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In twos.

Ten years ago this November, my Nanny died. In Louisiana they call her my Nanny but here and most places, she would be called my godmother. She was my mother’s oldest sister and her role as Nanny to me and my cousins was one she took seriously.

To say the least, we were always very close. I have so many fond memories of visiting her and my grandmother every summer in New Orleans, how she would bring me everywhere, the zoo, the aquarium, the French Quarter, despite the overwhelming heat. How every Christmas, we’d go on a special date just the two of us to The Oaks at City Park to ride the rides and see all the pretty lights. I remember her singing me to sleep every night to “Baby Love,” in her beautiful low alto voice. Her untimely death in 2002 came as a shock to everyone and it’s something I still feel nearly every day.

After she died, we were going through her things and came across a green, spiral notebook that said on the cover, To Shelley Lena Greenberg. I never knew it but she had kept a journal for me of her thoughts on my babyhood and an account of family gatherings from my birth up through the first two years of my life. It starts, “Dear Shelley, I am writing this so that one day you will realize how loved you are and also know something of your family.”

It was a wonderful though eerie moment, finding that journal. It’s about 30 pages of her beautiful script. I don’t know why she stopped or why she never gave it to me, but I’m just glad we found it and now it is one of my most prized possessions. And last weekend, I got four of those beginning words of hers from the journal, in her oft-praised handwriting, tattooed just under my left clavicle. It looks like this:

I love it so much. Every time I think of it or catch a glimpse of it or brush its fresh bumpiness, I feel a rush of joy. I had been wanting those words on me for a while, but it wasn’t until Saturday that I realized exactly where and that I was ready. And in part, this desire to draw her and her immense love for me in close was fueled by the fact that last week we suffered another (very early) loss on our journey toward parenthood. I can’t figure out exactly why but in some way I just needed this tattoo, this second tattoo, to find peace and closure after this our second loss.

Here’s what it looks like when I’m more covered up. I love how it just coyly peeks out at you. Those pretty, pretty letters. Those dear words. I feel like the luckiest ever when I read them.


  1. skins says:


  2. jo says:

    shelley, you leave me in tears… with your warmth and this very personal gesture and your open sharing. i am thinking of you and andreas, and sending you hugs. and having witnesses you both with your families, i know your godmother’s words are absolutely true.

  3. Yellaphant says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Don’t ever give up hope, you’ve got so much love left. The tattoo is beautiful.

  4. Mom says:

    Love you Babe…such a lovely, lovely post. Your Nanny would be SO proud of you and I know she is watching out for you and Andreas as you eagerly await starting a family.

  5. Your Cousin Dawn says:

    Dearest Shelley,

    As I read your beautiful words, I thought of Aunt Pearl and Kitty Lou- your Nanny. There were both so loved and such special ladies. My Mother-in-law got to know Kitty when they road the bus to work together. She was lovely.

    I have suffered from the loss of miscarriage as well. I can only say, I understand. Blessings await you, dear Shelley. Much love, Dawn

  6. kel says:

    shell, there are no words — only tears of sadness for you and andreas. i wish i had known. please know that you are loved by me, ginny and the entire k&p family. i know you will be parents at some point. your journey will have made it all the more meaningful. hugs.

  7. Shelley says:

    Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. We’ve been on this road for two years now. You learn to take it in stride. It’s always a battle, deciding how much to share and when so the support means more than you know.

  8. mrsrochester says:

    wow. that is such a sweet way to remember her. I love the placement of your tattoo…there aren’t too many original places to get one now a days but so far I haven’t seen the clavicle before.

    I’m so sorry for your loss:( *Hugs*

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