Nana was an old-fashioned woman. She was devoutly God-fearing, believed divorce was a sin, and had definite ideas of gender roles. She also had a strong tendency to see her grandchildren as small children no matter how old we got. Birthday cards from Nana were often ones more appropriate for a 7-year-old, but she sent them with love, and that's what made them unique.
Frankly, Nana would have been over the moon if I'd graduated from college, gotten married the next day, and started making babies the day after that (with no pre-marriage practice). If I had to have a career, the only appropriate one in Nana's mind was a teacher. That was not ever in the cards for me. Immediately following graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C. to investigate employment discrimination at the EEOC and then work as a paralegal before going to law school. Ultimately, I changed my mind about law school, but that's another story.
Shortly before my first Christmas in D.C., I came home to find a big box from Nana waiting for me. It cost her almost $10 to mail, which was a lot of postage in 1993, and she sent it directly through the Crystal Beach Post Office rather than going through the taxidermist (this was her go-to for mailing packages - God only knows how the UPS guy thought our home was decorated), so I knew this must be special. She'd also written "FRAGILE" all over the box in big bold letters.
What was Nana sending me?
Much to my surprise, the box contained one of her treasured ceramic Christmas trees and at least two homemade fruitcakes. I know everyone hates fruitcake, but Nana made the best fruit cake in the world. That's a fact. You can look it up on my blogs.
As I unpacked the Christmas tree Nana had carefully packed in packing peanuts and protected with recent issues of the local paper (which I very happily read, and she knew I would), emotions overcame me. Nana always sent Mom boxes of fruitcake, date loaf, and fresh white grapefruits off the tree at Christmas, but this was my first such package from her. She didn't include date loaf, which she knew I didn't like anyway and sent my grapefruit in another box.
Sending me the Christmas tree and fruit cakes were Nana's way of telling me she saw me as an adult. She may not agree with my choices, but she knew they were mine and she was proud of me. That Christmas I was no longer her sweet 7-year-old granddaughter, but a 22-year-old woman who was figuring out the world. To further drive this point home, a few weeks later on Christmas morning, I received an envelope with a cemetery plot located in Batesville, Mississippi in it. True story. Ask my cousins. We all received them.
Nana would slide back into old habits and often treat me like a child until her death nine years ago, and I learned to live with it, but for a short time in 1993, she recognized me as an adult. And, more importantly, in that moment as I unpacked the tree and fruit cake, I realized that I was unmistakably an adult.
Today would be Nana's 102nd birthday. Happy birthday Nana. I still miss you.
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