Chats with Mimi at 3am

When I was twenty-two, I would come home at 3am or so after a night of clubbing, and as I opened the door to walk up the stairs of our three-decker home, the door of the first floor flat would open simultaneously. It was my grandmother. She looked half asleep and her questions were always the same, “You just getting home?” “Yes, Grandma,” I’d reply.  “Are you hungry?” she would ask. “I could eat” always came from my mouth. That would be the beginning of a 2-hour conversation that was not only incredible, but also enlightening.

I was blessed beyond imagination. My grandmother existed for her children and grandchildren. Nothing else mattered; nothing else was important, not even her own dreams or desires. What made her happy was when we were happy. My grandmother derived satisfaction by living a life serving her family. This was a woman who had a full time job working piecework at a Boston sweatshop where she sewed clothes in a factory.  She came home, cleaned the house, made dinner and tended to all her family’s needs, without nannies or housecleaners – no help at all. I’m sure there are other women who sacrificed that way, and still do to some extent today, but that is a rare and exceptional woman. My grandmother was a force of nature.

She’d make pasta late night, or should I say early morning, because she wanted to make sure we didn’t go to bed on an empty stomach. She also wanted to make sure we were ok. But what came out of those sit-downs were great bonding conversations. Sometimes they were deep, other times they were nothing but laughs, but every time, the love was real and the conversations were genuine. No pretense, no phoniness, no pleasantries. Real, down to earth discussions about life, happiness, love, hardship, work ethic, loyalty, honor, and much of the time consisted of comedy and laughs.

It wasn’t a “one and done” experience. It wasn’t an aberration. These late night chats and meals were very common from the time I was 17 until I got married and moved out at 27. It was a decade of chats with Mimi (the name I called my grandmother). At times, it was just the two of us; other times my buddies were with me. But no matter what the time or how many people, Mimi was a constant, and there was always plenty of food and more than enough care. My pals still comment to this day about the remarkable experience, and how it left an impression on them.

I know I am not doing the experience justice. I realize that it could just be considered a nice gesture from a loving grandmother. But it was so much more than that. She provided an opportunity not only to show love, but also to instill beliefs and confidence. She completely gave of herself for our benefit and happiness. And because of this, I am not only eternally grateful, but also in awe of the absolute selfless attributes of my grandmother. Those conversations did more for a young man than all of the courses he took in college and most of the books he read. The giving was at a level that rivaled anything from any other purveyor. This was unconditional love to the max.

I hope that this experience is not alien to those of you reading this. If it is, I wish I had the eloquence to describe it more thoroughly and do it justice. You will have to just believe me that it had a remarkable effect on me and how I live my life.

Mimi, I am sure I did not say it enough, and I regret that it is too late now, but as you look down from your lofty spot up on high, please know that I am very grateful for your love and giving ways. Thank you; I love you more than I can say.


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  1. Very nice article, Lou. A loving tribute to an obviously saintly woman and wonderful family matriarch. Blessed!

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Thank you Bob. She was an incredible lady.

  2. Grace Ann Novello says:

    Your presence, dependability and love was thank you enough. What wonderful fond memories we all have because of her unselfish life. No one can understand this force unless you lived it. I’m grateful for this great experience and what her wisdom and kindness gave not only to me but to you and your sister. She is truly missed every day. Thank you for such a tribute to her. Your love is felt.

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      she was the best, who knows better than you. but man, I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side 🙂

  3. What a wonderful and heartfelt tribute! I could have shared a very similar story about “Mama.” She told us “one heart feels another.” Indeed Lou, you have been blessed in so many ways from that lovely relationship. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you. We were discussing her cooking for us late night and I knew I had to write about her. I also knew many would relate with there own grandmother. I hope the story triggered great memories of “Mama” for you.

      My best,

  4. First of all, I’m just gonna say it: you are an adorable kid.

    That said, I grew up with my grandmother. We moved in with her after my mom and dad divorced when I was three years old. I shudder to think of what my life would have been without her presence.

    What an anchor of love your grandmother provided for you. Blessed indeed. Thanks for sharing your story today.

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Thank you Molly.

      My grandparents were a solid foundation and a crucial part to my upbringing. I can’t imagine where I would be with out there influence. I appreciate your thoughts and I dont know what happened , because I was a cute kid.

      My best,

  5. Wow, Lou…you were not only an adorable kid but such a lucky one, too!

    Confession: while reading, my eyes were stinging with the attempt to squeeze back tears because you lived the longing of my youth. My Latin grandma who lived in the CO Rockies was very much like Mimi. Sadly, distance and death prohibited the creation of the memories that you experienced; she died when I was 17. Despite the few occasions our family made the trek from PA, whenever we arrived she would come flying out of their house to greet us, crying tears of joy. During any moment that I was ever in her presence, we truly communed and the bonding was extraordinary. She became a part of the very fabric of who I am. She lived to serve and service became a central value and one that I regard as the highest calling. It is my ego’s desire to have the opportunity to be the grandmother she was. Thanks for sharing, for making my heart well-up, and for the opportunity to get to know you better!


    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Jeanne,

      Thank you for your note. I am so sorry your time with your grandmother was cut short. It is great to see her memory and values still burn strong in you. In spending time with you I know she would be proud of who you have become. I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts.

      My best,

  6. Mr. Imbriano You have a gift of putting us there. My dad was a presser from Messina who took the bus from Medford at 4am to the garment district. He probably worked with Mimi. My mom a governess from East Germany all alone she escaped, came to Boston and met my dad. What they did for their grand kids. They all can pick muscles at the beach and periwinkles. They all can cook and do a heck of a laundry. My husband and I are both first generation and invested our children’s future with the best education. Some kids at their schools haven’t seen their parents in months, let alone grand parents. We don’t drive a fancy car but with the hard work ethic they showed us we invest in our kids and hope they remember all Nonno and Oma taught them. Beautiful piece of heritage you wrote. Thank you

  7. Paul Serino says:


    Great story. I can relate. My grandmother was very similar. She worked for Brigham’s candies for 37 years and never complained once. Her work ethic and words of wisdom were very inspiring.

    I doubt you’ll remember this but back in ’95 I was in the studio putting carts away (I doubt they even exist these days) and we were the only ones left at the station on Huntington Avenue that Wednesday as it was the night before Thanksgiving. I remember saying I need to make more money. I said $50K was my goal before I turned 30 as I was getting married. You stated “$50K”, you could make that in a deli and that I should shoot for the moon and not settle for that. 4 years later at age 29, I left and doubled that number by moving to sales and haven’t look back. What I’m saying is that you gave me the self confidence to believe in myself. I will never forget it!

    Your friend always,
    Paul Serino

  8. Kristen Martinage says:

    Lou, you had me a Mimi. Thanks for sharing!

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