I wasn’t spoiled, but my grandmother believed that grandchildren were a joy and a blessing, and she treated me as such. Bare feet on the couch was never taboo, cookie jars (crammed with snacks) populated her pantry shelves, and there was always my favorite on hand in the fridge: a container of mashed bananas mixed with peanut butter.
And spending the night at Nana's house after church on Sunday, especially during the summer, was magical. After the last dish was washed and put away, my grandmother always made a production of placing the folded cloth on the faucet, then carefully checking her tiny herb garden in her kitchen windowsill. Just when I thought my heart would explode from anticipation, Nana would smile and say, "Now, let's see what God and the garden has for us."
The setting sun would cast a glow on my grandmother's face, almost making her appear angelic as we made our way to her tiny garden. The coolness of the grass created a delicious shiver beginning at my bare toes and worked its way up my body, creating an unheard song in my soul. Anxious, I'd skip ahead like a wild foal, dancing to the beat of my own internal music, and Nana's laughter, a few yards behind me. She never tired of telling me the names of the plants, chalking up my inattention to just being excited. “When you're working with people, especially family, always give them the same amount of patience I'm giving you. People learn at different speeds," she'd say.
Nana always made sure that the huge tub she had in her spare bedroom was filled with the latest children's books, best crayons, and spiral notebooks. She preferred those to coloring books. "Why rely on other people's imaginations? Make your own pictures," she'd reason. Nana always praised every one of my drawings, assuring me that I'd be an illustrator.
"You don't understand child," she'd say "You have more fire and passion in you than some people will ever have in their lifetime. Use it. Embrace it. But always remember where you came from, and treat people the way you want to be treated."
As I got older, I began to think my grandmother was full of crap. To me, my pictures were nothing more than scribbles. I never knew how much each creation meant to Nana until after her death in 2000. There, among her mementos, were albums, filled with my drawings, each captioned with the date, and my age. I erupted into tears when I found a yellowed paper, decorated with lopsided roses on the last page. Debbie thinks she's awful. What can I do to convince her otherwise, was the entry beneath the picture? The drawing hangs in a frame in my office, offering inspiration when I need it.
I still visit Nana's house when I visit my childhood home. The path is now a little more overgrown, and the house, once ringing with laughter, sits silent and dark. But from it I still hear my grandmother's wisdom, and pass that along to my own children--gifts from Nana's house.