She was maybe 4 1/2 feet tall, and maybe the same around. Her hair alternated between a lovely blue or violet hue. Everyday she put on her makeup, hose, corset, dress and jewelry, and left for daily Mass. She was French Canadian, if I didn’t mention that. Mabel Perry Wells. Just one of my story-rich family. Our matriarch.
She believed that love came from the kitchen, and none that I know of ever contradicted that premise. The perfect grandmother, Mimi had a soft lap, large bosom, and all the time of the we needed. She was earthy – but we didn’t know that until adults ourselves – funny, strong. Devoted to her family and all little children.
As a teenager, learning in her kitchen, she said these pearls of wisdom. “Learn to cook well, cuz we ugly-up early.” And I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time. Because she cooked the most amazing food and was just as beautiful.
She laughed as hard as she worked. She could make crying babies coo, plants grow larger, and her non-stop fingers created something beautiful non-stop, like a spider spins her web. Jewelry, lace, crocheting, baby layettes, embroidery, painted ties, crocheted doll clothes, ceramics, cookies, fudge, meals for neighbors, canned jewels from the garden … I never saw her idle. Yet I never remember her not sitting down with me, reading a book, painting my nails, spinning a tale and as I grew older, listening to my myriad problems that growing up, marriage and children bring with them. And how she lifted my first baby into her arms, lost in all but the awe of Beth.
I don’t know how she did it all. Widowed 2 times, living on next to nothing. But on nights like tonight, when my imagination takes me rushing to how life will play out, or my frustration at not being able to cook any more and still uglying up, of being sad that my dream of a good, loving partner being with me isn’t ever happening, the years of working like a dervish to be reduced to poverty, I wonder what she would say to me. Because I know she’s heard my pity parties, or brushed back my hair when in a nightmare, plastered across my forehead and neck. And, hidden in the back corner of the freezer I know if I looked, would be the emergency world’s-best fudge.
Mimi? Tell Papa it’s me, Vicki.
This is Beth in Mimi’s kimono and nightie. Mim did magic, having come from poverty. Bep was able to wear the nightie until she was over one year old, by a couple of clips here and there. Andrea got her own layette too, sewn on Mim’s treadle sewing machine, with her rheumatoid burdened hands.