Small gestures. Howling at the moon.


It went something like this:

Nan: “Chrissy, I got a bunch of wolf pictures. I thought you might want ’em.”

Me: [Internally scratching my head – why would I want wolf pictures] “Oh yeah?”

Nan: “Yeah, I tore ’em out of a calendar. They’re kinda perty. I thought you might want ’em. They look like that picture you drew that one time.”

Me: [Still pondering why the heck I would want wolf pictures] “Oh yeah? Ok, yeah, I’ll take them. I bet Will would like to look at them.”

Nan: “Ok, I kinda liked ’em. I’ll give ’em to your mom and dad.”

So, for those of you who don’t know, “Nan” is my approximately 87 year old grandmother. We call her Nan, even though her name is Lula. When we were kids, she was “Nanny.” As we grew, she became just “Nan.”

If you know Nan, you know that:

  1. She’s hard of hearing and sometimes nods and says, “Yeah.” even though it’s obvious she has no clue what you just said.
  2. She subsequently jumps into discussions by blurting out completely obscure topics or observations which have no bearing on the current conversation because she probably can’t hear what you’re talking about most of the time (see above).
  3. She makes the best homemade chicken and noodles in the known universe and can make a meal out of any combination of pantry items, which somehow tastes good every time.
  4. She is our family’s version of US Weekly. You want to know someone’s business? Nan’s got the details that, though occasionally exaggerated and oft times inaccurate, seem to carry a grain of truth when all’s said and done.
  5. She’s wonderfully practical, eclectic, and whimsical. She paints her initials on most of her purses with red nail polish. She’s always sure to scotch tape birthday money securely into the card. As kids, she’d make us a ball to play catch with out of socks. She’d make tiny dolls out of the hollyhock blooms in her back yard, and one year she decided it would be pretty to paint bowling balls and plant them in her landscaping so just the tops showed.
  6. She would give you the shirt off her back. It isn’t a cliche in this case; I’m quite certain the phrase originated from her selfless generosity – generosity that, despite having been taken advantage of, endures nonetheless.

I went to my parents’ house yesterday and just as I was leaving, there they were. A little pile of glossy wolf pictures, edges slightly marred from where they were torn or cut from the stapled spine of Nan’s calendar, stacked on the edge of the kitchen island. She’d left them with Mom and Dad, just like she said.

My mother and I shared a knowing smile as we both knew I was humoring Nan and her silly pictures by taking them, right? I tossed the wolf-stack on the passenger seat and drove home, where the pile was plopped, shuffled, and scattered around for a day as I looked for car keys, wiped counters, and made room for toddler implements.

Finally, I noticed the pile laying on the coffee table. I’d forgotten about them until I saw a pair of stoic, yellow wolf eyes gaze out of one of the pages as it was run over by a Fisher Price “Little People” school bus being pushed by two pudgy little hands.

“Hey Will! Wanna look at these wolf pictures with Mommy?”

He stopped for a second and considered, but was more involved in filling his blue beach pail with mismatched trains and cars, all while wearing his bright yellow construction hat. I flipped through the stack as he played and imagined Nan sitting alone at her kitchen table, tearing out page after page of a 12-month calendar, stacking them neatly – preserving them – just for me. Just because they reminded her of a picture of a wolf I’d painted my freshman year in high school 20 years ago.

Her initial offering of the wolf pictures, which seemed slightly absurd, if not downright wacky at the time, actually made complete sense when I actually stopped to consider the gesture. Her small gift of used calendar photos came from a place of the truest and kindest generosity and thoughtfulness.

I knew just what to do.

“Will, Mommy will be right back, ok? Just watch Winnie Pooh! I’ll be right back!”

“Ok!” (Never an argument from him when Pooh is involved.)

I carried all of the calendar pages up to Will’s room (minus the one that fell victim to the Little People bus tires), Scotch tape in hand, and I taped every one of them to the wall in his room. When it was time for bed, I told Will that I had a surprise waiting for him. We scurried up the stairs and into his bedroom where he grinned and laughed and oohed and awed over the hodgepodge wolf collage in the corner of the room. He immediately ran over to the the changing table (that’s entirely too small for him), scrambled up, and stood so he could get a better look at the wolves.

Nick and I pointed out the “mommy and baby” wolf, and we hooted and howled just like the wolf howling at the moon in one of the pictures. We looked at the “pups” and noted how wet the wolf was who’d just taken a swim. Will wanted to hold that one but he exclaimed dramatically that the wolf was just “toooo big!” to hold.

The next day, when it was time for Will’s bath, he ran to his room and said, “I wanna see wooolves! Hi’ya wolves!” And we had fun again, only this time I quizzed him by asking, “Where are the wolves that are friends? What about the mommy and baby wolf, where are they?” We did this until all wolves were accounted for. Will yelled, “Bye wolves!” before getting in the tub.

I really hate time. Not just because it’s a fickle thing that inextricably bankrupts us of the precious moments created with its passing, but because it wears a comfortable rut in the day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year fabric of life until we comfortably patronize those who deserve our respect because we’ve grown too accustomed to their antics to realize they’re a gift.

I called Nan to thank her for the pictures. I wanted to explain how much Will adored them and that we’d hung them up in his room. I got the answering machine. Yeah…not voicemail, a real bonafide answering machine, complete with the beeeep. I only hope she can hear my message.

G’night all you wolves out there.


5 thoughts on “Small gestures. Howling at the moon.

  1. LittleT says:

    This made me miss my grandma and made me thankful for the beautiful moments I had with her! What a wonderful reminder to never take those we love for granted.

  2. Dianne says:

    You are one amazing young woman, Chris. Another exceptional article here and it helps to remind us all that we take too much for granted – from events to people and a lot in between. Older people can make it difficult for us to connect with them sometimes, but those eccentric qualities CAN be wonderful if we take the time to look at the intent with which they are done. Thanks for the reminder. And I hate time too. Because of some of those reasons you mentioned and because it’s just such an over-bearing SOB that keeps marching on, no matter what. I love that you have helped open Will’s eyes to the wonder of his nanny and also the amazing things in nature – like wolves. You (and Nick) are wonderful parents and Will is one lucky little man.

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