It's not the name that matters most.
I've been thinking a lot, lately, about the different challenges and opportunities I've embraced during my life. I've talked quite proudly about my educational experiences, the PhDs earned from The School of Hard Knocks. I've learned a lot, usually the hard way, but most of what really matters in life I learned from my grandmother, Nanny.
Before my first grandchild was born, I spent a great deal of time trying to determine what he - and subsequent grandchildren - would call me. The name by which I would go down in their histories, after all, would be one of the most important in mine. This enormous decision weighed heavily on my mind . . . because of Nanny.
Although there was no way I could have loved my maternal grandmother one ounce more than I did, I must admit there were times I was somewhat embarrassed to address her in public. My Nanny was about five feet tall - and wide - and every bit of her generous frame was filled with love. She lives at the heart of who I became. She is the source of my security, my self worth. From my very beginning there was nothing I didn't love about my Nanny, except the name I, myself, gave her.
Being the first local grandchild, the plan was that I would name my mother's parents. Whatever came out of my mouth in order to acknowledge them would be what they would be called by me and all ensuing grandchildren. The problem was that even though I started talking, actually talking - in sentences, at seven months of age, I had a lisp. Grandma and Grandpa Smith ended up being Gramma and Grampa Pisssssss. Didn't work.
They tell me I chose the names Nanny and Papaw, but I'm still not convinced. As I got older, I heard too many other "Nannys" and "Pappaws" being summoned to believe I came up with them all on my own. Not that it matters. It's just one of those things you learn about life. You grow up believing a story you think matters somehow, but ends up never having been true to begin with. And, even though the initial betrayal stings, it's just not a big enough betrayal on which to dwell. There have been plenty of others much more significant.
Whether I really named my grandparents, however, isn't the point. The point is the conflict I felt as I grew into that stage where way too many things can embarrass a young girl. Suddenly, the woman I adored most in the world became an embarrassment because the name I called her wasn't at all cool. As I think of this through the old heart that has longed for years to again call her to me, I understand the meaninglessness of it all. To an insecure twelve-year-old, however, the fact was devastating. I lived beyond that stage, of course, but it was an important enough memory to resurface as I prepared for the birth of my own grandchild.
As a starting point, I knew I would NOT be called Nanny! What I wanted to be called was Big Momma. To me, Big Momma would let my grandchild know that I was important in his life. After all, there's no one more important to a child than his or her momma. If he knew me as Big Momma, he'd know from birth that I was important to him.
Big Momma didn't fly with the family. So, after thinking hard, I turned my focus from myself to my grandchild. After all, it was me who was embarrassed by the name I called my beloved grandmother. The point was that I didn't want my grandson to ever be embarrassed when he publicly acknowledged me. At once I had a mental vision of a tall, strapping high school football player, walking over to me after a game, draping his strong arm around me and saying, "I love you, Sug."
That was it! Sug. Like sugar. Sweet. Life's nectar. Sure! Gramma Sug was the name. When they were young, they could call me Gramma Sug and, when they grew from childhood into adolescent years that would be confusing enough on other levels, they could call me Sug. Sug's cool. I'd be cool. In fact, I'd be the coolest of all the grandmothers in the grandmother section of wherever we were.
Gramma Sug it was.
I trained Tucker from birth to call me Gramma Sug. I've always been Gramma Sug to John and Mark, too. Elle crowned me Suggie, and Ryland changed it to Ma Sug. Nixon and Wyatt went back to Gramma Sug, and Lucas just leaves it at Gramma.
What an experience it's been, this grandmother stuff! After all the time and effort I put into determining the best name by which to serve as grandmother, I've learned it really doesn't matter. The name, of course, doesn't matter. It's not the name that tells a child his grandmother is important, it's his grandmother, and who she is to him. What's important is whether or not he can feel safe in her arms, whether or not she can love his hurts away. What's important is whether or not her five foot eight inch, one hundred fifty pound frame can come even close to being able to exude the kind of love that oozed out of that diametrically-balanced five foot frame all those many years ago.
She's been gone for what seems to be forever now, but my Nanny still lives in my heart - her big, flappy arms embracing me. She nudges me, even now, reminding me that life IS sweet; love IS the elixir that heals all pain. Whether the name by which their grandmother is called brings temporary anxt to bumbling adolescents down the road, it's the enduring love that my grandchildren will remember - love that was passed to me, from my grandmother, to them.
Love is the tradition of my grandmother, and it is carried on by me. All the hours wasted, trying to choose the perfect name before Tucker was born, melted away the minute he was tucked into my arms. My love overflowed, as it did when I was subsequently handed John, Mark, Elle, Ryland, Nixon, Wyatt and now, Lucas.
Gramma Sug, Big Momma, Hey You.....the name doesn't matter. Nanny taught me what really matters is what I do with the title.