Drama Mama’s got “Queenie” with her

I found out I was having a daughter while back in Michigan, waiting for my grandmother Mimi to die. She’d been in a coma for days, and they’d predicted she’d not wake up again. I remember holding her tiny body – shrunken from her already diminutive 5′ 1″ state – and whispering the news to her that I was indeed carrying the girl we’d both long hoped for. The girl who bore the name we both already knew.

I know, I know – I’d sworn for years that I’d never have children. But I’d also laid claim to a beloved family name – that of my Mimi’s own mother. (I even warned cousins that I had ‘dibs’ on it.) See, I wanted my daughter to bear the name in honor of the many strong women who came before her.

And the strongest one of all? My Mimi. She may have only been a tiny thing – but she packed quite a punch, raising five children, teaching piano to scores of people over a 50-year-span in my home town, burying two husbands (both to devastating diseases) yet delighting everyone who knew her with her zest, enthusiasm for living – and her desire to play to a packed room.

We were always close – I lived with her during my early 20’s, and was privileged to serve as her ‘social secretary’ during her reign as Ms. Senior Michigan. Yep, my Mimi waltzed off to Atlantic City to be in the Ms. Senior America pageant – at the age of 80, no less – with a horde of family and even a local television film crew in her wake. And although she went never expecting to win (she thought the younger, more classically beautiful women had it sewn up), she had a marvelous time, got the crowd on their feet with a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, come-to-Jesus rendition of “Sinner Man” (yeah, my Mim got down), and nabbed both the Talent and the Congeniality award, if I remember correctly.

She definitely had a touch of the regal (sound familiar?) about her – she persisted in signing her return address with the line “Ms. Senior Michigan 1988″, and we jokingly began calling her “Queenie.”

And now here she was, huddled in a hospital bed, ready to leave us.

I’d told her years before that I wanted to give her eulogy at her funeral. And, as we waited for her to die, I had The Father retrieve a card she’d given me when I graduated from high school eons ago from a box here in Oregon and send me the text via email. I included it in the eulogy:

I think her words best illustrate the depth of her compassion…the solid foundation her faith gave her…and most of all, the wisdom and insight that sprang both from her experience and her passion for living. I would urge all of you to listen to her and take her advice to heart.

She wrote:

Use your special gift to help others, as well as yourself, and when you “cast your bread upon the waters,” it always comes back. I have found through all my years, this is a truth – not just an adage. I am so pleased and proud of you now.

But I also have a feeling of strong faith, that I will be more proud of you and your abilities as the years go by. The labor may be hard, but time flies as you grow, and the rewards are great. And every sorrow you may feel along the way, helps you grow stronger.

I read this in the fly leaf of a Young Postulant’s missal, left in the front (nun’s pew) of a small Chapel – the missal was a gift to her daughter, with the mother’s signature on the bottom. It read: “Remember always, God uses people, persons, places and things to bring about his Holy Will for you – think about that during your daily life.”

Mimi added: Sometimes, things happen to you that seem irrelevant until a matter – unsettled tho’ it might seem – suddenly falls into place. Not in the way you prayed, begged and asked for it. It just finally materialized and as you look back, you realize the past chain of events – the people you met, the places you have been, the things you did – somehow summed it all up, for you.

I miss my Mimi every day, even though she’s been gone for a little over seven years now. But every time I look into my daughter’s face, I see her eyes, and her sparkle for life. I hear her voice every time my daughter sings, and we all know she’s watching Drama Mama’s every move and clapping her hands with glee – most especially at the the dramatic moves (she’d get a huge kick about the autograph saga, she would.)

I know that the name I gifted DM with blesses her with the spirit of the many strong women who came before her – and they live on in her, even now.

And I was very very happy to hear my Mimi again last night, in the voice of a little girl who lives her life in song.


  1. Wow, Betsy. That is a beautiful piece of writing. Wonderful, really. Definitely a keeper for little Miss Drama Mama…. oh, and a belated WooHoo! for her knockout performance.

  2. […] If I ever needed a reason to blog, well – I just got one. I got an amazingly beautiful letter yesterday in email from a former piano student of my grandmother’s. She’d been in search of the title of the song my grandma sung at the Ms. Senior America pageant in 1988, did a Google search, and found this post. She found the title she was looking for, I got even more memories of my Mimi, and we both got a good cry out of the deal, it seems. […]

  3. […] But do I have to hang up my gwumpkie apron? By Betsy My daughter loves hearing me recite her heritage – the many ancestors from many different countries that make up who she is. She talks often of wishing relatives she’s never ever met before (most who died before she was ever born) were at important family functions. And my own mom and her siblings marvel at just how both DM’s looks and her spirit remind them of their own beloved mother (I see the resemblance daily myself…) […]

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