Teresa Merle Maraldo
December 1919 to January 2012
She wore pink often, but her favorite color was all of them. Sometimes she liked yellow more than green or vice versa and she preferred pastels over bolds and brights. That’s an interesting way to think of her, pastel. She wasn’t bold in her statements or showy in her manner. She wasn’t usually the loudest person or the funniest; what she was …was warm. She was soft and understated, though you always knew where she stood. She didn’t mince words or sugar-coat her statements. She loved you true, through and through.
She laughed easily and played practical jokes. She listened carefully and always had a hug to share. Her arms were always open and her kitchen too. She truly loved you through and through.
Not long ago at a Mass Homily, the priest asked, “Who was your John the Baptist?” You know, the one that brought you to Jesus. The one that increased your faith and led you to know him. That was an easy question to answer, my Grandma. She told us stories of her conversion. She related real messages of journeys and awakenings in her own spirit. She prayed the Rosary daily and taught us how to pray it as well. Still, I hear her voice when I clasp each bead. A blessing in itself, a gift forever.
Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself, “What would Grandma do?”
My kitchen is designed by such inspiration; I cook with her guidance (just with less butter, bacon and salt!) Even well into my adult years, I would call her to ask how to make a dish and I still cannot seem to make anything quite as “Grandma Good.” Our favorites from childhood are treats now. In her honor, I still make fried chicken, “Grandma Style” once a year. It has turned into a feast with as many as 20 people arriving to revel in the experience. So many of the guests have said with greasy fingers and a look of bliss, “Oh, this is just how my Grandma used to make chicken, you cannot find this anywhere.” Thank you, Grandma. Another gift.
Her lessons were taught with stories and questions. Sometimes without a word. She would often remind me that, “It all comes out in the wash” and you know, she was right. She talked of things like jealousy and grudges and how it is a waste of energy and hurts no one but oneself. She talked of love and marriage and how you have to work at it. She talked of forgiveness and how you have to give it. And she talked of simple things and ordinary life and that was just fine with her.
She never minded being by herself because she was her own best friend. She would tell me, “Its okay honey, I like myself pretty good.”
Her home was a place of sanctuary. The best compliment I have ever received was from my sister who said, “Your house is just like Grandma’s house, it makes me want to take a nap.” If that means it is peaceful and warm and loving, then life cannot get much better.
She was quick to laugh and she had a sparkle in her eye. And you had to watch her because she liked a good practical joke every now and then. She prided herself in her ability to scare us kids! From letting her dentures loose when we grabbed her teeth or pulling our toes when we slept – she got a chuckle and we got a screech!
There are a lot of things about her that made her so. She was born Jesse Muriel. She was named after her grandfather who was named after Jesse James. She never really liked that name because she thought it was a boy’s name. Instead, she went by Muriel. In her grade school years, one of her teachers did not pronounce “Muriel” properly and instead called her Merle. The name many still call her today. Her name, Teresa, was introduced when she converted to Catholicism and that became her Confirmed name, and by all accounts, her favorite.
She lived through the Great Depression, was a ship welder during WWII, and she watched Houston grow by leaps and bounds. Her stories and memories consisted of the horse hitches in front of Rice Hotel, cotton trucks making their way to Galveston to be shipped, dancing on the Pier in Galveston and crab fishing with chicken bones. She would talk about taking the trolley to town and watching movies. She told stories of how she fell in love with her first husband when she saw his picture while cleaning his room. She liked to dance and most of all, she loved her family.
My life is forever blessed by having had such a Grandmother. She was a gift to the world for 92 years. Her spirit molded mine, her love, encouragement and strength defined a family. While she is home with Jesus, she will not be forgotten here. She cast a wide net and her love will last lifetimes. Forever imprinted on my heart.
I love you Grandma.
Rest in Peace.