25: the year in which I become more like Mimi

25: the year in which I become more like Mimi

I turn 25 on Sunday. I’ve been struggling to come up with some pithy, witty way to celebrate here: 25 things I’ve learned in this quarter-century, 25 incredible things I’m going to do this year, 25 favorite moments of the past year.

Mimi Paist and Christine

But when it comes down to it, 25 is just a new year after 24–and I’m so excited for it.

24 will always was be the year that Mimi‘s cancer came back with a vengeance. It was the year of driving her to infusions, and then letting her sleep instead of kissing her good-bye the night before I drove across the country. It was the months of waiting for the call, lighting candles in cathedrals in France and wondering if I should buy a souvenir from Croatia and crossing my fingers I’d be able to tell her about Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah.

Mimi Paist with a Tokyo Sunset

I had just returned from a perfect beach day at Taboga Island when I saw the voicemail, had just taken a shower and rinsed off the sand and the salt water. In the shower, I had thought about how unfair it was that some people died so young when other people lived far longer than they wanted, when their body (that has already failed them in so many ways) just won’t give up. I had decided long ago that when the call came, I wouldn’t go home: but regret and guilt will always tinge those quiet moments at sunrise in the San Blas Islands.

Cancer is one of those things that… It changes people. The pain eats away at the person, at their family. You watch the struggle, wishing you could do something and realizing that you can’t. Sometimes, even the small comforts you offer won’t be enough to overshadow the agony. You realize what a blessing it is to have a body that works, one that lets you sleep through the night and wake up without pain and enjoy a glass of orange juice and a bowl of cereal.

Mimi and Poppy Paist on their engagement day

24 was the year when I learned to be grateful. To realize how lucky I was to have 23 good years with a woman who taught me how to bake, ride a bike, be a lady and to appreciate the things she left behind: the most stunning sequined jacket, crocheted baby blankets carefully folded with a note for “someday,” her engagement photo that wears a vintage filter that Instagram will never be able to replicate. I laughed when I recently tried to make cornbread in an unfamiliar kitchen without measuring cups: of course it would fail. The first thing Mimi taught me in baking was to measure precisely and read the entire recipe before you begin.

Learning to bake almond cookies with Annie

So, 25. I want to bake more. I don’t want to forget the nuances of the complicated, from-scratch recipes for pizzelles and almond cookies and nut quiches–or the near-meditation that comes in the repetition, the dexterity, the precision. Mimi would bring her homemade specialities to the bank tellers and the call center workers, making friends for life because it truly showed she cared. I want to always have chocolate chippers on hand for neighbors, and always tell them to take two–one for each hand. I want to celebrate birthdays with icebox cake or cheese pie.

I took after my grandfather. Although he passed away of a heart attack when I was 11, plenty have remarked that my mom and I are just like Poppy: we’re straightforward, we’re hard-working, we get what we want.

But this year, I want to be more like Mimi. I want to be kinder, whether that’s with a plate of homemade cookies or being extra nice to the grocery check-out girl. I want to appreciate the beauty of nature, even if it’s just the flowers on my nightstand and the birds outside my window. I want to be frugal so that I can really enjoy the splurges, really make them count. I want to keep writing letters, but maybe work on making my handwriting not only more legible but also pretty.

The only thing I regret is that I was never able to tell her–a woman born and bred in the frigid winters of Pennsylvania, a woman who escaped to Florida beaches in retirement, who hesitantly moved to California as a widow–that I, a true California girl at heart, survived my first East Coast winter. That, I think she would have been proud of.

Note: I’m flying to Iceland tonight for a week. Instead of stressing out about scheduled posts and scheduled tweets (I have enough of that to do over at ONA!), I’m taking the week off to take photos, soak in the Blue Lagoon, snorkel under the midnight sun, catch up with my best and RELAX. Thank you for understanding! 

p.s. Mimi was my grandmother who taught me plenty about traveling.

  • Christine it sounds like 25 years is making you pretty wise. Your grandmother seems like she was a wonderful role model. Hope you enjoy your birthday and your time in Iceland.

  • Sounds like she lived a long, beautiful and rich life. Couldn’t hope for anything more. Have a wonderful birthday in Iceland!

  • This was a beautiful post and inspiring tribute, friend. Thanks for sharing it with us. Happy happy birthday and have a wonderful time in Iceland! I’ll be stalking your instagrams religiously. Xoxo.

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    I had tears in my eyes reading this. My grandpa was the one who taught me to love travel, but it was my grandma – the one who passed from lung cancer when I was only 9 – who taught me to be tough and gracious (and always brush my teeth before bed, no matter how tired I was). What a way to start your 25th year!

  • Lindsay Lewis-Thomas

    What a great post. My grandmother’s name is “Mimi” as well. She’s 93 and still trucking. She’s a tank! My mother (her daughter) wasn’t so lucky. She passed away from Pancreatic cancer a year and a half ago, and it shattered my world. You’re so right about how cruel cancer is and how much it changes a person. The worst thing I’ve ever been through (and probably will ever go through) in my life was watching cancer consume my mom’s organs from the inside, watching her exist in excruciating pain and a morphine-induced mental haze during her last weeks, hoping fruitlessly that the cancer would somehow disappear. Life is so cruel. But from this horridly painful experience, I’ve also learned to never take anything for granted and have stepped into a new, intentionally focused life, never again willing to waste time and energy on anything but pursuing and realizing my dreams. To the ones we love…may they live forever through us and on and on….

  • James Harrell

    I just turned 25 too, and didn’t know quite what to do. I’m glad to see that you’ll be more like your grandmother. She seems like an amazing woman!

  • Marie

    Happy birthday in advance! I’ve been a long time reader, and your blog played a big part in my decision to pick up my life and move to France a few years ago. Hope 25 has a lot of happiness in store for you 🙂

  • camorose

    Thank you!

  • camorose

    Thanks lady! Plenty of Instagram fun to come!

  • camorose

    Haha yes–I think it was Mimi who was a stickler for brushing my teeth before bed too! Thanks for the kind words.

  • camorose

    Exactly–not something I’d wish on anyway, but it’s definitely a powerful reminder of all that we have when we have our health.

  • What a beautiful tribute! Also, such a personal way to make a goal for the upcoming year! Happy early birthday! And I hope you have a wonderful time in Iceland!

  • 1) I have tears in my eyes, what a gorgeous post!
    2) You look SO much like your grandfather.
    3) 25 was such a hard Birthday for me. Much harder than 30.
    4) You’re soooo young!
    5) Have the BEST time in Iceland. Such a great country!!!
    6) Happy early Birthday!
    7) Your grandmother sounds like she was such an amazing soul.

  • Julie W

    Such a sweet tribute. Happy 25!

  • Nevin

    A beautiful tribute and beautiful photos. A meaningful way to ring in another birthday – even though I never met her I have no doubt that she’d be so proud of all you’ve accomplished this year, not to mention surviving a ‘real’ winter! I’ll raise a glass to you and Mimi tonight! xxx

  • This is such a beautiful post, Christine. I know your Mimi would be so proud of you. My grandmother passed away from Cancer when I was 17 and it definitely changed my life, how I view the world, and the person I wanted to be too. I hope you had a wonderful 25th.

  • camorose

    Thank you! Iceland was an amazing start to 25 🙂

  • camorose

    Thank you thank you thank you lady! Hopefully our paths will cross this year as well 🙂

  • camorose

    Thank you!

  • camorose

    Thanks lady! Can’t wait to raise a glass WITH you this weekend xxx

  • camorose

    Thank you!

  • This is a beautiful piece of writing, and a touching portrait of your
    grandmother. It’s wonderful to read about how she shaped the person you
    are today and the person you hope to be.

  • camorose

    Thank you, Emma!

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  • budgetjan

    So beautifully written, Mimi would be and is proud I am sure. Happy Birthday.

  • This is so beautiful. You look so much like her. Happy Birthday! To Mimi!

  • camorose

    Thank you 🙂

  • camorose

    Thank you so much 🙂

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