My Nanny

They say the best gifts come in small packages.

Such was my Nanny.

A picture of a gangly teenager, arm outstretched,

Shows Nanny standing under it, smiling up at me.

Yet her soul was so much larger than mine.


When we were kids, my brother and I would spend weekends in her tiny house.

Nanny worked magic there.

Bitter coffee was made sweet with liberal doses of her milk and sugar.

Thread-less spools, dipped in dish soap, became backyard bubble blowers.

Empty bread bags, wet paper towels knotted inside, turned into comets

As tails were twirled and thrown upward into the sky.

Yet her magic could not keep a grandson

From feigning illness, to avoid going to the church she loved;

Revealing a true sickness of heart.


For many years she a widow was.

But Nanny, also once an orphan, never turned inward.

Grandsons were dutifully sent to visit Dolly, her neighbor dwarf friend,

Whose chocolate bars could not overcome childish fears of her snipping, toothless Chihuahua.

Betty, a widow also, always at the bountiful table during holidays, as were others;

Nanny making sure no one was lonely at festive times.

Her eccentric sister, Libby, with funny wigs and long, fake fingernails,

Always welcomed from her wanderings, no matter the strain on her hostess.

Though never expressed, inwardly I resented these intrusions,

Never seeing their reflection of my own little mind, lonely heart, and lying ways.


 Away from home and restraint, life became wild – too wild – for me at college.

Yet Nanny never stopped loving me.

Her handwritten letters bearing testimony to Jesus,

Ending with the puzzling phrase, “My grace is sufficient for thee,”

Next to the apology, “Excuse my chicken scratch.”

My mind had no problem reading the words.

But it was too dark with worldly longings to comprehend them.


Yet in the midst of it all, Jesus came to me!

Nanny’s prayers called Him to my rescue!

Those last visits before she went to be with Him,

Oh, more magical than ever,

Sweeter than her Christmas pies.

For at her table sat not only lonely widow and strange sister,

But undeserving grandson,

With grace experienced,

 Sufficient and abounding.


  1. Ellen Olivetti December 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    You have no idea how this ministered to my heart today. Thank you.

    • Barry York December 13, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      I’m glad Nanny encouraged yet another, Ellen.

  2. Brent York (@brentyork) December 13, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    She also sowed outfits for our GI Joe’s. One was a leisure suit; but it was the 70’s.

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