Friday, October 23, 2009

For the Love of Nana

The first picture is of my mother holding me in 1978. The second is of my mother with my youngest daughter. I snapped this picture of Olivia while my mom comforted her during a crying session once she was told she was not going home with her Nana.  We'd been at the Catfish Festival parade and the girls wanted to go home with their Nana of course.

One of the first memories I have of my grandmother's home is of my fourth birthday.  There was a very cool Bugs Bunny cake and I barely recall everyone singing Happy Birthday to me.  My father's funeral was the next day.  He passed away from colon cancer on July 23rd, 1982.

I loved my Grandmother Curtis very much. Looking back over the years, I know she loved me too. I miss her calling me Krissy and giving me hugs like it would always be the last one. One day in particular, I remember I was about to turn twenty-one and we were standing on her front porch and as we said goodbye, she told me she probably wouldn't be around much longer to give hugs. At first this sounded a bit like a regular old timer talking about old age and time running out, but her words struck me, and probably for the first time since I was a very young child, I burst into tears right there in front of her, and hugged  her like it would be the last one.

And it was.

Mimie, as I called her, was born and raised in Butler County in Aberdeen and lived out on Eden School Road for over forty years.  Even though I currently live in the same county, I'd never lived in the same area she did when she was alive.  I was born in Louisiana and was nearly a year old before she even got to see me.  I lived in Bowling Green throughout most of my childhood.  By the age of ten, I didn't even live in the same state. We lived 900 miles away in southwest Florida and my only visits with her were during the summer and sometimes at Christmas.  I recall the warmth of her home on those cold December visits.  The smell of a burning wood stove welcomed me in from the cold - something we didn't have in Florida.

Her home was the very same house my mother grew up in.  The old, uneven floors creaked when walked on, an old rotary telephone would blare its loud ring throughout the house from the kitchen doorway at times, and one of my favorite sounds was Paul Harvey (one of my Mimie's favorite radio hosts) telling The Rest of the Story full volume from the kitchen radio. The only bathroom of the house was added on by my Papa when my mother was in high school.  The smell of Zest soap permeated the room.  There was a large bathtub (no shower) and a medicine cabinet that looked ancient to me.

I remember being bored upon my visits when I was a teenager and sitting on the porch swing, wishing I had a friend with me. I'd browse through her old stacks of magazines that sat next to a dozen or so dusty old RC bottles in the corner of the enclosed porch.  She threw away nothing, and burned the rest.

I'd explore the yard, maybe knock off a few Granddaddy Long Legs off the siding, or walk up to the pond to throw rocks in the water, because that was way more amusing than actually having to fish.  The old barn that stood next to the pond was creepy to me, it looked as if I could blow on it and it would fall down, and in a thunderstorm in the early nineties, it finally did.  I never thought I would miss that old barn...but I do.

I also remember summer nights going to sleep upstairs in the old iron beds with the window raised to help cool off the warm room; I could hear the Whippoorwill and crickets off in the distance as I dozed on the cool, homemade feather pillows.  The wall clock downstairs ticked and tocked all night.

I felt comforted and safe, clean and simple.  How could I know then I would miss all of that so much now? What'd I'd give to have a warm bath and snooze in the old iron bed now.  

My mother's high school senior portrait hung on the wall in the living, along with my two uncles' military portraits. They must have hung there a good forty years or so, not removed until after she passed away and it was time to rid the home of all her personal belongings. A tough act it was, to finally walk through that empty house, without my Mimie to greet me, not seeing her cane propped against the wall, cherished photographs, or a box of Foodland brand cereal sitting on the kitchen table.  The clock didn't tic anymore.  The old rotary phone had rung it last ring.  It was the most emptiness I'd ever felt. The only constant in my life was gone.

The Whippoorwill and crickets still sing their summer tunes every night out on the property, but the house will never be the same. My dad has since renovated the home and it serves as a rental house now.

I didn't appreciate Mimie as I should have when she was alive. She was such a woman of God, loving the Lord and her family.  She loved the color red, was headstrong, never drove a car.  She could make the heck out of some fried corn.  

It's my mother's turn to be Grandma. My children are so close with their Nana and Papaw my heart swells knowing they'll have these incredible memories of fun loving grandparents.

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