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What Would Nannie Do?

July 28, 2016

When you spend a week at the “cabinet” (my four year old nephew’s word for cabin)  without television with your parents and siblings and their families, you have plenty of time for conversation.  One of the topics that comes up every time we are all together is a task that I have struggled to complete.  Have you done anything with your inheritance? Now before anyone suddenly decides to become my new best friend, let me do a little explaining.  My “inheritance” is a whole life insurance policy that my grandparents, Nannie and Granddaddy, bought when all of us kids were little.  If I were to pass away today, my family would have a thousand dollars to spend towards my funeral. If I wanted to be buried in a soup kettle, that might cover it. There is a buy-out option, which the last time I checked was considerably less.

Since we have worked hard to adequately insure ourselves, my best option would be to take the pay-out.  I professed that I hadn’t made up my mind and was waffling between several options for what to do if I took the cash option.

But then there was the other conversation that took place at the cabinet. This one bittersweet in nature, as caring for elderly parents is a difficult challenge. Both my Nannie and Granddaddy have gone on home to heaven as well as my Papa, leaving only Mama left of my grandparents.  Mama’s house is in dire need of some repairs, but she adamantly refuses to let us do any work to fix it, always comparing the days she has left on earth to the cost/benefit analysis of spending her money to make the repairs.  Even when we have offered to make the repairs at no cost to her, she refuses.

great depresion

Farm Security Administration: Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. (Circa February 1936). Picture for the FDR, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

I wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye during the Great Depression, but all of my days I have lived with the after effects.  My grandmothers are the perfect dichotomy of those ripples from that era in our nation’s history.  Mama has chosen to save every last penny she has, just in case.  She never wanted to live like that again, choosing to do without now, while saving for the day that she might need it later.  Nannie on the other hand lived by the philosophy “smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em”.  My maternal grandmother’s take on life was to enjoy the good days while you’ve got them and not worry or plan for tomorrow.

The irony of the situation is the one time she chose to plan for tomorrow is what has me in a quandary.  My grandmother, a shrewd businesswoman with only an 8th grade education, was a whiz at numbers, but somehow never mastered spending within your means.  If she saw something that made her smile, she bought it and LOTS of it.

When it comes to grandmothers and genetics, I definitely take after both of them.  My love of crafting, hospitality, and good ol’ Southern comfort food can be attributed to both.  My love of bling definitely originates with Nannie as does my love of animals, but my money sense falls in step with my Mama’s pragmatism.

So even though my letter from the insurance company arrived over two years ago, it sits collecting dust.  My dilemma haunts me every time I come across that letter.  Do I spend the money on something practical like paying for tuition for the doctorate I am pursuing?  Or do I honor the grandmother who gave it to me and ask WWND – What Would Nannie Do?

For a while now, I have had my eye on this nugget ice counter appliance which is the first of its kind.  Some may raise their eyebrows at that purchase, but if you have ever seen me order a beverage at a fast food drive-thru you would understand.  Can I please get a sweet tea with extra, extra, EXTRA ice?  And trust me, if my straw doesn’t hit a cube on the way in, I am righteously indignant.  Ice machine may sound frivolous to some, but to me, it sounds divine – simply divine. And then I remember that my kitchen, while beautifully remodeled still has limited counter space. Ugh!

And then there is the home fitness surfboard that I have dreamed of owning for a bit.  I regularly profess that I need high doses of Vitamin Sea; so if I can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain the girl to the Gulf, then at least I could pretend to be there while toning my well-earned momma-to-many core. A little ocean music and (voila!), I am home. Of course, this kind of surfing won’t result with sand in places I didn’t even remember I had which is always a bonus. And then the Mama side kicks in and reminds me the last fitness equipment purchase I made ended up being a jungle gym for my kids and place to hang the laundry. Argh!

All of this puts me right back at square one, still stuck. So for now, the letter sits, until I can completely make up my mind or at least, until I can balance whether the Nannie or Mama side of me wins out.

But like my Mom said at the cabinet, if you were truly going to spend it like Nannie would, I should go out and buy some lottery tickets. Somehow I have to believe that if there is a window from heaven, tucked up in her favorite fishing hole, Nannie would have looked down and laughed at that idea.

I know for sure one part of her philosophy was spot on – enjoy the moments you have because someday they will be your precious memories!




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