Orietta Berti

As a young mother, Lina Pellegrini Petit, who recently turned 100, would gather her five small children and they would walk from their home in Sliema to San Anton Gardens, in Attard. 

“She was not discouraged by anything and always just did what had to be done without complaining. She appreciates the simple things in life and was always down to earth,” one of her daughters, Cecilia, says

Her other daughter, Lucienne, adds: “She was always like that, she takes things as they come.”

And this was the attitude Lina carried with her throughout her life and now she has applied it to the past year where, like all other elderly people living in residential care, she spent long months in her room not being able to receive visits from relatives or friends because of coronavirus restrictions.

Sitting in a wheelchair outside Casa Arkati, in Mosta, Lina speaks through her mask: “There’s nothing we can do [during the pandemic]. We just have to stay here and wait for it to be over.”

Lina celebrated her 100th birthday at the home last month. Since her family could not visit, they all gathered outside the glass doors at the main entrance of the home and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to their mother, who was inside. 

This year was difficult for her children who had made it a point to visit daily before the pandemic broke out. But, with measures slowly being lifted and the vaccination roll-out, they hope to soon be able to take their mother for walks and Sunday lunches again.

Lina moved into the home about six years ago and lived there with her late husband,  Peter Paul Pellegrini Petit, who also lived to 100. He passed away five years ago.

The daughters attribute the long life to Lina’s calm nature and her appreciation of the small things in life.

Ma, remember what you used to tell papa... tell me the nice things and keep the bad news to yourself

“She loves going out and, as kids, she would take us out all the time even though she did not drive,” Myriam says.

“We would walk or catch the bus. She loved the sea and swimming, going out for morning walks and she also loves music. At home she was always playing music and, till this day, she still plays it in her room, especially the oldies like Tom Jones and Orietta Berti.”

Lina’s face lights up as she hears the word ‘music’.

“I like to play Engelbert Humperdinck in my room as well,” she says.

Lina’s carer smiles and explains that her room is a photographic showcase of the good old days. Those days may be long gone but the impact of the reserved, quiet woman has had a ripple effect throughout the generations that followed.

Born in Floriana, Lina – née Grech Cumbo – was one of seven siblings. Her family moved to Sliema when she was young and, until this day, Sliema remains the “home” she misses. 

In her late teens, Lina worked as a clerk at the Sliema post office, selling stamps mainly during the war.

“She used to tell us stories how she would head to the roof to see the bombs fall,” Cecilia recalls.

One day, she was walking along the Ferries with her brother when they met Peter Paul, a promising young notary. The two fell in love and, eventually, got married when Lina was 23 years old.

This encounter was the beginning of a marriage that lasted 70 years.

They had five children: Myriam, Cecilia, Lucienne, Ariane and Edward, who gave them 12 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

Like many women of her generation, Lina’s role as wife and mother was very defined.

“She was a very dedicated mother. She always supported our father and his ideas and he was very strict,” Lucienne says, adding: “One of the things our mother always taught us was to be happy with what we have.

“She also encouraged us to follow our passion. My mother was never the one to talk about others and would stop us when we did.”

The sisters remember her as the mother who never gave up. She would take them swimming every day and travelled the world with her husband.

Myriam looks to her mother: “Ma, remember what you used to tell papa? ‘Tell me the nice things...” Lina grins and nods as she continues the sentence: “...and keep the bad news to yourself.”

Cecilia says: “It’s a pity we can’t remove her mask as she has a beautiful smile.”

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Source : https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/our-100-year-old-mum-taught-us-to-be-happy-with-what-we-have.870691

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