Mimi with Peanut, Bean and Monkey Man June 2008
Once, when I was three I spit in my grandmother’s face. She promptly slapped me across the room without even thinking. It was reflex. She apologized, I’m sure. And laughed. That’s the way things were. That was Mimi. She was truly a phenomenal woman.
Born in farm country in upstate
in 1928, she was number 11 of 12 children. Food was scarce and shoes and clothes were even harder to find. But that was where she was raised. In a family where mom was a seamstress and older sisters were up and married before she was even born. She worked in a Cotton Mill from the time she was sixteen. Running between the machines to thread them as they spun the cotton. Phenomenal. She worked from then on. South Carolina
She got married. It must have been love. He was 25 years older than her. They opened a grocery store with a gas station. It survived the flux of cars in the 60s, the gas shortage of the 70s. She bartered with the gas truck men to get them to sell her gas. She lost her husband in 1977. Perseverance. Solid as a rock. Unwavering. Those are the words I would use to describe her. Hard as nails. Practical business woman. Those are words you’d hear others use. Phenomenal.
I remember playing at her house. Getting yelled at for running up and down the hall for the millionth time. I remember the smell of spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove. I remember ham, potato salad, mac n cheese, and boiled eggs on Easter. Hide and seek with my cousins and watching recorded. Disney movies on VHS. Christmas Reunions with presents, food and fancy dresses. Always fancy dresses. It was a requirement to sit around at Christmas, eat lots of messy foods and ruin a perfectly wonderful dress. And I loved it. Every minute. Pretending there were monsters under the bed, listening to Casey Kasem on Sundays, and the pound cake. Phenomenal.
Every summer we had family reunions and we drove to
to have family reunions. We took lots of food and pound cake. We played baseball, we loved on each other, and we saw people who hadn’t seen us in five years that would say “My, my, how you’ve grown!” Chester, SC
April 3rd, we said goodbye to this amazing woman. My grandmother. Dorothy Bessie Lee Smith. Bessie Hill. Bessie Smith. Mom. Mimi. Tomorrow we lay her body to rest. But she’s been gone. She’s in heaven. With Jesus. Probably making sure angels are minding their Ps and Qs. Above all else that Jesus calls her; He will surely call her Phenomenal. How could he not? That’s what she is.