I didn’t do a July 4th post… I tried, I couldn’t do it. I kept putting stuff together and bursting into tears, nothing felt right and I just couldn’t get into the spirit. July 4th we always celebrated my grandmothers birthday–her birthday was July 3rd. She started the tradition years ago with a lobster bake and my aunt has continued the tradition–a promise she made my grandmother before she passed away in 2008.
So this last Wednesday would have been my grandmothers birthday, and I can’t call her that… I never called her that. I called her Nanny. She was the best Nanny in the world. She was beautiful, she was effusive and she lived adventurously. She was proud of her family and she made you feel loved yet she also could give a kick in the ass when it was needed.
She knew I loved seedless red grapes and Stella D’oro Breakfast Treats (somehow she always had them in the house when I came over) and she saved me the Willams Sonoma catalog when she got them in the mail. Even though she didn’t 100% understand, she didn’t judge my tattoos, my breast feeding or my obscenely expensive yet small 3BR apartment for a family of four in Manhattan. She had three children, three grandchildren and lived to see two great-grandchildren.
I’ll never forget the day I told her I was going to have my daughter (her first great-grandchild). I had already told my mom and my aunt. My aunt and I had already planned to go over to her house and go shopping…these trips always started at the kitchen table. We all were at the table and Nanny was asking if we wanted tea, fruit or breakfast treats. We told her to sit down (which she never did–she was constantly in motion) and I just said “you’re going to be a great-grandmother.” My aunt and I stared at each other because we honestly had no idea what she was going to do… “What?!?!” she said… “Juliana’s pregnant!” my aunt said… And we all burst into tears…and then went to Lord & Taylor. When the baby finally came, she stalked the nurses in the Maternity Ward and insisted on escorting my daughter from the Delivery Room to the Nursery; then gave us all a moment-by-moment account of what happened in those elapsed seconds. It was a spectacular thing to witness. And then again less than two years later with my son, Sean.
A few years after that, when I decided to get divorced, she was the person I was most afraid of disappointing; compounding that, she was in the middle of cancer treatment, I didn’t want to add to her stress or upset her. When I told her, all she said was that life was too short to be unhappy and that I always made her proud. I knew then it would be ok.
She never cursed. Never. But once in a blue moon she would get very upset and she could drop a bomb–but it wouldn’t be an eclectic combination of terms–her favorite (and now mine) was “shit-ass.” As in: “he’s a real shit-ass,” and for her to say it, they REALLY had to be one.
When I met my husband, Jay, in 2006 she was very sick. Jay and I got engaged in June 2007 and were married in August. Around July we went to visit my Nanny together and it was the first time he met her, she had cancer in her mouth which made eating impossible and speaking quite challenging. We were in her den, watching the Yankee game–she LOVED the Yankees, as does Jay–and all of a sudden, mid-game she turns and says to him: “You take good care of her, she’s my little one, you know.” I was trying not to cry, and I held her hand.
He said to her: “You don’t have to worry about her, I love them very much,” meaning me, and the kids.
All she said back was: “That’s good.”
She passed away a few months later. Her spirit is still very much with me. My aunt has done an amazing job keeping her promise to maintain the July 4th tradition; she truly embodies my Nanny’s spirit even though I know it’s very bittersweet for her. That’s love sometimes though, and it’s what binds us and carries us forward.
And I think my Nanny knows she doesn’t have to worry about us, because despite all the ups and downs families go through, we all love each other very much. And that’s good.