“I have been working on my writing paper. Got all my stuff out and having fun making cards. Lots cheaper than buying them. Of course the table looks a mess with everything all over it. But it is relaxing just the same.”
My grandmother, my mom’s mom, was a prolific letter writer. Her tablet was a stack of homemade cards, which she went about creating with devotion and love. Her humble stories, written in her cursive hand, were about daily life events seen through her eyes, but shared through her heart. No pretentiousness, just plain words of a simple life, well lived. We loved her musings and we loved her.
“Found a little park and we got french fries and a hot dog and something to drink. Sat at a table and ate our lunch and watched the children playing on all the things there. Was a fun day.”
Nanny, as we lovingly called her, created cards from scraps of paper, napkins, and cloth. Often recording life around the holidays, she crafted works of art adorned with cut-out shapes of hearts, shamrocks, bunnies, pumpkins, turkeys, and Christmas trees. Fancy cards of tatted or crocheted lace suggested a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary or life event. But it was the pressed flower cards that were our favorites.
“We had a nice time at the park. Some of the flowers are ones that you helped me pick when we were walking back from the park.” “I remember Nan…that was a fun day!”
She wrote about her travels, her observations, the weather or the events of her day. She recorded her thoughts at night, sitting alone at her writing desk equipped with scissors, glue and a pen. Flowers were pressed in a book.
“I went up to Wellesley Island with Mary. Had a great time. So nice and quiet up there. We had a mother deer and her two little ones come into the yard next door one night just before dusk. The two fawns were so cute. We kept very still so they didn’t leave for a while.”
She often wrote about her time at church. Her church was important to her and she gained energy and life from her time supporting it. “Been doing some sewing for our mission boxes at church. I enjoy doing that. One day I had some of my friends from church over to eat with me…I enjoyed that very much.”
My grandmother seldom thought of herself. She was a great friend to many (including me). Most of her days were spent helping others. It was just her way…part of her every day.
“I am having two of my friends for lunch on Wednesday. They both live up at Fairview Home. I know they both like pecan pie. So I made one.”
When she did write about herself, it was about the plain and simple. Not about the extraordinary, but about the ordinary American life. She appreciated the value of every moment. You learn a lot about a person between the lines.
“I went to the circus last night. It was a fun evening. Circus was very good. It was raining when we came out. So we dashed for our cars. We had cotton candy…haven’t had that in a long time.”
Always young at heart, she continued to love life into her 90s until her health slowed her. She wrote when she could.
“Was so good to hear from you Monday night or was it Tuesday, my time gets mixed up here.” “Every-thing just fine here. Every day is a plus day.”
Eventually, the letters and cards stopped coming. I’m glad I saved the ones that came before. But it was never about the cards. It was about the relationship. We can live our lives in quiet servitude. Our presence can go unnoticed except to those we hold close. But in no way does that detract from the importance of each and every one of us and the lessons we impart to others. I learned so much from my grandmother. I live with my eyes wide open; I notice and appreciate the significance of insignificance – the importance of simple things.
“The other morning I was up early and the sky was a beautiful red color. It didn’t last long. Will have lots to tell you when I get home.”
I cherished all her cards; each one purposeful, inventive and personal. I loved our relationship and that she felt it important enough to keep me a part of her daily life, whether I was there or not. I looked forward to each card.
“I am going to walk up to the post office this afternoon. It is so nice out. Love to you. Nanny”
“Love you too Nan! Thanks for writing.”