. She had made a dress out of a flour sack. How cool is that. I think I get some of my craftiness from her.
As years past, her hands prevented her from crocheting and doing a lot of sewing but she found other ways to put her creative spin on her things. She could be dangerous with a can of spray paint and she was the queen of repurposing. She repainted ceramic vases to fit her decor. She sprayed picture frames to suit her liking. She even painted the iron security door with a brush to freshen it up.
I think I have this trait because I tend to do the same thing. Before I throw something away, I will find something to do with it or paint to suit.
Mimi was a great cook, too. She could whip up something great from whatever was in the kitchen. She and my grandfather used to make homemade ravioli. She made a lot of them and would store them in layers in a shirt box and keep them in the freezer. Those were for special holidays. We adored her pasta and gravy. Her gravy was full of all kinds of meat; pork, roast beef, chicken, Italian sausage and the best meatballs this side of the Mississippi.
It was strange though that as we all sat down to eat the pasta portion of our dinner, all she would eat was one ravioli and a meatball. I watched her do this on many family dinners and when I got older, I asked her why she didn’t eat more. She said she had to taste the pasta, but she didn’t particularly like pasta cause she ate it almost everyday as a kid. I’m sure there was probably more to that story but she never expanded and I left it alone. That story died with her.
She came from a big family, nineteen brothers and sisters. She had lots of stories about when they were kids. How they played. Food they ate. Work they did. She had stories about going to see relatives in Chicago. She always said she would take me one day. She never did and now I don’t want to go. Not without her. In my heart that should have been our trip.
After she died and we were cleaning out the house, in some drawers I found letters and pictures that I had never seen before. I found letters she wrote Senator Eastland trying to get my grandfather home from the service because the family needed him to run the farm and store. I never knew she had to do that. She had taken charge of the situation and was doing what she needed to do to take care of her family.
The dining room buffet was her hiding space for money she left for me every Sunday when I was in college because she thought my mama wasn’t giving me enough spending money. So I kept the dining room furniture when she passed to keep that memory. Inside that old buffet I found a box of old photos. The pictures were black and white and most of the people I did not recognize. But I did find a good photo of my grandparents when they were young. It was their wedding photo.
The most interesting photo was one of Mimi in a one piece swimming suit. She was wading in the ocean. I love this photo. It is a picture of Mimi in a situation that I have never thought of her being in. I have it in one of those trays you can but photos in. Mimi would probably kill me if she knew I had it out, but I just love it.
I could go on and on tell you stories of different aspects of Mimi’s life. You see how cool this lady was. Granted I am biased since I was her oldest granddaughter but I think all of our seniors have interesting stories to tell, especially those who fought for our freedom.
It’s a shame life gets in the way and we don’t pay attention. Maybe it’s time for us to start.
Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial.