As I work to clean out her house and must decide what goes where and to whom and what is garbage, I obviously can't help but think about the life Nana lived. And especially today, on Christmas Eve, I can't help but think about all the wonderful gifts, both tangible and intangible, she gave me over the years.
When I was a kid, Nana made many of my clothes and they were appropriately 1970s stylish (and now you know why there aren't too many pics of me from the 1970s on LMS). Each year, however, I'd receive a very special dress for Christmas that she and my mom would have made together. That was no small feat, considering we lived in Chicago and Nana lived in Florida. The dresses were exquisitely sewn and always fit me to a T. My favorite a red velvet knee length dress with a white lace bib. I can still remember wearing it and feeling like the prettiest girl in the world (with a horrible Dorothy Hamill haircut).
A number of years later, either while I was in college or shortly after I graduated and was living in Washington DC, we were celebrating Christmas in Batesville, MS with all the extended family. All of Nana's sisters were there and all of their kids, grandkids, and maybe even a great-grandkid. There must have been 50 or more of us. Anyway, we were sitting around the tree on Christmas morning and everyone was opening their gifts. Nana handed Mom, Dave, and me each an envelope and when we opened it, we discovered that she had given each of us our own cemetery plot in Batesville, Mississippi! On top of that, she had also purchased one for my dad. Even though my parents had been divorced for 10 years or so, clearly indicating they didn't want to be together during this lifetime, she seemed to believe they wanted to spend eternity lying next to each other. I love her optimism. Unfortunately, none of us wants to be buried in Batesville (I plan to be cremated and have my ashes turned into diamonds and distributed to my loved ones. Yes, you're on the list. You're welcome.)
My favorite gift, however, arrived in 2002. Nana had just gone blind and was fighting to prove that although she couldn't see, she remained just as independent and capable as she'd ever been. Needless to say, she fought hard. 85 years of taking care of everyone wasn't going to end just because she couldn't see.
Just before church on Christmas Eve, Nana came down stairs holding 3 check boxes and asked me to wrap them. This had always been our routine and this year was no different. She would hand me gifts, tell me for whom each gift was meant, and I would wrap them without ever peeking. Frankly, the boxes felt empty, but I dared not say a word. I carefully wrapped and tagged the boxes and gave them back to her in the order she gave them to me.
The next morning, after gifts had been opened, Nana, pulled out the three boxes and beaming with pride, correctly passed them out. Mom, Dave, and I each opened our boxes and burst out laughing. You could see the look of distress as the pride rushed from her face. What could possibly be so gut-wrenching funny about money, I'm sure she wondered.
Having worked in a bank for 40 years, Nana could write a check blind and she had. The only problem was that rather than writing us checks that we could cash, she wrote out the checks on deposit slips. Had we overlaid the deposit slip onto the check and held it up to the light, all of the information would have proven to have been placed correctly on the check, but the "checks" were, of course, uncashable in that form.
As soon as we explained what she'd done and how much we appreciated her gesture, she joined in on the laugh. I think I still have my 2002 Christmas "check" somewhere. In fact, it was the last gift she gave me completely on her own without my mom's assistance.