Thursday, September 04, 2003

Happy Birthday Nancy

In a house near a creek, down the street from the square, lives a woman who is wonderful. Today is her birthday. Today she may be getting in one last game of golf before poor weather comes, or she may be starting a new quilt, digging in the garden, or planning a trip. Though I love her very much I regret to say that I do not know her well enough to say what her favorite color is, her favorite pie flavor, or even how old she is today. But I do know that Grandma Nancy is the best kind of woman; she is strong and gentle, she holds her family close and dear, but never too tightly, she recalls the past and yet she keeps in tune with the changing times. I like to hear her laugh, and I like to see her walk in to town with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

No one lives very long without losses and heartache, but those that live well, like Nancy, carry on with grace and strength, and hope that inspires and renews the spirit. Perhaps she is the source of her own strength, or she may know how to gather it from those around her. I admire, and am inspired by, how she uses her resolve and determination to carry on with gentle, thoughtful and uplifting dedication to her family and friends, to her interests, and to her community. Her strength is both spiritual and physical. Snow and adversity have not stopped her from seeing the people she loves, going her way, or doing her thing. And being tough in tough times has not hardened her; she is kind and accepting, caring and considerate.

She is a matriarch. She has seen old ways come and go, she has seen many new fads, and social changes, and upheaval, and she has watched her children and their children navigate through it all. She seems to take it all in stride. She told me once that 'grandmothers are little girls inside,' and I think she still knows how to honor the child she was, and to honor even the youngest children that come to her home, play in her yard, fall asleep on her bed. Though we often hear about 'old people that don't understand the new ways and new generations,' Nancy keeps it all in perspective. She gets worried, and she has concerns, but she also listens, and she remembers, and she gives each of us room to be individual and appreciated. Her family is dear to her; we can see this through her kindness and generosity, by the time she shares and the interest she takes in each of us.

I have written about my love for Wisconsin, which started long before I met Geoff and his Grandma. But lately I find it hard to separate my affection for the beautiful state and Nancy; my reasons for loving them both are entwined. They are both traditional in graceful, sentimental ways, and yet still open to new ideas and flavors. They are both strong and gentle, varied, yet constant. They both nurture while encouraging independence and ingenuity. They both make you feel uplifted and welcome, inspired and good. I cannot say if this is one of my favorite times of the year to be in Wisconsin, because the world is on the brink of great change, the leaves are thinking of donning new color, the light is beginning to soften, people are on the move, or is it because it's Nancy's birthday, and loving her, I love the day she was born. I wish we were there sharing sun or rain, raking leaves or eating a pie, and wishing her a very happy birthday.

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