Background post – My Nanny

Let me say first that I get my sick sense of humor from my Nanny. That’s where it all started. She was quite the jokster although many of her pranks were very cruel knowing the background. So I will start with her background.

From what I have been told, my Nanny had a young man she was quite enamoured with when she was young. I don’t know his name or anything about him. But her parents forbid her to marry him. And she was obviously quite heartbroken and angry over that. When she was told she could not marry him, she chose to marry the man that became my Papaw. His name was Harvey. I assume her parents approved of that union although she was not happy about the union.From what I understand, she made his life quite miserable for all the years to come. And those years included the birth of 5 sons and the loss of one. My father had four brothers, all older except one younger. And my father was the Golden Child. He was always the favorite. That being told, let’s go into the stories I have been told.

There was one Christmas that my uncle Darrell wanted nothing but a bicycle. He asked over and over again for a bicycle. That Christmas morning, Santa left a bike for my father. And when all the boys woke, Darrell found a bike marked for my father. He watched as my father took off on his new bike and he cried and cried. After a few hours of such, Darrell was finally presented with HIS bike.

Another common trick my Nanny liked to play on her boys was the “leaving trick”. If the boys were not behaving in a manner she saw fit, she would tell them she planned to just leave. She would get a suitcase, pack it, and pretend to leave then hide behind a door somewhere and watch all the boys sob and cry because they thought she was gone.

Needless to say, my Papaw became quite the alcoholic. My Nanny forbid him to drink in the house so he chose the cellar as his special place to go and steal a quick nip from time to time. It was his little cave; his place to be alone and escape. He kept his alcohol hidden there. He was also well known for having a nip and hopping in his Cadillac and tooling around town. My Nanny never learned to drive so she couldn’t take his car away from him. It was her method of transportation as well when she needed to go to the store or into town for any sort of shopping.

Ah, yes. One humorous story of my Papaw going into town with his boys… He took my father and Darrell into town one day for some ice cream. My Papaw ordered a cone for each of them. When Darrell was handed his cone, he began to cry. My Papaw asked him what was the matter. Darrell replied in tears, “I wanted mine on CREDIT!” Somehow he thought he had been cheated with a cake cone.

After my Papaw died at age 77…on the toilet from a massive heart attack…my Nanny decided she could no longer tolerate the cold North Carolina winters. They were too harsh on her arthritis and made her knees hurt. She decided she would come and spend the winters with us in Montgomery. We made a room for her out of my father’s study where she had a bed and room to herself. The only problem was our only full baths were upstairs. She would struggle once weekly up the stairs to get a full bath but used the half bath downstairs for most of her needs. We so enjoyed having our Nanny come and visit although I am not sure my mother felt the same way! Since Nanny could not drive, my mother was left to make sure Nanny got to go to town and do any shopping she needed.

On two occasions, my parents took the opportunity of having Nanny there to go on a trip by themselves. One trip to England and another to France. While gone, Nanny made herself at home and entertained us by hiding behind doors now and again to pop out and scare the pants off us! Kelly and I were always good sports about he whole thing but Tracy had no stomach for it and was left a nervous wreck. She lived the whole time in worry and wonder if Nanny would appear out of no where and send her into a panic attack. Kelly and I had a ball! And it was made even more fun just knowing she might catch Tracy off guard.

Nanny also always brought her pet birds with her. Over her lifetime, she had tons of parakeets and other various birds in her house. She loved them so much. I can recall stories of her birds, certain ones that hated different family members and would intentionally torment them. There are stores of Butchie. He would talk! He would say things like, “Butchie is a pretty bird.” and my father taught him to do a whistle and say, “What a beer!” At one point early in their marriage, my parents even had a bird named Gus. From what I understand, Gus died a horrible death one morning when my mother was frying bacon in a pan. He was often let loose and was free that morning as my mother stood at the stove. He came and lit on her shoulder then chose to light on the handle of the skillet. It was so hot, he jumped…straight into the pan of frying bacon.

One winter, my Nanny arrived with two birds. One was a parakeet she had had for several years and the other was a finch she named Bobby Jack after my two uncles who gave him to her. She had quite a fondness for Bobby Jack. We had a nice bay window in our living room and we would hang their cages each moring in the bay window on hooks so they could enjoy the view for the day. We were CAT people and had two cats at the time. Luckily, the bay window was a safe distance from any furniture to prevent the cats from getting to the birds. But our Thor and Kasey sure did enjoy watching them all day. Every night, we would take Nanny to her room and put the birds in their cages on the desk shelf of the office. She would cover them up and make sure the door was securely closed. One night, the door did not catch and our cat Thor found his way into her room shortly after Nanny had covered them for the night. Wouldn’t you know? He chose Bobby Jack, her favorite as her victim. My mother found the aftermath and had to have my father come and take care of things and break the news to my Nanny. She was quite devastated.

Reaching back, there was a story about my father and my uncle Bob. My uncle and his family lived in Montgomery for a short while and also in the same neighborhood as my family. My Nanny and Papaw planned a trip to come down from North Carolina and visit. My Nanny decided to dig up and bring two pink dogwood trees, one for each son. Upon her arrival, she realized one of the trees was dead. With both my dad and my uncle Bob present, she gave my dad the living tree and told my uncle Bob that his had died in transit. Isn’t that proof positive my dad was always the favorite?!??

I miss her. She looked the same from the time I can remember…and even in old photographs. It’s as if she went from being a young woman to a grandmother. There was no in between. But she was a FUN grandmother. She loved to cook and was a great cook. She was an entertainer. She was lively. She was a sprite. And I have named my daughter after her…Ila.


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