Memory is a tricky thing. I should say now that what follows are purely my memories and I cannot attest to their accuracy. They are, however, very fond because they are of a woman who loves me very much and spent the better part of my life trying her hardest to get to know me, to make me feel loved, and spoiled me with peanut butter/sugar sandwiches and bunny milk — Nana Brown.
My parents divorced before I was old enough to know the difference and not long after, they both married other people. I was blessed with four parents, a new step-sister and four sets of grandparents. Later, I would gain two more sisters and a baby brother. The love I was given was, and still is, far beyond anything most children could hope to receive.
Today is the birthday of my step-mom’s mother, Nana Brown. Because I can’t be with her today, I want her to know how much I truly love her and how grateful I am for the love she gave me throughout the years. It started, from what I can remember, with bunny milk, and peanut butter sandwiches with sugar.
Bunny milk, despite its name, is not made from or by bunnies — surprise, surprise. Bunny milk is, however, one of the most delicious treats my five-year old taste buds had ever encountered. Nesquik sold, and likely still does, a powdered milk flavoring for strawberry milk. On the little pink box was the Nesquik bunny rabbit with his long, fuzzy ears and ridiculous grin.
The only time I remember having bunny milk was at Nana Brown’s house. When I stayed with my Dad and step-mom during summer vacations and over the holidays, I often spent afternoons with Nana while everyone else was at work. My biological mom, still very focused on healthy eating, wasn’t a big fan of sugary drinks so I wasn’t going to get this treat anywhere else. Nana Brown would break out the little pink box and together at her kitchen counter we would make bunny milk.
And, as if that wasn’t nearly enough sugar, Nana would make me my favorite sandwich — peanut butter on Wonder Bread with sugar. The crusts, of course, had to be cut off.
The sugar content from bunny milk and my favorite sandwich must have made me nearly unbearable as a little girl, running around wanting to play and wondering when we’d be leaving the house to go on an adventure. Nana Brown surely must have been the bravest and coolest person I knew in all of my childhood years. And together, when my parents were off at work, she and I shared our sugary treats — just us.
The truth is, I didn’t love Nana Brown just for bunny milk. I loved, and continue to love her dearly, for the way she welcomed me into her home, her family and her heart. It can be tricky, as I have discovered over the years, to have a family of “yours, mine and ours.” It isn’t just easy to transition a strange little person into a grandchild, but somehow she did it with a great deal of grace so that I never knew any different. Nana Brown became my friend and my nana. Plain and simple.
As I grew older, Nana and I drifted apart. This, I’m afraid, is largely my fault. As my mom and step-dad moved our family across the country, a new place each year, I grew more and more distant from my family in North Carolina where Nana Brown and many more of my relatives still live. As a pre-teen, Nana Brown took me to work with her in a small gift shop in historic downtown New Bern. The shop was beautiful and I remember being so proud that I got to help out at the store.
As high school and college came and went, I stopped seeing Nana Brown as much as I had before. I struggled to split my time between my family members across the country and neglected the friendship and love that Nana so freely gave to me. Now, after a few years of rushing home to North Carolina as frequently as possible, I have been able to visit more frequently with her, although not nearly as much as I’d like.
Today, because it is her birthday, but also just because, I want her to know how much I love her and the am grateful for the love she showed me for so many years. I will never forget our afternoons together and the bunny milk she made for me. True love doesn’t come in a Nequik box, but it can be shown over a glass of bunny milk made for a little girl by her nana.