She was of thin build, small enough that it seemed as if a whisper of a breeze would carry her away. But she perpetually amazed me with her ability to yank the toughest of weeds from the ground.
Hands, scarred from berry briars and callused from farm work lovingly crafted "play clothes" from cheerful-looking cotton flour sacks. My mother didn't approve of shorts (something I wanted desperately) for little girls, but Nana argued my case by being practical--these were longer than the shorts sold in stores and would be cooler in the summer than my jeans.
That wasn't the only time that Nana pled my case. There were the times she just HAD to go by the dollar store in town (the same days I'd asked to go to the library just a half a block away but was told "no" by my mother), and other instances when she asked Mama to take her to the local ice cream parlor, just five minutes after I'd been denied the same request.
And there were those wonderful Monday summer mornings. Before the dew dried on the grasses, my grandmother and I were in garden, birds serenading us with morning songs while we worked. Other times Nana donned her faded, pioneer-style bonnet and we picked wild plums, berries or grapes for canning.
Nana's buttermilk biscuits and fresh blackberry preserves were the stars of the breakfast table. As I grew older, I'd tell her my fears, plans for the future, and all were decided and solved--all over a pan of biscuits. Each session ended with my sighing and saying I wish she'd be "around forever." I was convinced I needed her reassuring smile, her calm to my storms. She'd always smile and say "Baby girl, I will always be around for you, even when I'm gone."
Through the years, life has thrown me curveballs and each time I've yearned for a batch of Nana's biscuits, preserves, and her sympathetic smile. This past week has been especially taxing. Deadlines for new books loom and yesterday my child was ridiculed for displaying the symptoms of autism in public.
With all that, this morning I couldn't fully enjoy the gorgeous view of the Mississippi River outside my hotel window. My family and I stopped by Mother's restaurant (near the French Quarter). Our server pursed her lips and shook her head when I ordered just a cup of chicory coffee. Even though the air was scented with streaming plates of crispy-fried ham, biscuits and eggs, I wasn't hungry.
My family received their food and I was surprised when the waitress slipped a plate in front of me.
"Gotta eat, baby girl," she whispered. "Whatever troubles you child, this'll help."
My vision blurred as I stared at the saucer. In it was a large buttermilk biscuit topped with blackberry preserves. True to her word, Nana was still with me.