My Grandmother, Laura Estelle Cecelia Mary Hurt McKeever Kimmitt, is much like her lengthy moniker: with as many names as she has children, it is full of history and intricacy, though in the end, it all boils down to just Honey. This is how she is known, the matriarch of my family. We all (that’s her 7 children, her 7 stepchildren, and the countless grand and great grandchildren after that) call her Honey; I’ve seldom known her as much else. Her whole community, a suburb of Orlando called Winter Park, has even claimed this affectionate epithet, as though they have adopted Honey as their own Grandmother. The truth is, I am pleased to share. It’s in Honey’s nature to touch as many lives as possible, to bring as many smiles as she’s able, whether she’s “throwing bouquets” (her own version of giving out plentiful compliments to friends and strangers) or offering guidance.
 I recently visited Honey in Winter Park with my friend and PGC partner, Genevieve. Allow me to set the scene a little: with a population of just under 30,000 people, it seems each and every member of the town knows Honey. She was born and raised in nearby Sanford, so her roots in the area couldn’t be stronger. But beyond that, she is an active part of the community, going to Mass (at least once, if not three times a day), a visit to the gym (lasting upwards of 2 hours), and hours spent with friends and family. The energy this woman has is astounding. Her vivacity is one of the reasons why so many people know and love her—she’s never far from laughter. And, even after almost a century of life, she has more vigor than someone half her age.
 During my time with Honey in Winter Park, I continued to find myself to be utterly taken by her. She’s stunning; with a full head of white hair, she’s always dressed elegantly in classic black. Her affinity for silver jewelry is obvious, as well as her requirement for a tube of lipstick. The women in my family have inherited all of these traits, and there’s a particular saying amongst us that is derivative of our matriarch: “Get that lipstick on!” It’s a “Honeyism” that has been passed down through the generations. If ever the color begins to fade from my lips, one of my aunts or cousins will lean over and, from the side of her mouth (for subtlety, of course) whisper that mocking yet genial phrase.
 Honey is a powerful woman, it goes without saying. She was a Navy nurse during the Second World War, and eventually married a pilot named Edward. They had seven children together, and Honey was completely devoted to each. Family is of the utmost importance to Honey, and her pride is evident in the generations she has created and shaped. But even still, I couldn’t help but find myself wondering what Honey would be doing if she was of a completely different generation, one with vastly dissimilar expectations and opportunities than her own. When asked, she responded without hesitation, as though she had been mulling the question about for some time. Honey said (tinged in her Southern accent) that had she been born in 1985 like myself, she would be a dancer, a model, an actress; she would do it all. It’s no secret that this path would have been fitting, and as such, she has managed to sculpt for herself the life of an actress (she even became a model in her fifties, and was caught swing dancing at my college graduation—she was 87 at the time). Honey has found a unique way of living out her dreams: most often, through story. For Honey tends to communicate not only her rich life experience, but also possessed an innate ability to entertain and amuse. Her acute awareness to detail (she’ll recite full names of her elementary school teachers without skipping a beat), her mindfulness of others, her ability to engage, and the sheer fact that she is a woman meant to be on stage, all blend harmoniously: “Telling stories, you want to relay something to this other person because you want to make them laugh, or be interesting… to me, I just tell stories…. Everybody’s got a story, and they’d love to tell you.”
 Honey is quick to share her truths, her advice, and her guidance. She’s a beacon of insight; and while she’ll proudly impart her own timeless acumen, she is just as prone to listening. With hearty nods and the continual utterance of an agreeable mmhmm, it’s clear she absorbs every last of the speaker’s words. My Grandmother truly is the ultimate role model. Advocating health, kindness, and dedication to family, she is a woman content with the direction life has taken her. “It’s kind of nice when you get to be 60 or 70 to look back and think, I’m very happy with my life,” Honey said. “I had a good life; a very good life.”
prev / next