One of my most cherished possessions, and the oldest thing I use daily, is my Nana’s desk. This beloved relic of my daily existence is a testament to the enduring legacy of my Nana—an exquisite dark walnut secretary, which I lovingly still referred to as her desk. This little desk is filled with nooks and crannies, thoughtfully crafted slots to secure one’s belongings, and a pair of drawers discreetly concealing treasures. Whoever made this desk expected its owner to be able to keep it closed when not in use. I have stacks of papers and books and magazines, bowls of paper clips, and God Knows what else in front of all these carefully crafted spaces. My things are assuredly secured behind the clutter.
Throughout my childhood, the desk occupied a place of prominence just outside her kitchen, nestled comfortably in the living room of her modest abode. Such proximity ensured that my interactions with Nana were abundant and profound, shaping the very core of my being.
I remember her sitting at this similarly cluttered desk – her stacks are just the foothills to my mountainous heaps. She would write to her mother in sunny Florida and her two sisters—one down in Virginia, the other out in Arizona. She was the oldest among the three sisters; they all bore the distinction of being born and raised in Macon, Georgia. Her recollections often painted vivid pictures of her eager escape from the clutches of her father’s chicken farm, an existence she deemed suffocating. New York City was the place for her, and despite decades of living there, it did nothing to cut that thick Southern accent.
These days before the sun shows its first light, I start my daily rituals, assuming my rightful place at this ancestral desk, carrying on the torch of creative expression. With pen in hand, I turn to my journal, its pages yearning to be filled with my soul’s reflections, musings, and whispers. Good Lord! She would exclaim if she ever caught sight of the clutter that had come to rest upon this once clean surface. I can see her shaking her head. Regrettably, the disarray is such that the drop-down leaf, where my writing takes flight, can only be closed with much rearranging and piling of papers elsewhere. An unfamiliar sight, indeed, to witness the dark wood peeking through the gaps in my journal’s sprawl. Controlled chaos – I do know where everything is, despite appearances.
This beloved desk, a venerable witness to the passage of time, has graced our family for no fewer than eight decades. Maybe it’s seven. But as I sit here I realize that near stands another heirloom—an ancestral chest belonging to my Great-Nana. It now serves as a foundation for my television, while within its protective confines reside cherished remnants of our lineage: old family photographs. Fashioned from the wood of my great-grandparents’ farm, this chest bears witness to its origin through a modest silver plaque that silently proclaims, “This is made of cedar from Knightwood by Jessie H. Moore for Edna E. Knight, August 4, 1933.” This chest will mark ninety years since its creation in a few short months—ninety years of preserving our collective memories.
The presence of these relics, infused with the essence of my Nana and Great-Nana, fills my life with an indescribable sense of connection. They symbolize the strength and resilience that coursed through the veins of these formidable women, who weathered the tempestuous storms of their existence with unyielding resolve. Recently, through the meticulous exploration of our ancestry and the fortuitous acquisition of family archives following my mother’s untimely death a couple of years ago, I have gleaned newfound insights into their remarkable journeys. Oh, how I wish I knew the right questions to ask while they walked among us! Hindsight is bittersweet indeed.
As I sit at this venerable desk, surrounded by the echoes of generations past, I am reminded of the enduring power of lineage and the stories within these treasured artifacts. They are not mere objects but conduits through which the spirit of my Nana and Great-Nana breathes, whispering tales of strength and resilience. With each pen stroke upon the waiting pages, I pay homage to their unwavering resolve and the indomitable spirit that courses through my veins. In this eternal interplay of past and present, I am both custodian and seeker, unearthing fragments of wisdom and unlocking the secrets that bind us together across time. Through these delicate threads woven with love and memories, I honor these remarkable women’s profound impact on my journey. Their legacy lives on, an eternal flame guiding me forward gracefully and purposefully.