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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Way the Light Guides Us.

This morning started as normal, chilly air, thick, heavy to breath but fresh all the same. The fog was thick and the sun appeared as if being seen through rice paper. The drive to the barn was that of Alice falling through the tunnel to wonderland. Driving into darker areas although well into morning hours, seeing the white wall of fog before me. Few cars on the road, and even less as I turned onto Hollywood up to the barn. The sheep were still as status, the Burrow that protects them stood with ears back and quitely tucked into a cold, protective position. The trash lined the road for pickup so I had I drove even slower through the fog which made everything appear in grays and only the most close things were in slight color. Much like an old black and white photo someone had watercolored only a few leaves on the trees next to my car. With it being a pick up day I was afraid of hitting a dog, a cat, or even a bear so I crept in 2nd gear and made it into the white wall of fog. The fog was so think the wipers were necessary to continue on, but as I approached near the top of the road, to the west side of the mountain it suddenly cleared and appeared as a white ocean below me. I let the horses out after loving on Sweetpea and closed their gate. By the time I got back home the sun was bright, fog was only a thought, and the farmers were humming with their tractors all around me.

It is funny how life has it forces, how we can continue on even with the darkness, rain, fog, or snow. What are the forces that keep you going in your life? or What are the forces that have guided you along the way.

One of my guiding lights in my Nannie... Mable Nadine Knight Lain. One who lost her mother as a young girl, took on as much responsibility as she could with her younger brothers, and tried to be a help to her father who was supporting them all alone. She came from a strong line of women... her mother had an egg business and her own car in a day that was unheard of. Her grandmother was the town midwife although she didn't deliver any of Nannies children. The Nadine came from Nadine Newland... one of her mothers best friends.

Nannie was the real thing, Living with rations like everyone else, working tirelessly while the men were off to war. She was a rivet girl at AVCO a company long gone from the Nashville area, but it once made airplanes/ parts.

Nannie has wonderful stories of she and Miss Juanita going to the movies, riding the bus into Nashville, stories that make her face light up.. The giggles you get when she talks about she and Miss Juanita riding in the rumble seat. These stories and the look on her face always made me think… this was her only time of freedom. While surviving the pain of loosing a mother young, the loss of a younger brother was difficult as well. She was so smart not to marry before her love returned from war, she would have been tied down with a baby and never had this freedom. It made me think…. How much freedom do I want in my life? How much of myself am I willing to cut out of my chest and pack in a box and never be able to see, or feel those things again.
Nannie waited for Cecil to return and after an AWOL he did… They got married! She wore a beautiful brown suite with green around the trim. Life changed. Children are a joy … And Nannie had three, My Mother, Judy Freeman Lain, My Uncle Steve, and My Aunt Gale (yes it is spelled correctly for her)
Nannie and Pawpaw were almost perfect for each other, he was harsh and she was the most softly spoken person anyone can comment on. She never said a harsh word to me only gave me other positive things to focus on. The most harsh thing she ever said to me was… Your not going to meet him looking like that are you? Yes mam I am… and she just shook her head. (you have to know I was covered in horse muck, in a pair of cut off’s and a tee shirt) She did want me to find a man at some point in my life!

All of these thoughts started because I was making beans and corn bread the other day…

How do I see my Nannie? I see her as she was on the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. I will never see her any different. Last night I dozed and thought with a fast paced mind, as the smell of cooking beans still lingered in my little house; and made me think of soft worn kitchen towels, that smelled of the sun and wind instead of food. I don’t remember Nannie ever having new kitchen towels. Then my mind raced back to her stove, not very different from mine today, the kitchen cabinets, the Formica covered counter tops.

I would feel the movement of my little bird I was nursing through the night and the racing of my mind would calm. I would ease back into thoughts of Nannie. It’s the smell again, but in my mind it was my often requested skillet fried potatoes, something mother never made for some reason, a hint of onion I thought and then corrected myself, can’t be “the twins will not like that” but that cast iron skillet; it must be the secret to the perfect potatoes with or with out the onions… IF ever something happens Nannie, that skillet is all I want, I’ll make sure you get it she would say, and today it makes the most delicious, perfectly brown, non sticking pan fried potatoes. A true treasure from the past!
The other day it made the perfect family cornbread. A small token Jerry and I will nibble on for the next few days.

It is funny how we all see things differently. I saw Pawpaw as the one that ran around doing everything, but Nannie was the one that was the center hub. Why? Well because no matter what, it was her table I always sat. She was the one always home. It was her table that no one could leave with out eating. Pawpaw was the same but most of his time in the house was shared between his chair at the table and his chair in the living room/TV room. Nannie sat at the table and read the paper from front to back every day.

Nannie was the center hub for the force that kept me sane in the crazy world of teenagers. Well I was well beyond teenage years BUT I was a late bloomer in every aspect of life. Because I was so far behind (due to living in my fish bowl) during times other girls were starting to appreciate parents I was still butting heads with mine. Maybe because in reality Mother and I are so alike we can’t see past our own visions, but Nannie would always give me something else to focus on. Aunt Gale was always my back up! The three of us… really four of us; but Pawpaw would eventually get tired, move to his chair, bark something into the conversation if he felt like it, or would leave to do something with the animals, farm or visit someone.
My coffee addition started at Nannie and Pawpaw’s, although there was always grapefruit juice, milk, coke or sweet tea in the fridge, coffee was the drink of choice, Folgers was their brand. Quite frankly it’s the reason I don’t purchase it today. But I would eat grounds today if I could have one more breakfast club morning with the four of us.

My thoughts danced all night, The first big car I remember them getting… They picked me up at school, we got groceries at Bates Food town. It was new to them, but had stickers all over the dash! It had always been the truck I remembered before that.

The movement of my bird, realizing it’s cold out side the cover I have thrown over me, makes me think of outside, my clothes line, Nannies clothes line, the smell of her towels, the smell of alcohol, her shoes, the way she cut the toes from her old pairs. How I have only in the past few years gotten into wearing pretty shoes, how Nannie was so fascinated by a pair I had on last I went to see her. Are those comfortable? She would ask, no mam. Do they feel good? Not at all, Nannie. She would continue to look at them and I finally asked her… Would you like to try them on? We both just laughed, with a full belly laugh, free to feel, free to react, with out a care in the world.

I have always been able to Laugh and Cry with Nannie I have always had a special place in my heart for her. I LOVE YOU Nannie, I will always love you, and I miss you terribly!

You have always been a guiding light for me. That strong light I knew I could return to for support, guidance or just to talk…


  1. Amber, how wonderful. The pictures are perfect, just perfect. Got a phone call from the nursing home today, Mother slipped...all is well,except a bump on her neck. She told the nurse, "it is just the way I am made and THANK YOU for helping me", the nurse assured me all is well, will watch the "bump", I confirmed she wasn't made that way. I ask the nurse to be certain Mother is up and ready to go to the dining area in the am so I can share your stories...After reading this tonight, I may have tears also...

  2. A proud grandparent...although my relationship is different it is the same.

    I shared a private moments in the car as we drove to "Home Demonstration Club" meetings. We spent time talking in the car about what I have no idea. We would arrive and all Nannie could do was beam about all that I was doing in 4-H. I would give my 'demonstration' and have lunch with the ladies. It is a time that no one else shared with her....they were memories all my own, in our own space and time.

    Breakfast made as we waited for the bus...calling to say what's for lunch or dinner. "What would you like?" came the voice on the other end of the phone. The walk, the journey down the road, either cutting through everyone else yards or simply walking down the 'highway' we would arrive ready to be filled. Not just filled with food but filled with love and assurance that we were apart of something great.

    Walks down the road, they didn't happen often but the long journey down was such a treat. Hotter than hot and yet the cool water awaited us at the bottom of the hill. Playing in the creek was truly a delight. Then the walk back to the house...always followed by a tall glass of tea. The best sweet tea in town.

    I miss the sweet tea more than I ever admit. I can't make tea, the perfect mix of tea steeped just long enough and the perfect amount of sugar stirred in to create a mix of sweet delight.

    The smile of the Nannie sitting across the table when you knew she was proud of you but didn't quite have the words to tell you. Never a harsh word, the older I've gotten I have noticed the slight changes of eyes when she disapproves. Although I'm not sure I'll ever forget her comment to Aunt Gale as we celebrated Nannie's 90th birthday. Nannie asked Aunt Gale about her hair, Aunt Gale replied I wanted a hair cut like Judy's. Aunt Gale asks..."do you like it?" Nannie sits and takes a deep breath and then says "NO comment". Funny, her dry sense of wit is still strong at 90 years young.

    The smell of beans, fried potatoes with and without onions fried perfectly in that cast iron skillet, coconut pies at Christmas and the endless hugs...they all speak to a guiding light.

    A light that showers us with love, kindness and power.

  3. Nannie says " I think this is wonderful and I LOVE HER"