My sister came to visit last week with her son and his girlfriend. I was flattered that Will wanted me to meet Kait. I was nervous at first, but after our initial awkwardness, we hit it off and pretty much talked non-stop all afternoon. We shared family folklore and laughed as we admitted some of our most embarrassing moments while looking at old snapshots of Daddy and Nannie. Names of beloved family perfumed the air with sweet memories…Ann, the Colonel, Mom Peg, Sweetie. It was one of those beautiful moments when virtual strangers drank from the fragile, but flowing fount of times long past to become kindred souls. I have no idea if Kait will eventually join our family, but she will be most welcome should she choose to do so. Her family memories blended with ours to create a delicious infusion of faith, hope and human kindness.
During our visit, my sister Jane shared the story of how our grandfather Dewey defended our precious Nannie when she was a child at school. Dewey was four years older than our grandmother and I imagine he was probably a gawky 12 or 13 year old boy when this incident took place. According to our grandmother she had a high fever while at school, but didn’t want to tell the teacher. This particular schoolmaster (it was 1910 or so and a one room school house) was not a kind man and Nannie was afraid of him. She took her spelling test while feeling ill and missed three words. For this, the teacher wanted to cane her. For those of you unfamiliar with corporal punishment, it was common at that time for students to be spanked with a long cane made of rattan either across the buttocks or the upturned hands. It was quite painful and done in front of the other children to shame the offending student. Knowing that our grandmother was sick, Dewey offered to take the caning in her stead, but the schoolmaster refused and had Nannie hold out her hands to receive three blistering blows across her soft palms. I can just imagine my grandmother, burning with fever and shame, looking at my grandfather through new eyes. Eyes filled with gratitude, admiration, and puppy love for the older boy who sought to protect her. That puppy love would deepen through the ensuing years, leading our grandmother to agree to marry Dewey in the summer of 1920. She was 18 years old. Dewey was a man of the world at 22.
Love stories buoy our spirits and give us the courage to carry on during difficult days. Days where the news is filled with stories of pandemics, prejudice, and political scandals. We all long to hear stories of selflessness, devotion, and acts of valor. For Annie Townsend McDonald love was spelled with an impetuous and tall capital D. The Colonel spelled love with an elegant and decidedly feminine A. Today, Will spells love with a cute little K. However you might spell it, remember love is nourished through kindness, sacrifice, and a little bit of laughter now and then. May you both drink deeply from the fount of family folklore and together create a deliciously magical potion that will delight generations to come.
Oh, and if you don’t know I spell love with a steady, resolute J.