Anna is such a comforting name to me. Mostly because that’s the name of my dear cousin, who is also one of my best friends. Yes, she’s my cousin, but you should know that she is my cousin three different ways. That’s just the way it is here in the mountains. For the past several years, two or three times a week, I help Anna at her home. I’ve also had many adventures with her, such as trips to Asheville, seeing Jerry Seinfeld, shopping, and more. But, on a typical day with Anna, we eat lunch together, pull weeds together, clean house together and over such tasks we have bonded over the years. I do believe lunch with Anna is my favorite part of the day. I always pick up the food, and for Anna it is always a grilled cheese sandwich or biscuit ‘n’ gravy with the sweetest tea in town. With lunch in tow, I open Anna’s backdoor and call out...
“It’s me Anna”
“Come on in, I’m coming”
I sit the lunch on the counter and Anna comes with her two little dogs following close behind her.
“How was your day?’’, she says
“Fine. I just went to work, got our lunch and came straight here. How about you?”
“You know how it is here, not too much going on. I’ve been watching a good Joan Crawford movie though.”
We sit on the barstools. She eats her biscuits ‘n’ gravy and I eat my chicken sandwich.
“What’s the youngun’s been up to?” She says
“I don’t know. I left before they got up this morning.”
“Do you have any pictures of them?”
I pull out my phone and show her the photos. We laugh at the cute little boys and we “ooh” & “aah” over the little girls.
“O! Hannah! How I wish I could just squeeze them. Please bring them down here for a visit soon. Have you written a story this week? Please read it to me.”
I push my food aside, turn on my narrator's voice and read my most recent story while Anna sips her tea.
“This one is about my family, Mamaw and Papaw and the supper table”
“Oh, how I love your Mamaw and Papaw, Hannah. Go ahead and read.”
I begin the story...
“Every evening my family sits around our big kitchen table for our dinners. Most often our dinners aren’t served until 7 or 8 and sometimes even 9 or 10, because we work around everyone’s work and school schedules. All of us sitting together for dinner is more important to us than each of us eating individually at a more convenient time. Every evening (or night) Dad sits at the head of the table with Mama to his right and the rest of the flock fills in the empty spaces. We bow our heads and pray to our heavenly Father and ask for His blessings and thank Him for what we have already been blessed with. We also sing a blessing...”
Anna always listens to my stories and will often add to them with a “I remember that!” or “Did you really?”.
I finish the story...
“So, eat dinner together at the table, because really, it’s Heaven here on earth.”
“Oh! Hannah! That so beautiful. You’re so good at writing stories. I loved it! Can I get you something else to eat or drink?”
“No, thank you. I’m good.”
“Will you go run my errands for me? And when you get back, we will work in the gardens.”
I leave to run errands and grocery shop. I make my first stop at the bank.
“You work for Anna, don’t you?” the teller asks me
“Yes, I do. She’s my cousin.”
“Anna is so sweet. Tell her I said ‘hello’.”
After the bank, I go to the pharmacy.
The pharmacist says, “Hannah, you tell her I said ‘hi’. Lord, that women is the kindest I’ve ever met.”
“She sure is.” I reply
When I walk through the grocery store everybody waves and smiles at me, and it’s not because that many people know me. I’ve come to realize everyone recognizes me as the girl who works at sweet Anna’s house.
When I return to Anna’s, I, like most people, try to carry all the groceries in one trip. I put the groceries down and turn to Anna.
“Anna, the lady at the bank said to tell you ‘hello” and the lady at the pharmacy says ‘hi’. Oh, and Bobby says he’s coming to see you real soon and Roger wants to see you soon, too.”
Anna chuckles, “Ok, sounds good.”
While Anna puts the groceries away, I gather the garden gloves and tools.
“You ready?” Anna asks
“I’m ready. You gonna work me like a government mule today?”
“You better know it.” She laughs. Then I laugh, because I know Anna can work circles around me.
We work at the flower beds at the back of the house, then we work the flower beds at the front of the house. We pull the weeds and fill the trash bags. I water the plants and Anna tends her flowers. We share thoughts and plans, places where we want to go to, and our favorite movies. Often, our conversations are interrupted by car horns blowing their hello’s or somebody walking down the sidewalk stopping to admire Anna’s hard work, “Miss Anna, you have prettiest landscaping in town’’. Often, someone pulls into the driveway to tell Anna thank you for some flowers or a card she sent. Some come to sit on the front porch and enjoy her company.
“Anna, you need to rest and not get too hot. Come sit and I will get you something to drink’’, I’ll tell her.
I go in the house and bring out her favorite drink, ice cold, glass bottle, orange crush and a pack of peanut butter crackers.
“Aahhh, that’s so good Hannah. Did you get you something to drink?”
“Yes, I did. Feels good to cool off a minute.”
“I’ve got an idea Hannah. Why don’t we finish here and clean up, then you can drive me and dogs around Rock Creek Park and we could look at the all campers.”
“Sounds like a plan, Anna.”
So, after all the gardening and cleanup is done, Anna, the dogs and I load up and go for a drive around Anna’s favorite park. On the way we grab Anna’s favorite thing, an ice cream cone. We roll the windows down, eat our ice cream and admire the campers in the park. Anna tells me which is her favorite and I tell her mine. Anna tells me a story of her childhood and I tell her a funny story. “Hannah, you’re just like your Papaw George” she says and then we laugh.
I bring Anna back home and tell her my goodbyes.
“Thank you so much for coming Hannah. Here take this to the kids.” She hands me bag full of candy and peanut butter crackers.
“Thank you. Call me if you need anything. See you in a few days.”
Over the years and many days of being with Anna, I’ve come to realize that she is one the kindest people I know and that’s what she is known for. She is known for her sweet spirit and her generosity, her love and kind words, her hard work and her appreciation of beauty.
So, every story is supposed to have a point or agenda to make, right? Well, the point of this story is simply to appreciate Anna. And when I think of Anna, I think of love, kind, sweet, and loyal. I think of the simple things she takes pleasure in, such as Rock Creek Park, camping, glass bottle orange crush, country roads, home, soup beans, childhood memories, good friends, ice cream cones and milkshakes, antiques, pickled beans and corn, laughter, black and white movies, big band music, funny stories, stain glass windows, family, car rides, gardening and flowers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and fried potatoes.
When I think of Anna, I think of a woman with great strength and courage. A woman who thinks of others more than herself. A woman with great determination and tremendous creativity. A women who knows how to appreciate hard work.
When I think of Anna, I think of a woman, who’s love of Jesus is evident through her love of people. And maybe one day, I can be as terrific of a lady as Anna is.
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