My great aunt Anne was eight years older than my grandmother. Even so, the two vied for all sorts of things growing up. Attention, recognition, and even wedding dresses. They were married within a year of one another and since my grandmother was engaged first she got to pick out the dress they had to share. It was a wound I don't believe ever healed.
When I was little my grandmother flew in and out of my life. Decked out in furs and diamonds and dropping off gifts from far away places. T-Shirts that said things like "My Grandma and Grandpa went----------- and all they bought back was this lousy shirt"
Before my Papa died, my grandmother didn't hold the rights to holidays. Well, Easter. She claimed Easter. She even cooked rabbit once. No kidding.
The holder of the holidays for me and my mom was my Great Aunt Anne. We called her Nanny.
Nanny was a grandmother to me in all the best ways. She took care of me when my mom needed a sitter. Her house was a fairytale stucco cottage with arched doorways and wall to wall carpeting protected with walkways made of iridescent plastic. I remember inspecting the fascinating things. Walking along the shiny paths and pretending the carpet was the ocean and I mustn't fall in.
She fed me my favorite childhood foods. Things I never got anywhere else. Black cherry soda and melon balls.
She was the first person I knew who had cable television. Remember the boxes with the buttons to push and the dials on the side? Yeah. It was downright amazing at Nanny's house.
She taught me how to play Monopoly. I can still remember her patience. I see her sitting on her couch and carefully coaching me through the rules as well as the most efficient way of keeping my money sorted.
"Honey, keep the money under the board. That way it won't fly away."
She never, not once, lost her patience with me. And I pushed people, let me tell you.
I put a plastic bag over my head in her living room one Christmas Eve. That's the night I learned NEVER TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.
I slid up and down the carpeted attic steps until I got rug burn. Sometimes sliding right under a crowded holiday dining room table. Not a peep out of Nanny.
We celebrated birthdays, Thanksgiving and New Years Eve with that portion of my family. Nanny had red hair. She was beautiful. I miss her.
Nanny lived a long life. She raised good kids. She died in her own bed, surrounded by her family. Not many can say that anymore.
A few weeks before she died, I went to visit her with my new baby and my first daughter. They were eight years apart. I hadn't been to her house for so long and was amazed at the safety and warmth the arches and carpet could still evoke.
I sat on the side of her bed and let her hold my new baby. While she cooed and kissed the soft baby fuzz I remembered the times I'd slept in that very bed. It was where I discovered the clapper. Nanny introduced me to all kinds of neat gadgets. I smiled.
Nanny shooed my older daughter out of the room.
"Suzy, please listen to me."
"What Nanny? Anything. What do you need?"
Her eyes filled with tears.
"Please don't put the broom behind the closet."
"Just because you have this brand new broom, don't put the old broom behind the closet. Okay?"
And the world went still.
I didn't Nan. I never put the older broom behind the closet. But I might have, if you hadn't warned me.