January 31, 2009
Today your great-grandmother – Nanny, as I’ve always called her – turns 90 years old. I just spoke to her on the phone, and, even though it was her birthday, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Any news about the babies? When are they going to get here?” Because even though she is in good health, still lives alone in her own home, still mows her own lawn, and still drives to HER JOB…she is worried you won’t get here in time for her to get to know you. It’s not that she’s had a premonition or is a pessimist; it’s just that “you never know what God has planned for you.” And therefore she wants you here ASAP! When we first told her about our plans to adopt she said, “I’ll get our new preacher started praying that those babies get here soon. Now we’re going to see what kind of power he has!!”
Nanny says the happiest days of her life were when my brother, my cousin, and I were born, but I honestly think the happiest day of her life was when I got married…and that's not my ego talking, I just think she was beginning to really worry it would never happen. And let me tell you, she LOVES your father. She thinks The Esquire is the funniest, handsomest, most charming man she’s ever met. They flirt. For Christmas one year he picked out some lovely sapphire earrings specifically to go with her purple suit and trust me, she wears them every time we see her. She’ll turn her head from side to side, coquettishly, until he notices them. Nanny has said since the first day she met The Esq., “He will make a good daddy.”
I will admit that I was nervous to tell Nanny about the adoption. But the very first words out of her mouth were “Oh! I am so glad you two will have family!” She didn’t ask why adoption, she didn’t ask from where, she just breathed a sigh of relief that now we would have family of our own. She’s buried most of her siblings, a son and two grandsons so she has a very deep understanding of what ‘having family’ means.
Of course, after that first reaction of happiness and relief, she became curious. Where is Ethiopia? What do the people look like? What will your children look like? It was all very new to her and I’ll be honest, after she got over the happiness part, she was a little thrown. It’s an odd thing for her to have to figure out, why we would choose to adopt children from another country. It’s something she had never even considered and so, she has to sit with it and think about it for a while. And I get it, why it’s such a strange concept to her. As my cousin (other side of the family) puts it, “you have to read the story using their dictionary” and for Nanny that dictionary was written in the small southern town (population 803) that she has lived in for the majority of her 90 years.
But oh, how I love her little town. Every summer when I was little my parents would drop my pink Huffy Desert Rose bike and me off at Nanny’s house for a week so I could attend her church’s Vacation Bible School. I don’t have many memories of VBS …the smell of play dough, an Autoharp, bible drills (man, I used to LOVE bible drills, can still find Galatians in under 10 seconds)… but I have hundreds of memories of riding my bike around that little town either by myself or with my ‘summer friends.’ This was the late 70’s so a kid on a bike could still go almost anywhere as long as she was home by dinner. Nanny knew that Miz Helen and Miz Katherine and Miz Mary and 799 other people in town were keeping an eye on me. I am sad that you, my soon-to-be children, will probably never have a chance to know this kind of freedom when you are 9 years old. The world is just a different place, even in a town of 803.
(The best part was coming home for dinner. Nanny would have fried a few pieces of chicken and made a little plate of corn bread… just enough for the two of us. For dessert there would always be peach ice cream...)
I have faith that you, my little ones, will have a chance to meet your great-Nanny but you will never really know what a dynamo she is. At 5 feet tall she is still a force to be reckoned with in every way. For a polite southern girl she has always said exactly what is on her mind, with or without the required “bless their heart” attached. Her husband was sick off and on during their marriage so she has always been more or less the strong one in the family. Every day she reads every inch of the newspaper and often falls asleep at night reading her Bible.
She has worked at the local funeral home for almost 40 years. Still goes in ‘when they need me.’ She helps organize the flower arrangements and takes care of the families. When I was in college she used to write me letters regularly telling me about her week, “worked a lot this week, saw so many old friends.” My roommate and I used to wonder, were those friends alive...?
And she’s funny…cracks herself up. When she was 80 she was chosen to ride the lead float in her town’s annual Peach Festival Parade. She told them yes, she’d do it, but she couldn’t wear her bathing suit because it had holes in the knees. Of course there might have been more to that story but she laughs so hard when she tells it this is all we can ever understand.
The main thing you need to know in order to truly understand your great grandmother is that she is and has always been a woman of strong, unshakable faith. She attends her Southern Baptist church two or three times a week. Don’t bother offering to share a hymnal or a bible with her during service because she has both books memorized. I may not always agree with the stands her faith requires her to take, but I have huge admiration that she lives every second of her day as a child of God.
As I said, her faith is unwavering, and that’s why we are ok with her taking this whole adoption thing slowly. Because we know that her thinking is all done with love. Every time we hang up with her, Nanny says, “I just pray every day that you will be happy.” And she means that. So even though she might not totally understand our choices for adoption, she understands that this will make us happy…and that’s all she wants. Well, that and great-grandchildren.
Oh future-children-of-mine, I have so many things that I want to tell you about your Nanny and at the same time it feels like I have no words to describe her. So just know this…she loves you already.