When I married my first husband Eric, I became joined to a family that was very different from what I had known. From my perceptions, there is a different subculture in the south. The politeness of conversation often involves a pretty rug that covers up the dirt. You may know the dirt is there, but it is an expectation that we do not talk about the dirt; don’t you see the pretty rug?
I once asked Eric who he was closest to within in his family. For a new addition to a family, this was a way for me to understand who they were as people, what they meant to him, and why.
“My Nanny Chris, because she is the realest of them all.”
It took me many years to know what this meant for myself because I did not live down the street from her, have regular Sunday dinners with her, or chat with her on a regular basis.
When I first met her I immediately noticed that she left the Southern niceties at the door. She called it like it was. She was bold, but she was all heart.
Throughout the years, I had often wondered who saw beneath the pretty rugs.
Shortly after The Day I Got The Call, I arrived at the funeral home. The beauty of the rugs and the dirt collided.
There are many names that I have not forgotten and some made an appearance at the funeral home. I hugged the one that took my place in Houston. There was another who had appeared prior to my arrival. She stood at the casket alone. I expected her there. I did not expect her to return to the burial.
I sat in the front row with the children. It was cold and raining that day; the kind of chill that went deep into your bones. From a distance, I saw Nanny Chris approach one of the ones whose names I have not forgotten. She departed shortly after the exchange of words. I exhaled.
When I chose to return to Louisiana following his death, I found myself sometimes drowning in Southern niceties. I found comfort and honesty many times in conversations between Nanny and I. She has the ability to see both worlds that many cannot; the dirt and the beauty. Being able to see beyond black and white is one of her gifts.
Throughout the years, I have called on her numerous times when I needed perspective.
There was a time many years ago that I called her from my garage. I sat in a chair and poured out my heart. I had a child in a desperate place; a dark place. They were drowning. I was at a loss because I was in unfamiliar territory. She gave me a map, a bottle of water, and outstretched her hand. She gave me perspective. She gave me encouragement. She gave me honesty.
She helped me and in turn I was able to help them. In many ways, she helped save a life.
There were times in my life that I struggled with seeing the color. She helped me expand my vision through many situations and for that I will always be grateful.
Her wisdom and vision have helped me more than she knows. She gave her voice when I had lost mine. She threw me a flotation device when I felt like I was drowning; as a person, as a wife, and as a mother. I understand what Eric meant many years ago when he told me she was ‘the realest of them all’. She has impacted my life and by doing so, she has impacted many others. She is bold, but she is all heart…
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