This I believe…
Instant coffee and cinnamon toast smelled like adventure to me when their steam swirled together on chilly Saturday mornings and found me snuggled inside the comforts of a feather bed at my grandmother’s house. I always woke with a smile on my face and butterflies in my belly.
Waking up at Nanny’s was not the traditional grandparent experience. For starters, she was divorced (more than 10 years by the time I was born in 1961). She lived in an apartment that was built in the 1800’s and had formerly been a funeral parlor – exciting stuff for an eight year old.
She didn’t knit anything or bake cookies. She didn’t wear the regulation skirts and polyester pantsuits that my friends’ grandmothers wore, and she smelled delicious and exotic, like the way I imagined Paris would smell. It was the 1960’s and Nanny wore Capri’s and sleeveless sweaters reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy. She spent her time reading The Prophet, Walden Pond, her Bible, and anything and everything by Edgar Cayce.
Her Christian beliefs were strong, yet never over powered her life with fundamental constraints. She widened her circle of belief with eastern thought and “outside-the-box” philosophies on all subjects.
Nanny loved animals too, especially birds, and grew up with a pet crow named Black Bill who followed her to school every morning and home every afternoon. She was one of the best female golfers in three counties and carried a putter with her almost everywhere she went.
She taught me creative visualization, positive thinking, and how important my “energy” was thirty years before it became mainstream. She was an odd bird and so far ahead of her time that other people viewed her with eyebrows raised.
I spent the night with Nanny every weekend because she knew how to love a granddaughter right. I spent the night with her because everything about her was new and exciting. She and a group of six female friends, most of them widowed, spent their time bird watching and traveling throughout the countryside of our small Kentucky town exploring ancient cemeteries, churches, and corner-store communities that peppered our county.
Lucky me, I was usually the first passenger in her turquoise and white, 1958 Nash Metropolitan. She always let me pull the choke. I lived for those weekends with Nanny never knowing where we would end up or what surprises would await me.
We might cross the state line into Tennessee to an old creek that ran alongside the highway and dig up Spring blue bells to transplant in my mother’s garden. We might drive to Bell Buckle on a crisp October morning and take a tour through Bell Witch’s estate, or we might pick up Lou Ella and Gilbertine and head into a deeply wooded area of our own county with a picnic basket full of sandwiches and several pair of binoculars in the hope of catching a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker.
I am my Nanny’s granddaughter. At twenty, I backpacked through Europe for three months and returned there a year later to live for six more. At thirty-four, I started a business against all odds, the bank’s advice, and my own better judgement, yet thrives today. And last summer, at forty-three, I spent two weeks following the Tour de France through the Alps and Pyrenees fulfilling a long-time dream of seeing Lance Armstrong win a famous bike race.
In the midst of growing up in the racially segregated, Christian, fundamental South of the 1960’s, I learned from her that coloring outside the lines is paramount to developing a rich soul, that staying close to nature keeps you close to God, and most of all, that adventure is everything – without a doubt, adventure is everything.
Occasionally, I will hear the familiar caw of a crow and look over my shoulder to catch a glimpse of what I believe to be Nanny keeping an eye out as I continue my journey, and I feel those butterflies in my belly again, whisper thank you, and let my voice rise into the air toward heaven.
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