A tribute to my favorite woman: Nana

I normally don’t post on Saturdays, but today is a special day. As I mentioned previously, March is National Women’s History Month, so I wanted to share a little bit about a woman who impacted my life greatly: my Nana. Today would have been her 83rd birthday.

Nana & Vivi

As my Dad’s mother, Nana {above, left} was the matriarch of our family. My parents divorced when I was two, so Suzi and I grew up in our Dad’s house. Nana lived upstairs from us, and there was just no one else like her. Some of my favorite memories of her are trivial things — looking back at her waiving while I walked up to the bus stop for school, creating Shrinky Dinks with her, her putting my doll clothes out to dry on the clothesline after I’d washed them all in a big pot of soapy water. She wasn’t sentimental, but she had a soft spot for her grandchildren.

Nana & Kathy

This is my Nana and her only daughter, my Auntie Kathy. This photo is probably from the late 70s/early 80s. Kathy tells great stories about Nana and about me as a little troublemaker. One of my favorites is when I got into Nana’s lipstick as a toddler and smeared it all over my body. When she saw me, I said, “Do I look pretty, Nana?” And instead of yelling, she and Kathy laughed, plopped me in the tub, and set to work scrubbing the lipstick off my body.

Nana Charity Ball

I found this newspaper clipping in an old photo album {Nana is the first woman on the left}. I can’t imagine Nana as the type to go to balls very often, but she certainly believed in charitable giving. She consistently donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude would mail her photos of the children she was helping, and Nana would give them to Suzi, telling Suzi she could pretend they were her children. A little quirky, I know, but that was Nana!


Suzi and I joke that we never really learned to clean our rooms because Nana always did it for us. She would make our beds, vacuum, wash the dishes, wash and iron our clothes — she used to put creases in our jeans, yikes! — and clean up the messes we would make with craft supplies. After we’d forgotten about them, she’d hose away the mud pies we would set to dry on the front steps. In the Fall, Nana would gather fallen leaves with us and iron them between wax paper, preserving them forever.

Erickson sisters

This is Nana with her two sisters ~ the Erickson gals! Left to right: Vera {Nana}, Virginia {Ginny}, and Vivian {Vivi}. I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but I would guess in the 60s. Today, my great aunt Vivi is the last of her siblings. This August, she’ll be 92! As Irish lasses, they of course always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and Vivi was over my Dad’s house last Sunday for corned beef and cabbage. When Suzi and I were little, Nana would sneak outside and put piles of pennies in our backyard on St. Patrick’s Day and say that the leprechauns left them. Even though we were glad to have more pennies, we were always disappointed that we couldn’t catch the leprechauns.

Nana & I

It was hard to lose her to lung cancer when I was only 11, but I am still luckier than those leprechauns to have had her for the short time that I did. Through her example, I learned to be accepting of everyone despite their differences, to give back when I can, to take time to play, hug, and read. She might be gone, but she lives on in some of her favorite things — Columbo, murder-mysteries, Patsy Cline, poker, and us. I keep her with me always.



  1. Krissy   •  

    This is beautiful.

  2. Kathy Bishop   •  

    That was beautiful, Sami. Nana loved all her grandchildren but she held a special place in her heart for you and Suzi. The two of you could do no wrong and she loved and protected you with all she had. When the arrangement was made for her to take care of you and Suzi while your dad was at work, she was no spring chicken! However, she did it lovingly and with all heart. I never heard her complain. Every evening at 6:00 when she would go upstairs for the night, she would call and tell me her daily Sami and Suzi stories. I miss those calls. We all were blessed to have her in our lives and I am so thankful she was there for you and Suzi when you all needed her. I love you honey!

  3. Dad   •  

    Sami….so beautiful and so true. You and Suzi were so fortunate to have such an an amazing, nurturing, and yes spoiling woman raise you to be the incredible women that you are both today…..We were all lucky to have Nana!

  4. Suzi   •  

    Very beautiful Sami, she really was the best, strongest, most amazing woman role model for us to have in our lives. I really miss that she didn’t get the chance to know Scarlett, since she has so much of the same spunk you had at that age, I know Nana would have loved her just as much! Love you xo

  5. Dave Jensen   •  

    Hi Sami,

    This was an incredable tribute. Thanks for the smiles and tears. I heard those wonderful Suzi and Sami stories on the weekends when I called.

    When I visited from CA, I always felt blessed to stay at home… and see you and Suzi growing up in the same environment I did.

    The time we all spent together, telling stories, and hiking to our fort in the woods are memories I’ll cherish forever.

    Nana lives on through our actions, inspired by her life’s example.

    Love you tons,
    Uncle Dave

  6. Lori Cash   •  

    To me she was Vera….Beautifully done Sami! I saw her as a passionate family woman who indeed liked a clean home. What I remember most was her smiling and laughing except when she was mad at Kathy and I for staying out to late…our punishment was vaccuming the house! She accepting me into the family which meant the world to me. That was a good thing since Bobby just brought me home one day….she was a great mom and it was a pleasure to have known her and she raised awesome children…you all are a tribute to Vera.

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