I’ve mentioned before that I called my maternal grandmother Nanny Winnie. How I came to call her that started on my father’s side of the family when my older cousin began calling our common grandmother Nanny Kay. I was the second of Nanny Kay’s grandchildren (though a third was born just months after me). By the time I started talking, my cousin who was two years older had imprinted the family—“Nanny” is what we would call grandmothers.
When my later siblings came along, they all called our grandmothers “Nanny” just like I did. I assume our younger cousins followed their older sister’s example also.
But at some point my younger siblings shifted to calling both grandmothers “Grandma.” I think the change occurred about the time they reached their teens—“Nanny” was too childish. By that time, I was out of college and married.
My cousins made the change from “Nanny” to “Grandma” also, but I don’t know when or why their transition occurred.
The result is that I’m the only one who held to the Nanny Winnie and Nanny Kay designations throughout these good women’s lives.
I don’t know why I didn’t make the shift. Maybe I was too old to change by the time my younger siblings were ready. Maybe it is my essentially conservative nature—I don’t like change. Maybe I don’t mind being different—it didn’t matter what my friends called their grandparents; “Nanny” was good enough for me. Maybe I’m just a little kid at heart.
When I had children of my own, they called my mother and my husband’s mother Grandma”. I didn’t feel the need to continue the “Nanny” designation into another generation.
In fact, it was easier to have a different appellation for grandmothers and great-grandmothers. My children had both Grandmas and Nannies in their lives. They were fortunate to know both of my grandmothers—their great-grandmothers—for a few years, though they didn’t see them often, because both Nanny Winnie and Nanny Kay lived halfway across the continent.
In fact, one thing that saddens me now is that, should I ever become a grandmother, my grandchildren will not know my parents. No “four generation” pictures with my parents, me, my children, and my grandchildren.
Nanny Kay’s birthday is coming up soon—Friday would have been her 105th birthday. Next month is Nanny Winnie’s birthday—she would have been 108 in mid-March. I think about these women frequently. They were part of my growing up and lived well into my adulthood.
They made me who I am, not only because they formed my parents, not only because they were refuges during my childhood, but also because they passed on certain traits to me. I look in the mirror, and I sometimes see Nanny Kay in the shape of my face. If I have any musical talent at all, it came from her. As I age, I feel myself moving from my typical reserved demeanor toward my Nanny Winnie’s ability to talk to any stranger. Maybe I am assuming her gregariousness as I mature, maybe I am now more relaxed and less stressed, maybe I actually am developing a greater interest in other people.
We all need Nannies to live up to in our lives.
What nicknames has your family bestowed? Which have survived, and which have been lost to time?