Our Nana, Katie June’s namesake, turned 87 years old yesterday on June 11th. Katie has celebrated every birthday with Nana since she has been born. In fact, that first year that Katie was here, I went to work for part of the day (finishing out my commitment to my Class of ’08 after maternity leave and not breaking my contract) to hear Curious Project presentations and then took a sub for the rest of the day so I could take Katie to Nana’s birthday party. In deciding to stay at home with my children (initially I was a bit torn after returning to work—I really, really loved my career and teaching), one of the biggest priorities I had in making my decision was that staying home would give me more opportunities to foster Katie’s (and eventually Eric’s) relationship with their great-grandparents, many of whom were still living at the time in 2008 when I decided. Great-Grandpa Don passed away in May of that year, but it is to my everlasting thankfulness that Katie got to know, and make memories with, her Great-Grandpa Yoder. Eric was still almost newborn when he passed and only saw him twice.

Both children, though, are filling up their hearts and minds with memories of their Nana.

My mom and Aunt Debbie thought it would be fun to take Nana out this year to the Seafare Inn in Whittier.  It is not open on Mondays, which is why we celebrated Nana’s birthday today.The Seafare Inn opened its doors in 1961; my mom was last there when she was fifteen. Over the years, I have heard Nana talk about how much she loves the Seafare Inn, and she and her neighbor Mrs. Shelly occasionally have lunch there together. Nana especially loves their scallops, which I would have ordered today for sentimental reasons were I not allergic to shellfish. I’ve never been to the Seafare Inn, and I love that now I can picture this place that Nana enjoys and that my kiddos have a memory there, too. So much of family history and connection is a deliberate layering process. This intentional building of ties, I believe, keeps us connected to our ancestors through time and space always.

I asked Eric if he wanted to carry our present into the house and give it to Nana. He responded, “I know” which is his way of saying “Yes.” (Actually, he uses it in a way that means, “Yes, I am in harmony with you.” It’s his expression of understanding—he uses it for more than just “yes.” In Eric-speak, “I know” means agreement of purpose).

Nana and Katie have a good time while Nana opens her presents.

Eric and Amie Nani at Seafare Inn. Eric sat in a booster seat for the first time, and he wanted his own place setting and menu. He was clear about that. Big boy!

Katie wanted to sit next to Aunt Debbie. She loves Aunt Debbie!

Aunt Debbie and Nana.

A nice man took a picture of all of us…He offered, so we said “yes!”

And then began the sweetest thing I think I’ve ever seen… My mom and Aunt Debbie ordered Nana a big ice cream as a birthday dessert. Nana wanted to share it with Katie and Eric, and they were happy to oblige:

Laughing with Nana… Eric doesn’t like sticky hands (he always lets me know!), and Nana was making him laugh while cleaning them off and saying “Bleh!”

Spumoni!

Then Eric let Nana feed him, which was really, really sweet. Eric never, never lets me feed him anymore. I try every once in awhile, sometimes when I am hoping to avoid a spillage of some kind (water, yogurt as a snack on the couch, etc.). He always is clear about wanting to feed himself or take a drink on his own. I haven’t fed him for months, and he is quite good with his utensils. So it was incredibly  endearing to watch him accept food from his Nana. He is eager for that connection between them. Very magical, really. Even later, when we were visiting Great-Great Uncle Ross (Nana’s brother), Nana needed a seat to sit down after organizing some things in his room, and when I told Eric that “Nana would like to sit in that chair” he immediately climbed down, no fussing. He is pretty sweet to her… We talk about her every night. He is a kind-hearted little boy, that’s for sure.

P.S. There’s the man (in the back behind the pillars) who offered to take our group picture.

And finally, here is Eric’s view of events…I let him use the iPhone (I still don’t have a cell phone—8 months and counting without, it can still be done in our culture, yay!!!!—but Bill has been letting me use an old iPhone of his that he dropped a year and a half ago. The glass is busted, but the camera works fine, and it’s good enough for now!) to take some pictures. It is amazing to watch Eric turn it on and then slide the slider bar…and then aim and tap. Digital natives, these kiddos. The iPhone and iPad are part of them.

A couple of Eric’s pictures:

Nana

Peekaboo, Sister!!

I am so fortunate to have this time with Nana, but more importantly, I am so thankful that my children have this time with Nana. They both have deep memories now and stories to tell. A long time ago, my AP US History teacher Mr. C (one of my favorites of all time, actually, because he worked us hard and expected much of us) gave us a project after our AP test in seminar. We had to interview one of our grandparents and write a report or a narrative about our family history—I think we had some choices, but I don’t remember all the parameters of the project now. I still have my project about Nana, kept in my hope chest. What a treasure to have so much of her young life recorded that way. I tended to like most of my schoolwork and homework assignments anyway, but this one was really special. I’ve always been so glad Mr. C assigned us that project. Someday I will read it to my children.

Happy 87th birthday, Nana. We love you and are so grateful we had time with you today.

 

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