I've never really been certain that Nana was proud of me, even though she always said she was. Growing up, all she wanted was for me to be a teacher. Although she'd been awarded a full college scholarship, Nana didn't go to college because she felt it was more important to go to work and help her family survive during the Depression. My mom's generation was the first in her family to go to college and all the women studied to become teachers, including my mom. Being was a teacher was the acceptable profession for a woman and most of my female cousins in my generation became teachers.
There's nothing wrong with being a teacher. In fact, I think it's one of the most noble and important professions in the world, but it wasn't what I wanted to do. My lifelong dream was to be a lawyer.
My dream of becoming a lawyer was the subject of many debates and tense conversations as I moved through high school and college. It intensified when I graduated without a job (it was 1993 and almost no one had a job upon graduation). Even after I was securely settled in Washington, DC and was studying for the LSAT, she would still encourage me to become a teacher.
Not only didn't I become a teacher, but I changed my mind and didn't become a lawyer either. Plus, she never saw me get married and give her great-grandchildren. I truly believed I'd failed in her eyes . . . until today.
As I was going through her things this afternoon, I came across two items that brought tears to my eyes. I found a clear plastic page protector filled with memorabilia - ticket stubs, Congressional passes, the playbill from "The Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theatre, brochures from Monticello, Mt. Vernon, and the White House, and the program from Christmas Eve services at the National Cathedral - from her visit to DC over Christmas 1995. That trip was one of my happiest memories of Nana. I had planned the whole trip to the minute and then had a wrench thrown in my plans when the Government shut down during a budet crisis, but we still had a great time, even without the highly anticipated trip to watch Congress in action. A few minutes later, I found an envelope from me with the Hogan & Hartson logo and address on it. Inside was a whole bunch of return address labels she'd cut off of letters I sent her from Hogan. My eyes welled up with tears and I was speechless.
It turns out I was wrong. Finding these items that aren't worth anything monetarily meant the world to me. I now know definitively that she was proud of me. Better late than never.