Ginger snaps and memories

Next week would have been my grandmother’s birthday. She’s gone now, but lived to the ripe old age of 103. My Grandma Corrinne, or Nana as she was known to her five grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, was quite a refined, educated and talented lady who baked the very best ginger snap cookies in the world.

Nana was raised in Des Moines and was the daughter of a prominent doctor. She attended Drake University where she studied music. She and my grandfather had two children, which she raised on her own when they divorced. That was a great family secret for many years. She went on raise her two children on her own. She knew the world of privilege as a child and how to be thrifty as a single mother.

Years later, she moved to Madrid to be close two both her children. When my uncle’s wife died in a fire, she stepped in to help raise his two young sons. She consoled them through their grief and also helped to shape them into fine young men. Both boys had careers in the military – one in the air force and one in the national guard. Both retired several years ago as full colonels. Nana would have been quite proud.

As I was growing up, Nana’s house was just a few steps away from ours and it was a wonderful retreat for me. She told me many stories about growing up in Des Moines. She pulled out her photo albums and talked about all of my ancestors, explaining who they were and how we were related.

Nana also traveled with us when we took vacations. She went with us several times to Okoboji and would sit on the porch of our rented cabin every evening watching the birds and the sunset. She followed me down to the lake when I went swimming and even fished me out once or twice when I toppled off the dock into deeper water.

What I loved most about my grandmother was that she was truly an independent woman right up until her last years. She lived in her own home until she was nearly 100. I don’t think I ever heard her complain about aches and pains or getting old. She was alert and sharp right up until she entered the nursing home. Even then, she continued to stay in touch with her grandchildren through letters and cards and phone calls.

One of the best things for me has been learning about the joys of grandparenthood. We have three little munchkins ranging in age from four months to five years. And like most grandparents, Larry and I are totally smitten with these little kiddos.

This weekend, two of three are coming for a visit. I know that as I watch the little ones play, I’ll be thinking of my own grandmother. I hope they’ll have just as many special memories of their grandparents as I do of mine. Maybe we’ll try to find her recipe for ginger snaps this weekend.