It's not an excerpt from one of my novels or a short story. It's not fiction or fantasy or about a cheese man. It's the story of a very special woman. I don't know if I'll do the story justice, but I'm going to try my best.
This woman's name was Yolanda. She was one of eight children. She was born on January 21, 1922. She lived most of her life in a lovely old row house in Brooklyn.
|This is not Yolanda, but her youngest grandchild|
Yolanda married a wonderful man named Frank. She loved her parents and adored her father-in-law. She thought her mother-in-law was a witch.
|Yolanda and Frank's wedding photo|
|Yolanda's five grandchildren. Recognize the squalling baby? You should.|
Both of Yolanda's children moved to New Jersey to raise their families. Yolanda eventually found her way out there, too, but not for many years to come, not until her health prevented her from living on her own and she moved in with her son. She lived by herself in that old Brooklyn row house, but she was never really alone. Her family could be found all around the neighborhood; her nieces and nephews, her brothers and sisters, many of them still lived in Brooklyn, some just down the street from her. But it wasn't just family that she could rely on for company. Yolanda was a woman with a vibrant personality, a kind heart, and a wicked sense of humor, and she made friends wherever she would go. She treated strangers like friends, and friends like family. Almost everyone who knew her called her Aunt Yo, and they meant it.
|Now leaving Brooklyn. Fuhgeddaboudit|
|The squalling baby, just a little bit older|
When Yo moved in with her son, I'm sure that she regretted not being able to stay in her old Brooklyn neighborhood. I'm sure she missed the schoolchildren that called her Aunt Yo and her frequent visitors, but she was able to spend much more time with her grandchildren. Her daughter's family didn't live too far away, so they were able to see her more often than they could while she was in Brooklyn. Her youngest granddaughter, a teenager now, was able to drive up to see her, and they would play cards, or watch old movies, or watch game show reruns together. But living with her son's family also allowed Yo to be there when her first three great-grandchildren were born, and I'm sure she would have considered that an even trade.
|Yup, the squalling baby and the girl on the steps are me.|
I've always been jealous of those people that have memories of being in the kitchen with their Italian grandmother, learning to cook at their elbow. The only thing I ever cooked with her were those meatballs, the little ones made just for me. But I still think that I learned my love of cooking from her. She taught me that food was something to be savored, enjoyed, and shared with the people that you love. She taught me that the easiest way to show someone you care is to feed them good food. She taught me that the kitchen is the place for love, laughter, and family.
|My grandmother, chugging champagne on New Year's Eve. We're classy like that.|
|The day of the wake, clear as day, there was a rainbow.|