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Thinking of Mamie
By Beth Shapiro, Executive Director
May 10, 2018
As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think of the important women in my life.
I remember being awed every time I cooked with my grandmother Stella, a strong woman who would take hot pans out of the oven with her bare hands. She bore the hardship of raising younger siblings in a two-bedroom apartment after her own mother died when she was just 19.
My other grandmother, Sara, had a dress shop in Brooklyn. One of my fondest memories was getting to use the sewing chalk. The women who worked there were often covered in chalk dust, and I always was made to feel important and loved.
I’m grateful for my own mother whose compassion and generous nature inspire almost everything I do, including my work at Citymeals.
And I think of Mamie – the first Citymeals recipient I ever met, more than ten years ago. She lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where my grandmother Stella lived. Then 85, and a retired chambermaid at a famous hotel in Manhattan, Mamie sat on a chair in the kitchen. Her sneakers, held together by duct tape, rested on the ragged linoleum floor. The apartment was dark and stuffy – but Mamie’s radiance was undeniable.
Mamie spoke fondly to me of her family, all long gone. She laughed, recalling evenings of dinner in the kitchen with good friends and her husband, Nathaniel. They enjoyed 37 years together until his death in 1981. Mamie had lived alone since he died. Barely able to walk, she had rarely left her apartment since 1997. Her only child died in 2003.
Sixty-six percent of our meal recipients are women. And most of them, like Mamie, have the same memories of family as we do, but no one to share them with.
I remember as Mamie looked down at her torn sneakers and the chicken dinner I’d brought, and admitted, “I need shoes. I worry about my rent, my phone, my medical bills. But Citymeals is so wonderful. I couldn’t afford food otherwise.”
Bringing a nourishing meal right to her door allowed Mamie to stay in the home that held so many memories for her. And I hope the regular knock on the door reminded her that she was not forgotten behind a closed door.