Every good visit comes with a good story, and so it is with the visit of July 2014. It all started like this…
Leading the way from the airliner through the gate was the uniformed flight attendant, followed by a young woman and a little girl. The young woman, a beauty who was three or so inches taller than the attendant, lit up the path with her smile. The little girl, I soon realized, was Hannah, my seven-year-old granddaughter.
Hannah is easy to pick out in a crowd. She doesn’t so much walk as she skips/runs/dashes, and you can almost see the mental kinesis unfolding as she takes in her surroundings. A force of nature. That’s Hannah.
And then it struck me. Beside Hannah now and walking toward me, the pure beauty of her smile causing heads to turn as she passed, was Lily, my oldest grandchild. Thirteen and towering over flight attendants. Thirteen! Amazing… amazing. Something inside me began to unfold and unfurl, opening at the same time my arms opened and took my granddaughters in.
They are the babies of my baby, and I – I! – am their Nana! This story unfolded, and Lily and I are sharing it with you.
It had been a full year since my West Coast granddaughters and I had a good embrace, and though we take advantage of text photos and Instagram and all the other bells and whistles of techno-hugging, you and I know it’s just not the same. So we hugged a bunch before we turned toward the baggage carousel.
Anyone who knows me knows my aversion to flying. It’s been more than a decade since I was last wheels-up, which means I haven’t spent too much time hanging out in airports, either. Fortunately, Lily and Hannah are seasoned air travelers, and Lily is a total veteran of flying solo. She guided us through the mystic maze that is Denver International Airport, getting us not only to the right carousel but also snagging her enormous pinkish/purple suitcase with the agility of a rock star.
And off we went in the evening swelter, the Prius getting us to the place of our first night together – a La Quinta about halfway between Denver and my home further south. Domino’s delivered, girls ate, we watched some silly TV and then crashed. Like rock stars.
While I had a kinda/sorta plan rattling around in my noggin for all the things we’d do during our visit, the girls and I agreed there were a couple of critical components: Shopping. And shopping.
And singing. Oh, we were going to sing not only with each other but also with The Ladies, my dear congregation at Florence Care Home. We were going to sing hymns and whatever other songs poured forth.
Rehearsal started in the car on the drive down the Front Range. Miles rolled by, and Lily and Hannah learned the melodies and words to “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art,” two favorites with The Ladies.
Out of the corner of my right eye, I could see Lily in profile, and I heard her lovely voice rising and falling exactly where it should. And my heart rejoiced. Hannah, in the back seat, was drilling a hole through my head with her laughter, her singing, her questions, her Hannah-ness. Oh, the love of it all. There is no better job on earth than that of a Nana – and I speak from professional experience.
Home sweet home, drop off bags, get some lunch and then launch ourselves in the general direction of downtown and sss…. sss. S.S.S. H. O. P. P. I. N. G.
We browsed boutiques and snagged some great bargains in earrings. We toured thrift and consignment stores and bagged some dresses and skirts. We hit Walmart with a vengeance and walked out with hats and more baubles. Yes, the wonder of shopping through the eyes of a young’un and a teen – it’s a whole new, brave and really big world out there.
Weather slowed us some, with rain keeping us from hours and hours of real, meaningful window-shopping. But we managed to make do with Netflix and hot cocoa. And chicken cacciatore and homemade ice cream. And rice pudding and Earl Grey with milk. (The foodie apple falls not far from the Nana tree…)
Wednesday dawned early for me and considerably later for my sweet grands – and, as always, the first thing on my agenda was to walk my Yorkie, cup of coffee in hand, cell phone in pocket, praise in my heart. To digress just a bit, I must share that early morning is my favorite time of day. His mercies are new every morning – hallelujah! And they were new and so abundant that particular morning as Kizzy the Yorkie and I strayed several feet off our beaten path in the large open space that provides plenty of opportunity for her constitutional.
It had rained a gulley-washer the night before, and we picked a route atop bent ragweed to avoid the clay mud. I was looking at my feet, gauging distance from one weedy patch to the next, when something shiny caught my eye. It was an earring. Moreover, it was MY earring. And even more moreover, it was my earring that had gone missing a month earlier.
Thing was, I had no idea where I might have lost that earring. I had gone to an outdoor concert on a large lawn, had walked from my car to the lawn and back to my car; had come home and then walked Kizzy up to the open space and then in along an acres-long vaguely circuitous route through the field, venturing off the path frequently as Kiz sniffed out something of critical interest.
We had followed the ditch bank in the tall grass. We had cut across the street several times. In short, we had walked about two miles in a serpentine manner.
So to see that earring in the mud – obviously washed clear by the rain – was a tender mercy indeed. When I picked it up, not a stone was missing, although it was obvious something truck-like had driven over it and bent the heavy metal a bit.
When the dog and I returned home, sparkler in hand, it was with my heart full of joy and Kizzy’s full of whatever fills a dog’s heart – I suspect desire for chew bones. The grands shared my delight, and Hannah shared a sausage with the dog. True love.
As the time drew near for our drive to Florence and The Ladies, Lily, Hannah and I practiced our hymns again and again, attaining pitch and harmony (OK, let’s be honest here. My granddaughters can sing, and that’s a talent they most certainly did not inherit from Nana.)
Our arrival at the home was met with such sweet reception, and my heart swelled to see my beautiful girls enchant my most wonderful Ladies. Everyone loved everyone, and we sang our hymns like we’d never sung before – including “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.
Then Hannah and Lily led the group in “The Sound of Music,” with all eyes on my granddaughters.
The Ladies were so very gracious, inviting the girls back and thanking them for coming and hugging and generally sharing every bit of grandmotherly tenderness stored inside. For their parts, my granddaughters were absolutely wonderful – caring and compassionate, polite and eager to please. Could I have had a better experience in watching Lily and Hannah interact with five lovely women, their grandmother AND God? Simply, no. I could not have had a better experience.
We shared our impressions on the drive home, and I was so touched by Lily’s understanding of what it means to grow older, live away from family and be so appreciative of even little kindnesses, particularly when they’re given so unconditionally. Hannah gets it as well – what the world needs now is love, sweet love.
Our last day together was Thursday, when my two Colorado grandchildren, Milo and Zoe, and Mom Serina came to visit and to fetch Lily and Hannah for a visit with cousins. How energy-charged the group of four was. Lots of laughing and teasing and picking onions off cheeseburgers at lunch. Lots of moments when the God of all creation smoothed my brow and said to my heart, “Look, child, at what I’ve given you. You are blessed! You are blessed!”
So I thank You, Lord, for the time to hold my Lily close to me, to feel her heart and know her loving ways. I thank You for all that You have given her, the beauty and the spirit to love and to be loved.
I thank You for all that is Hannah – the sweet laugh that tickles me to the core, the keen awareness of all around her and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Really.
I thank You for Milo the Guy-lo, whose heartstrings are tied fast to mine and whose loveable goofiness can make me laugh when that seems like an impossible thing to do.
I thank You for Zoe, precious life and abiding sweetness whose smile melts me into a bubbling puddle of Nana.
I thank You for my sons, Noah and Peter, for my daughters-in-law and for the love that binds us as family.
I thank You for the visit, for the unfolding and unfurling of my grandchildren, flowers each. I thank You for the unfolding of this story, oh yes. Hallelujah and amen. I thank You.