Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Nanny Orange

 (The Cooper Grandchildren, sans Leta, with Nanny and Papa, '82 or '83)

Call me sentimental. Go ahead. But I've always been fascinated with how little things, like a scent or a song, can conjure up long-buried memories as vibrantly as if time had stood still. The older I get, the more precious those memories become.

There are some things about childhood that never leave you. My paternal grandmother, "Nanny", lived just around the corner of the red dirt-road where we lived during the earliest years of my childhood, and us kids visited her just about every day I guess. She never learned to drive and didn't really like to leave home very much, so she was pretty much a permanent fixture for me. She'd always be there, on her screened-in front porch, waiting in her favorite rocking chair.

She was in her 40s when my Dad was born, so by the time I came along, some 30 years later, she had already slowed down quite a bit. She wasn't the type of grandmother that was able to get outside and pull me in a wagon or take me for a swim, but she had her way of doting on us grandkids. While we sat on the front porch swing, surrounded by hanging and potted plants, she would shuffle to kitchen, slice some oranges in half, and sprinkle sugar on top. She wasn't stingy with her sugar, either.  Then we would eat them, right out of the peel, with juice dripping down our chins. You had to get it just right with your teeth or you would get the yellow, bitter part of the peel and have to spit out the whole bite. And when we'd ate about two-thirds of the orange half, we would turn it inside out and get the good, juice part left in the bottom. She'd sit and chat with us about our day while we slurped on our sugared oranges.

 Nanny was always ready to listen and she loved to laugh with us with her special cackling laugh. If we confided about someone hurting our feelings or some teacher being unfair she was ready to give them what-for (at least from within the privacy of her four walls). "Now", she'd say, "if that don't beat all!". She lived to be in her 90s, and I wish she could have lived longer, although I know she was ready for her good rest. I wish I could have seen her with my children and nieces and nephews. Boy would she have enjoyed them! I want my children to know what they missed in not knowing their Nanny, so the other day, when they asked for an orange, I cut it in half and sprinkled it with sugar. And then I told them how my Nanny would fix it for me, and let them sprinkle as much sugar on it as they wanted. And now, just about every day, they ask, "Mama, can we have a Nanny Orange?" And if the Lord tarries, and they gave me grandchildren of my own, I hope we can sit down together and enjoy a good, juicy orange and a visit rich with laughter and conversation.

I love you, Nanny. You're not forgotten.