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.