The long road home . . . Part 4
A week ago on Wednesday, we had the Celebration of Life for my Nannie. I was one of three family members who gave the eulogy with my mom and my uncle (her brother) being the other two. We each shared from our own recollections as Nannie’s children and grandchildren. Last week, my Aunt Nernie (my mom’s sister) wrote the sweetest thing on my Facebook wall. She affirmed that I was the light of Nannie’s life as the oldest grandchild. (The truth is all of the grandchildren were the light of Nannie’s life. I just happened to be the first.)
Since I tend to embellish and paraphrase when I talk, my notes are not going to be exactly what I said that day, but I wanted to share with the whole world how absolutely wonderful my Nannie was to me.
Remembering Nannie –
I am Kandy Noles Stevens, and the oldest grandchild of Nannie (whom many of you know as Miss Katie). I travelled here from Minnesota not to say good-bye, because as Christians there are no good-byes. So I am here to say I will “See you soon” and to share with you the grandkids perspective of who our Nannie was to us.
My earliest memory in life involves my Nannie and Granddaddy. My family lived across the street from them at the time, and I cannot remember if my brother was being born or if he was having surgery. But nevertheless, I was at home being watched by my great-aunt. At some point during the day, a travelling circus or petting zoo came through our part of town, and somehow a billy goat got loose, running around the neighborhood. My great aunt was doing laundry in the carport at which point she got butted in the bumper. Then the goat started ramming its reflection in our picture window. I was panicked, and I did the only thing that made sense to my three year old little self. I decided to make a break for it. I took off across the street and I screamed, “Granddaddy, Granddaddy save me!” My Nannie and Granddaddy came running. Their arms around me told me I was safe and secure.
My mom just shared that they came from humble beginnings, and that has not necessarily been my story. My parents moved us up from poverty to upper middle class. I was afforded things that my Nannie nor her kids could have ever dreamed possible. I have advanced degrees, and I have had lots of opportunities in life. With that said, there are some things that I will never do as well as my Nannie.
- I will never make mac-n-cheese as good as her. I don’t really understand it, because she only made Kraft out of a box. Mine just never tastes as good.
- I will NEVER make chicken-n-dumplings as good as her. And she gave me lessons 3 times. Without her there to help, they just turn out like soup or mush.
- I will never love and tend a plant as well as she did. I love to garden, but whatever plant she touched just seemed to flourish.
- I will never know how she could love a child with such abandon. I love my children (and those I teach), but in Nannie’s presence you simply knew you were loved.
Recently I learned to crochet while I was healing from some surgeries. My mom said she was proud of that because at least that skill would not die out with Nannie’s passing, but I will never be as good at it as she was.
My Nannie did not invent this phrase but she certainly embodied it. YOLO = You Only Live Once! There were many things that she enjoyed that are also memories that I have of her.
She ENJOYED her stuff. If you have ever been to my Nannie’s house, you know that she had a lot of material things. Even though she loved to purchase items for herself, no one enjoyed gift giving more than my Nannie. I remember one Christmas when they came to our house. As she and Granddaddy brought in present and after present, I started to get disheartened because none of the packages had my name on them. Finally in came a gigantic box, wrapped and emblazoned with my name. After present opening, my Nannie shared her story. Inside that box was the entire store display of Kenner’s Darci dolls. The cover girl fashion dolls were all the rage in 1978, and by the time, my Nannie got to the T. G. & Y. store, they were all sold out. That did not deter my Nannie. No sir! She asked to speak to the manager. Then she worked her charm to convince him that they weren’t going to use the store display; so he might as well sell it to her and make her granddaughter’s Christmas! That huge package was indeed the store display with all 3 dolls inside.
She ENJOYED her superstitions. (At the service, there were many giggles at that line.) I can remember one time when my family took the Amtrak to New Orleans for Easter. We met up there with Nannie and Granddaddy and my Uncle Buddy’s family. We spent the day down in the French Quarter and then it was time for grandparents and kids to go back to the hotel for swimming while the parents enjoyed the nightlife. I do not like crowds and it was crowded there. So at some point on the long walk back, I broke from the crowd and took the road less travelled. All of sudden out of nowhere, my Nannie grabbed the neck of my shirt and yanked me around the pole to walk the same way as everyone else. Unbeknownst to me, my non-conformity would bring us a plague of bad luck. In case you are wondering, I am still receiving chiropractic treatments for that neck yanking.
She ENJOYED a good laugh – like the time:
- My cousins Misty and Kristy called to say they were going to make it for Christmas after all. They were younger than school age. A few minutes later they “drove” into the driveway in their Little Tykes jeep.
- The year the golden egg from the Easter egg hunt was hidden in my Uncle Mike’s hat (which was on his head at the time).
- The time my cousin Joey found that great turtle which was great right up until the moment he discovered it was a snapper.
- But for us grandchildren, the best memory was the Christmas Eve fireworks tradition. My Nannie lit one, and pshewwwwwwwww off it flew. It landed on the neighbors’ roof and promptly caught it on fire. The laughter part was watching our Nannie run down the street, and we didn’t even know she could run.
She ENJOYED a good party like:
- Any gathering with her Shriner or Daughters of the Nile friends at the Hadji Temple.
- Mardi Gras or Fiesta Five Flags (My kids will always remembering throwing beads last summer).
- A simple family gathering for dinner at her house.
- An evening at the fish camp.
- Or an impromptu gathering in one of the aisles at the Dollar Tree.
My Nannie ENJOYED life, and I want to leave you with three things that she believed.
She always BELIEVED in the ordinary magic of life.
If you are familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, please raise your hand. While we kids didn’t have a wardrobe, we did have Nannie’s dining room. Every family gathering when the adults were at the big table, all of us kids were transported to a world far away. While the adults were at Nannie’s house, the kids had every dinner in Paris, France. Our Nannie’s love allowed and encouraged us to use our imaginations.
She always BELIEVED in family.
Nannie was there when my daughter Erin was born. Erin’s delivery had some difficulties, and she couldn’t stand waiting at my house. So she convinced my parents to take her to the hospital while they stayed with the boys. As the day wore on and as the medical staff discovered there were problems, Nannie kept vigil on the bench outside the room. At one point, I overheard a conversation with a nurse asking if she was the grandma. In her calm Southern drawl, she exclaimed, “I AM the Nannie!” It was all she had to say. It explained it all.
I know that if you don’t know this last belief, my Nannie would be upset with me if I didn’t tell you that you NEED to know it.
She always BELIEVED in the love of the story of Christmas.
No one could do Christmas like my Nannie, but at the heart of that was the love that came in the present of a little bitty baby to the world. Nannie KNEW that baby in the manger came to save us all so that one day we will be in heaven with him.
I recently asked Nannie what the first thing she was going to do when she got to Heaven. She looked me in the eye and said, “The first thing I am going to do is hug Jesus! Then I am going to find your Granddaddy and Reed, and we are all going fishing.”
I am certain that is exactly what happened. The world will have a lot of Grandmas, but there will never be another Nannie.