Words to Live By
Everything I Know worth Knowing came from Nanny
By: J. Marlando
My grandmother, who I called Nanny, was an old hill woman moved from Kentucky to Colorado Springs when she was a teenager. She was already in her late forties by the time I came along and since my mom worked she raised me a lot of the time.
First of all in our neighborhood on South Wasatch Street—the poorest section of town except for those who lived across the creek from us—Nanny was known and admired for two reasons: The first was that during the summer she always had the most beautiful flowers growing in her yard and the second was that her hens laid the most eggs.
Some of the neighbors poked fun at her, however. This was because she was always talking to her plants and chickens and telling them how lovely they were and how much she loved them.
I remember one time when I was pretty young Nanny was working in the yard and I ran over to her to give her a hug. When I did, I stepped on some of her flowers. Nanny said, “Oh Jackie, look what you’ve done to those sweet, little flowers.” I looked down at my feet and they were already wilting. My eyes filled with tears, I felt so bad.
Anyway, she told me that she knew I didn’t mean to hurt the flowers and that if I told them I loved them, they would get well. So I got down on my hands and knees and told the flowers that I loved them. After that, she told me that I should go back and play and the flowers would be okay. I did.
As I think back, I doubt if those flowers recovered but Nanny had taught me a great lesson—the necessity of loving and the importance of watching where we step.
Nanny never went to church but she saw God in everything and she used to tell me if someone were to take God’s love out of the stars they would fall from the heavens. If they took God’s love out of the trees, the trees would wilt; out of the lakes and rivers, they would all go dry; out of the mountains, the mountains would just collapse. I believed her every word and I still do!
We could see Pikes Peak out of our kitchen window and Nanny loved that mountain—well the entire family did. Anyway, Nanny would sometimes say that the Peak belonged to us and that was why we were so rich. She said that whatever we put into our hearts we owned and so the more we have in our hearts the richer we are.
I have kept Pikes Peak and those Rockies in my heart all these years. Incidentally, I climbed the peak a few times when I was young. Wonderful experiences I will always cherish and never forget.
I was imperfect of course: I remember one of the things I wanted more than all else was a B.B. Gun so one Christmas my Mom gave me a Red Ryder. In the spring of that year, I sat on the side steps of the old house, holding my rifle and dreaming of being a cowboy. Then, a bird landed around ten feet from me and I quickly became the great hunter—I aimed and fired. The sparrow fell and I walked over to claim my prize. When I picked the bird up, however, I was suddenly aware of how limp and lifeless it was and guilt spread its own wings throughout the depth of me. I ran into the house to confess to Nanny.
She told me that what I did was mean but she also turned the incident into a great lesson for me. She said, back in Kentucky when she was young the boys used to take their guns out and shoot just about anything that moved—squirrels, rabbits, birds even the blossoms of flowers swaying in the breeze. Then she asked me if I knew why those boys killed so many things. I didn’t so she told me this: It wasn’t the killing that gave them pleasure, it was the control.
It took me many years before I understood the wisdom of what she had said but I never aimed my B.B. Gun at another living thing and when I grew old enough for a 22, I never shot a thing but pie pans, tin cans and bottles…I also never tried to control anyone either.
Nanny taught me so much and as I sit here at my desk, looking out the window of my office, I can still hear her voice. I will share what I remember below with hope that you, the reader, will not only enjoy what Nanny used to say but might even find something to be enlightened by it too.
As long as you do the kind thing, you will never do the wrong thing.
Don’t worry about your neighbor’s porch. Just keep your own porch clean.
Never trust a person that tells you how trustworthy he is.
You want to feel God’s love…go outside and hug a tree.
Live your life with the things you have, not with the things that you don’t have.
Worry is like sitting in a rocking chair—you’re on the move but you ain’t goin’ nowhere.
(An old hill saying)
Everything that you truly love is yours forever and cannot be lost or stolen.
Trust God, he’ll either give you what you ask for or he won’t.
Don’t ever try and live up to somebody else’s idea of what you should be.
When you can’t sleep, put happy thoughts in your head and see what happens.
Whenever you’re bored, busy your hands and that boredom will just up and go away.
Always love yourself a lot ‘cause you can only love others as much as you love you.
Never think you’re better than anybody else but never think you ain’t as good neither.
You might as well enjoy yourself. You ain’t gonna get out of this old life alive anyway.
Never cry over spilt milk.
(An old saying)
Always have laughter at the supper table.
An ounce of laughter is worth a pound of cure.
About the only thing a muster plaster won’t cure is a bad mood.
Treat people kindly, you can never know them well enough not to.
Always be fair to the other fellow and to you too.
If you know more than another person knows, always teach them and never trick them.
How you see a thing is what it becomes.
You see old Pike’s Peak out there—that’s my church.
You always do something nice for yourself when you do something nice for somebody else,
Don’t judge yourself by others or others by yourself—that’s just a damned fool thing to do.
Nanny was born in 1895 and she died during the 1970s. She was beyond all else my teacher and best friend as I traveled through my life. I always loved her with mind, heart and soul and…still do.
She had so many sayings that I regret not being able to remember them all. And also, she always talked to me when I had questions or fears. She knew how to make me feel safe and loved.
The truth is, I’ve known a great deal of people in my life including scientists, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, thieves, thugs, prostitutes, artists, PhDs, priests and preachers, rich and poor but, it seems to me, that old hill woman who I called Nanny knew more than all of them put together. And quite often when I write or feel confused or a little scared in life her voice still echoes in my ears and, who kows, maybe they will in yours too.