CharacterShe smelled of juicy fruit gum and carnations. The gum, she offered freely to grandchildren and strangers alike. The Blue Carnation toilet water, spritzed on a lace trimmed handkerchief, awaited up her sleeve to be waved at the first hint of a tear or runny nose.
CharacterElsie, or Nana to family, would have been 116 years old in June. Sounds silly right? Yet, I know, when I’m tottering around in my elder years, I will stop, each June to do the math. You see, Nana, left a legacy that matters.
Character “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water… no matter how suddenly jarred.” Amy Carmichael
Character Sweet Peas climbing the pickets, smiling orange and purple pansies in the stone pots, aside the painted stepping stones, leading to her one-bedroom cottage castle.
Red painted nails with matching lipstick, rhinestone, button style, clip on earrings and finger waved hair; all of which she claimed to be “naked” without.
A 1930’s rose mohair sofa with doilies on the arms. A picture perfect cake, iced white with dyed pink coconut, on a pedestal plate. The molasses cookies, cedar paneled walls and the oil stove hogging a third of the 9 x 12 living room.
Nana left mantras and sayings both wise and silly for us to ponder.
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
“Bless your pea picking heart.”
“Red and yellow catch a fellow.”
“Thirteen is my lucky number.”
With perfect timing she’d sling the apropos saying. Like the moment you stubbed a toe she’d chime in with:
“Just think how much better it will feel when it quits hurting.”
And right after you snarled a response to the above quip, she’d retort with:
Even more powerful than the scents and images or words of wisdom, are the lessons of character she lived and gifted to those around her.
Another Nana witticism is: Always keep an ace in the hole.
This served her well. With a humble retirement income, she was the family tycoon. The only person with money in the bank to loan when trouble threatened any one of us. And, without ever asking for it back, she managed to make you feel good about taking care of the debt. These were the days of penny licorice ropes, five cent gum packs and $5 bags of groceries given as prizes for radio bingo that supplied her weeks’ worth of needs. Yet, footing a loan for $200 or $300 was of no concern to her.
She oozed of character, most of which was taken for granted. I remember her letters in the late 1960s, hand written to me, a know it all teenager with her own apartment. My friends and I read them aloud after smoking a joint, laughing at the sweetness.
Dearest Debbie, Bless your heart. How are you doing? I hope you like the new apron I made for you. I used scraps from your favorite circle skirt. Remember the one you wore when you did the Mexican hat dance in kindergarten?
The thought of wearing my frilly handmade apron, while slaving over a box of macaroni and cheese, always cracked us up. I admit, after the laughs we shared an admiration for her pure heart of gold, followed by a quiet sadness and longing to believe life to be as good as she did.
She was known to read the Bible and give to the televangelists begging for money from her black and white console television. I remember a few times she was shushed for mentioning Jesus.
One thing I know now, that I was clueless to then, she prayed. One prayer in particular on my behalf. I know this because….
I pray for my grandchildren. I pray for a variety of God’s blessings but my most urgent prayer is that they will have an intimate relationship with Jesus. That’s what my nana prayed for me. I know this because…
He answered the prayer. He pursued me down each road… waited patiently when I took a wrong turn… showered me with love when I deserved scorn… and so on and so forth.
When I was given the gift of grand-motherhood, I chose to be called Nana. My bucket list for this life, is filled with pleas to be remembered by joyful things and my faith and love for Christ. That’s the legacy I seek.