Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Annie says,

Filed in Stories, voices :: January 6, 2011

My maternal grandmother, Anne Ferrara Jones, died on December 28, 1997.  I always think about her more than usual during this time of year.

This year, I’ve been thinking about her creative, authentic and joyful philosophy of life.

A little background.  Her parents, Italian immigrants, died in the flu epidemic of 1918, leaving behind five young children.  The children, including my grandmother, who was two years old at the time, were sent to the Mooseheart Orphanage in Mooseheart, Illinois.  Two of the siblings died there; none was adopted.  Anne lived there until she turned 18.  Conditions at Mooseheart were austere–she was thrilled to receive an orange in her Christmas stocking, often her only gift.  Until she retired in her sixties, she always worked hard, two jobs at a time when that’s what it took, at anything from waiting tables to clerking in a hospital.  She experienced one divorce and the suicide of her second husband.

And she told my mother many times, “Don’t ever feel sorry for me.  I’ve had a wonderful life.”

I imagine her here with me now, sitting across a table with cups of black coffee and a plate of biscotti between us, her Revlon Red nails tapping the table (and maybe reaching for a cigarette).

And Annie says,

  • Housekeeping can wait.  A lick and a promise is all you ever really need to give the floors.  Dishes won’t go anywhere if you decide to cut out a dress pattern on the dining room table instead of tending to the sink.
  • Always cook good food, and share it with your neighbors.  It doesn’t have to be fancy–and everyone loves lasagne.
  • One pair of Ferragamo shoes is all you’ll ever need.
  • Listen to all kinds of music, from opera to the Beatles, preferably what people two generations younger than you are playing.
  • You don’t need a lot of stuff.  You can keep your bills in a cigar box and pay them at the table.  Just push that dress fabric aside.
  • If the elastic in your underwear fails while you’re walking down the street, just step out of them and walk on as if nothing happened.  Hint: the premise behind this advice can be applied to many situations.
  • Let your clothes and linen closets contain only what you wear and use.  Someone else needs all that stuff.  Why keep it?
  • Always be willing to start over.
  • Appreciate your health.
  • Make things.
  • Read.
  • Do crossword puzzles.
  • Pay attention to the world.
  • Dress up.
  • Write your heart out.
  • Enjoy your life.
Filed in Stories, voices


  1. wholly jeanne

    what a beautiful tribute to a woman who was obviously a wise, resilient, self-reliant woman. a woman who knew how to not only enjoy the juice of life, but find that juice. you’re a lot like her, you know, and she’s proud of you cause she’s smart, too.

    • admin

      Thank you, Jeanne. I feel her urging me to the desk every day, telling me to ignore the never-ending minutiae.

  2. Julie Daley

    This is so beautiful. What a life your grandmother had. I’ve taken in what she said, about how it was a good life. Thank you for sharing this with us, Angela. Thank you. There is much wisdom here…both hers and yours.

    • admin

      Julie, she really believed that life was good, and lived as if.

  3. jo miller

    This is wonderful ~ love her wisdom ,laughed ,nodded my head in recognition, wiped a little tear and took a deep breath at some.
    You’ve honoured her well.
    creative,authentic & joyful philosophy. May we all be blessed by that.

    • admin

      Thank you, Jo! I’m glad to have honored her here.

  4. Marjory

    This is beautiful Angela! Such wisdom in her words. Such strong spirit! Thank you for sharing. Blessings!!

    • admin

      Thanks, Marjory. Yes, she was amazingly strong and resilient.

  5. Dian Reid

    “Always be willing to start over.”

    This is something I fear often. Didn’t realize it until recently, but wow. What a thing to let go of (the fear), and hold onto (the willingness).

    • admin

      Dian, I’m really glad you underlined this for me (for us)–I’ve continued things would have been better ended precisely out of this fear of staring over.