Wilton Warrior Words: The smiley qualities of Mimi

Madeline Pennino

Madeline Pennino

Hearst Connecticut Media

Time in quarantine has put much into perspective for me, and I hope many of my peers. Yes, there are disappointments like our potentially canceled school year, and our day-to-day teenage hysterics have been replaced by inescapable dad jokes and 90’s pop jam sessions, (which are not all bad, I must say). However, all this time at home with immediate family has caused me to reflect on the experiences of my grandparents over their lifetimes.

My family lost our 111-year-old Great-Grandma Gigi this past fall, and had she lived through this spring, she could have said that she lived to see the establishment of the 19th Amendment, two world wars, (while getting a college degree, working as a gym teacher, getting married and having two children), the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam and Cold Wars, retired for 50 years, watched the Cubs win the World Series again after 108 years, witnessed six grandkids grow and have families of their own, enjoy the company of 11 great-grandchildren, the Spanish flu and Coronavirus pandemic.

In a sense, this pandemic is my generation’s first “world war,” but instead we’re not fighting each other; we, the world, are fighting a virus, and we’re tackling it together.

Now I am, of course, not implying that everything is going smoothly from country to country in regards to decision making for the sake of people’s health. I am not by any means saying these are “easier” times than my Gigi experienced, I am simply observing that my Gigi lived through many great events in world history, and this is my generation’s first “great” event, and unlike past events, (generally speaking) the world shares a common goal of controlling and stopping the spread of this virus.

I’ve thought of my grandma, Mimi, too. She is forgivably technologically challenged, so communicating with her frequently is quite difficult, and setting up “Zooms” or “Google Chats” is nearly impossible, (my family has succeeded once). As frustrating as this conversation “lag” might be, I still think of Mimi frequently.

Since I was four years old, every time Mimi visited she took my Poppop, herself, my younger sister Annabelle and me into town center. My Poppop always bought a newspaper from the Village Market and sat reading in the Good Morning Nail & Spa’s waiting area while Mimi, Annabelle and I treated ourselves to a manicure — and sometimes pedicures, too!

Fourteen years and two more sisters later, every time I enter Good Morning’ the owners ask me, “How’s grandpa? Where’s grandma?” Sometimes I go just to hear them ask, it makes me feel like Mimi’s with me for every manicure — good colors, or not!

Everywhere Mimi goes, anyone who meets her remembers her — it’s hard not to. Mimi talks to total strangers as if they were lifelong friends. You can’t help but laugh and feel comfortable with her by the charming way she chuckles in the middle of a story about another person no one has ever met either.

When Annabelle and I were little, every summer we stayed a week at “Camp Mimi and Poppop.”

We loved walking around Mimi’s quaint New Hampshire town counting the ceramic painted cows along the main street and visiting local blueberry farms. During our “quiet” time, Annabelle and I found it odd that Mimi and Poppop enjoyed reading newspapers instead of playing Doll House with us, or watching TV. One day, Poppop showed us all the interesting topics there were to read, and Mimi taught us how to do the crossword puzzles and Sudoku on the back page. Man, they were fun! So fun I thought I should write my own.

My next mission neglected the ceramic cows, and didn’t have the time for blueberry picking: I was on the hunt for newspaper-worthy stories! Mimi walked us around town where we photographed and documented the occurrences of any willing townspeople. By the end of the day, Poppop found me perfectly thin, off-white paper to write about the jewelry shop owner’s many costumers that day, a review on a local diner’s delicious pancakes (10/10), discuss where and why the construction was taking place in the middle of town, and of course, I left room for a crossword puzzle and Sudoku (everyone knows it’s not a good newspaper without games at the end).

In all my recent time to reflect, I realized it was Mimi’s desire to integrate herself into communities and my grandparents’ love for newspapers that made me love writing as much as I do. After all, like Mimi, I love to know what’s happening in my community and other places as well. I want to stay updated on other people and places lives through the media, and I want to be a part of updating others too. I suppose, that’s how I am where I am right now: sitting in my room, writing on a Thursday night — updating, informing, and smiling, of course.

Hopefully you can think of your sociable Mimis — and Poppops and Gigis — and smile too.

Madeline Pennino is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.