It simmered and simmered, slowly taking shape. I didn’t rush it because I wanted to get it right and so I allowed myself the luxury of spending hours thinking about how to step into this new role that I would be adding to my others. Daughter, wife, sister, sister-in-law, mother, daughter-in-law, and mother-in-law, but for the first time I was able to choose what I would be called. Like sorting through a closet when going somewhere special, I tried on grandma, bubbie, nanny, safta, saftush, but none quite fit. As in so many other parts of my life, I wanted something worn, something old, something that not only had character but had history, and that thing I love most, some connection. Then in the middle of one night, at about 3 a.m., just a few weeks before our granddaughter was born, I chose Mima, deciding to pay tribute to the woman who saved my mother’s life.
During the war my mother’s paternal aunt Dina Rosen, came to my grandmother and told her that she was going to try to get into a work camp, hoping against all odds that she’de have a better chance of surviving the war that way. Dina wanted to take her two youngest nieces with her. My grandmother let my mother go, but not the baby of the family. With that single act of bravery, Dina saved her own life as well as my mother’s. To us, she wasn’t brave, or heroic, she was just “the Mima.”
Little did I know that our granddaughter would be named Manya after my mother, and so it feels right that she has a Mima just as her namesake did. My Mima was the only grandparent figure I had, and although I wouldn’t describe her as being overly demonstrative, I could feel her love, especailly towards my mother who she continued to protect, adore, and treat like a daughter for the rest of her life. By extension, I too was treated more like a grandchild than a great-niece.
Manya may choose her own name for me one day, but for now, when I call myself Mima, I think of my Mima, of her strength, her love and her bravery, and when I say Manya, I am reminded of my mother who was the object of so much love, from every member of the family. Manya started life with four grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others who love and adore her. How lucky she is, and may it always be so.
Today was just the kind of day that brings back memories, cloudy, gray, with an occasional drizzle. It made me feel hopeful that the weather is changing, and so I put on a pot of soup, golden in color, slightly sweet in taste. It feels a little bit like fall.
1 medium Kabocha squash
1 medium brown onion, coarsely diced
2 carrots, cut into large dice
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Using a sharp knife, cut squash into chunks. Toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 450 degree oven till tender and brown. In a soup pot, add olive oil along with diced carrots, onion and celery and cook over high heat till vegetables are translucent. Using a large spoon, remove squash meat from skin and add to soup pot. Add about 5 cups of water, or stock, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover pot with lid. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Puree soup, adjust seasoning and add a dash of cinnamon. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serves 6-8