Thinking of Nanny


Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 112th birthday. Or so we think.

She was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. I was told that the county courthouse burned down, and that her birth records were lost. So they estimated that she was born in 1905.

I think often of the American history that parallels her life. The peak of lynchings in the Jim Crow South was in the late 19th & early 20th century. I wonder what it must’ve been like for her parents–my paternal great grandparents–to bring a child into the world, knowing that their daughter would be seen and treated as less than human in her own country.

I think of my parents, who brought me home from the hospital just six months after Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court. My mother married my father after she’d gotten pregnant with me. I imagine the thought might’ve crossed her mind to get rid of me before she’d even met me face-to-face.

My Civil Rights generation parents lived through segregated restaurants, dressing rooms, water fountains, buses, schools, etc. Their first personal encounter with the Klu Klux Klan was seeing them–fully robed–outside our neighborhood grocery store in the early ’90’s. They were in their fifties. I was away at college.

My grandmother and parents are now deceased. I wonder what they thought their future family’s history in America might be. Were they jaded by what they saw?

And then I think of my own daughter, with whom I went into labor on Mother’s Day. I carried her in my womb through the Boston marathon bombing and manhunt, and through George Zimmerman’s trial for Trayvon Martin’s murder. She had just learned to walk when Tamir Rice was murdered. She learned sight words and phonics during the investigation of the deaths of Sandra Bland and too many others.

I will share with my daughter a hope-filled vision of God’s preferred future from the Scriptures. But I will also show her a truthful picture of history. And by God’s grace, I’ll teach her how to navigate the present and future: Bible hidden in her heart and mind, hands extended to others with mercy and grace, feet prepared to go wherever He leads her to advocate for a more just society.

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