It was just an ordinary pantry in a turn-of-the-century house. Small with a low ceiling, shelves on three sides, each bowed with jars of jellies and tomatoes, boxes of cereal and oatmeal and my Poppie’s beloved prunes.
But to a five-year-old me, behind that wooden pantry door was another world. Grocery store. Restaurant. Hideout. School. Cozy house for my babies. A place of imagination and mystery and familiarity.
It’s fitting that playing in my Nannie’s pantry is one of my most cherished childhood memories. For me, like many of you, food isn’t just a daily necessity. It’s a celebration, an itinerary, a thread that weaves between the generations.
For example, Nannie’s gravy. It’s legendary in our family, a silky salty goodness that is impossible for any of us to replicate. “Oh, I don’t even know if it’s any good this time,” she would always demur just before we all groaned with sighs of satisfaction.
But really, gravy was just the beginning. A child of the Great Depression, Nannie’s food was always made from scratch, and she always made enough to feed each of us three times over. Her pie? Oh my goodness, her pie. Homemade crust, naturally. Fruit that bubbled with sugar and cinnamon. Vanilla ice cream at the ready. It was standard for her to make multiple kinds for big meals, and then to ask the impossible: Which kind would you like? My Dad would say, with a grin and a twinkle, “Oh Nannie, I can’t choose. I’ll just have a sliver of each.” And he would be rewarded with a sliver of each that looked more like a slice of each to the rest of us, but who could grudge him when her generosity was just as rich with us too?
Today, I am leaving my family to fly to my Nannie’s funeral.
She died on Saturday, at the age of 97, a home going that is as much relief as grief. The past few years, she disappeared under a cloak of Alzheimer’s like dementia. We have mourned the loss of her, we have eagerly anticipated her reunion with Poppie – her husband of 60+ years who died just a few days after Natalie’s birth. Today, I rejoice because she is free. She is free! She is with Jesus, her lifelong love, and she is throwing her many crowns at his feet.
Glory. My eyes are welling with tears just thinking about it.
I last saw Nannie three years ago. I introduced her to Teyla, her newest great-grandchild.
She was joyfully surprised numerous times during our lunch to find that I was really there and that I was all grown up. “Oh Kelly!” she would exclaim. “I remember you! Look at how you’ve grown! And who is this little sweet baby?” She would ask again and again. She was as childlike as a toddler, living in both confusion and wonder.
But one thing shined bright in the dimming twilight. “I wouldn’t be here without God’s faithfulness,” she would say, time and again. “I owe it all to Him.”
I love you, Nannie. I look forward to seeing you again,. And I surely hope God allows you to make some pie for the feast of all feasts that awaits us. I would like a sliver of each, please.
On that last trip to see Nannie, my aunt let me go through some old pictures. Here are a few I found of my Nannie and my Poppie and my mom. Indulge me?
Do you not love the hats?