Thursday, August 14, 2014
Two Excellent Women; Janet Coulter and Marie Fanakos
The 14th and 15th of August are bittersweet days for me. A young friend of mine, Janet Coulter, was killed on the 14th 40 years ago in a freak car accident. She had just recovered her health after being in the hospital nearly a year, and was riding home from her job in a fastfood restaurant. She was my next door neighbor's great niece; Charlotte, our neighbor, lived to be 106. Janet and I would write, and she would visit her aunt during the summer. She was from a little town in a very rural community. We talked about farms, and boys, and music. She still liked dolls, and the summer we were ten we played Barbies in twilight. We used illustrated books as backdrops for doll houses, some were books about dolls, and they made a great stage. We caught fire flies in jars, and let them go, and watched the sun set. I have a couple photos, her letters, and two necklaces her mother gave me, and the memories that are never far from my heart. My grandma Marie was born August 15th, a holy day commemorating the Assumption of the Virgin. She, my great grandmother Margo on my dad's side, and my friend, Rosemary, are the three truly good, guileless people I've known. They never lost their tempers, never were vain, never said a bad thing about anyone. Grandma Marie sufferred her whole life; as a child, she had no toys, and went to school at 11 to learn to be a seamstress. She wore black because her father died when she was a little girl. She sufferred from ill health, World War II, the deaths of two children, her mother, her mother -in-law who was her best friend, and the death of my Grandpa Steve. She taught me Greek, though she had no former schooling past age 11. She was magnificient with her crochet hook, creating her own designs and pictures, never using a pattern. She baked, but not Greek pastires, rather she made cherry pie and chocolate chip cookies. She loved poems, and cut them out with her pinking shears from Greek newspapers. She would make little books by fastening her poems together with safety pins. She married grandpa Steve through an arrangement, and they met in Paris. She had a complete French trousseau. After the War, they came back to Villa Grove, IL, and resumed their business, Fanakos Bros. Restaurant. During the Depression, when transients would come to beg for food, she would make them fried egg sandwiches and ask if they wanted mustard. She always crossed herself when she passed a church, and she heated our dog's meat scraps so he wouldn't eat cold food. Before I started school and everyone moved across country but for me and my parents, I stayed with her and grandpa Steve. It was the best time in my life. I helped her bake, and plant flowers. We took little walks, and she told me stories and sang. She never complained, even when she broke her hip in a car acccident the day before Christmas Eve that nearly killed all of us. No matter what pain she suffered, she never let on. She would just pick up a quilt, or her crochet hook. Grandma Marie was famous for disliking nudity. She cut the photos out of certain Nataional Geographics, and if I left a naked doll lying around, it would have dress sewn for it by morning. She asked my uncle, who was an artist, to paint outfits on the Greek Figures on the vases and plates my family collected. After the war, she and the rest of my family travelled. They brought back lots of dolls, and two of those started my doll collection. Grandma loved dolls, but never had any when she was little; she worked all the time, and they were too poor. She also wore pins on special occasions, and that started me wearing them, and collecting them. She died in 1981, and I miss her everyday. My grandpa Steve died in 1979. My mother, her sister,my great grandparents, two uncles, and that little aunt who died in infancy are with her. If there were prizes given for being excellent women, she would have won them all. I miss you, Yia-yia.