My grandmother, Nanny, passed away yesterday. She was 93 years old. And so I felt like it was appropriate to re-post something I wrote on her birthday several years ago.
A few days ago, Caroline and I drove to Beaumont to visit my Nanny. She has more energy and enthusiasm than people half her age. All of her friends are at least fifteen to twenty years younger than she is because as she will tell you “I don’t like to spend time with old people”. In fact, the week before we arrived she had hosted a Bunco party at her house, you know for all her young friends in their seventies.
She has always known how to stay young. I remember being in high school and walking down the street to borrow her clothes and her jewelry. I bet not too many grandmothers have a wardrobe that their granddaughters would like to wear. You don’t see a lot of fifteen year olds wearing SAS shoes with a nice paisley polyester blouse. But Nanny has always had style.
She was the first person I knew that owned a video camera, a VCR and an answering machine. In fact, Nanny called me the other day and asked “What is an iPod and do I need to get one?”
When we walked through the door of her house, it was all so warm and familiar. I can’t identify what it smells like, but it’s a part of my life. Even when we got home on Sunday, I could smell it on my clothes and in my hair. It’s the smell of home and comfort, a combination of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco, fresh cinnamon cake out of the oven and perfume. If I could buy it in a bottle, I would.
Caroline was in complete awe of Nanny’s house. There are more things to look at than you could possibly see in just one visit. She still has our old toy closet filled with toys from our childhood and books that bring back so many memories. Caroline walked into that closet, found a huge box full of more jewelry than you can imagine and said “Oh Mama, this is interesting”. It’s like a little piece of heaven on earth for a little girl, and I know because it’s where I spent so much of my childhood.
At one point, I was on the other side of the house and heard a familiar noise that made me laugh out loud. It was the sound of Samba music coming from the electric organ that Nanny has in her sitting room. I knew that it was only a matter of time before Caroline discovered it and once she did, she was hooked. I spent a lot of hours playing that same organ with my sister making up variety shows and musicals that would rival the Sweeney Sisters. We’d put Nanny’s nightgowns on our head for our hair and drape ourselves in anything we could find in her jewelry box.
One Thanksgiving when P and I drove seven hours to get to the lake house, I walked in the door and she said “Oh it makes me so sad that you don’t wear makeup anymore”. She always wants us to look our best even for seven hour car trips through East Texas. I have always thought she’s kind of like a mama cat, she likes to take all her babies and get them cleaned up just right.
The biggest thing (literally) she worries about is everyone’s weight. Gulley said she knew she was officially part of the family when Nanny told her she’d put on a few pounds. But here’s the kicker, anytime you visit she will always have your favorite dessert fresh out of the oven. It’s like she wants you to look good, but she also wants to indulge you in your favorite food. In fact, one of the first things she said after I walked in the door was that she had made my favorite banana pudding. It was so good I could’ve eaten the whole bowl. And her sweet tea is like no other you’ll will ever taste. I’d be willing to bet that the sugar to tea ratio errs high on the side of sugar. It’s like heaven in a glass.
After Caroline finally passed out from the sheer exhaustion of looking through all that jewelry, Nanny and I stayed up talking. This has always been one of my favorite things about Nanny, she’s a night owl like me (or at least like me before I had a three year old that likes to wake up when it’s still “darken” outside). When I was little she always let me stay up late with her to watch The Tonight Show, in fact the night that Johnny Carson did his last show I was off at college, but I had to call Nanny on the phone because the sound of Johnny’s voice will always remind me of those renegade nights at her house where I was allowed to stay up until 11:30.
Nanny always knows how to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world when you’re with her. She listens to everything you say and even when I was little, never made me feel like my thoughts didn’t matter.
As she used to tell me before bed at night, “Parting is such sweet sorrow, but we will meet again on the morrow.”
I love you, Nanny. So glad you’re home.
Give Big Bob a kiss and a hug for me.