No place like Nanny’s


The first cup of coffee I ever enjoyed was in the most unlikely of places. I guess in today’s sense of child rearing it would be considered unlikely or just plain careless (if you were to ask some of the millennial parents not raised in the South, but I digress.) There was something so captivating about being given the free will to inundate my small, porcelain mug with ⅓ of a cup of that smooth, velvety caffeine followed by a ⅔ mixture of milk and sugar. Obviously that caffeine content was drowned out with the immersion of the sweetened dairy addition, but I felt like a grownup nonetheless. It’s amazing how small moments like this somehow become a part of your innate sense of childhood and the pure joy that it encapsulates.

When I began the last stretch of interviews with those who are living in their “Golden Years,” it was the mere thought of my Nana that led me to having a conversation with Ms. Louise Oglesby. I guess it’s a little ironic that I would sit down and chat with her because she actually was my Nana’s sister in-law decades ago. That is a different story all on its own, but she surely gave me such a precious moment just by being in her company and listening to her story.

Born on September 16, 1933 to parents Leila and Bennie Simmons, Annie Louise Simmons Oglesby would be reared mere yards away from the home she currently lives in right at the meeting of Noonday Church Road and Mt. Olivet Church Road. When you arrive at this little corner, you are greeted by a quaint yard that is cleanly kept as well as small yard trinkets that give it even more character. You instantly feel that you’ve arrived at your own grandmother’s house, but it’s the warm welcome that Ms. Louise gives you that makes you feel even more like you’ve arrived at the home of someone who shares the same DNA as you. I truly think that’s what makes people like her so remarkable. She makes the ones who cross her threshold feel as though they are right where they should be at that given point in time, and she has such a calming presence that makes one instantly feel welcome in her home.

Raised with her older brother, she developed the nickname of “Lou” and was called that by those who knew her well. Ms. Louise had the quintessential childhood when it came to what she and her neighbors down the dirt road did for fun. She told me that they were all fortunate enough to have bicycles to which they spent many a day riding down those red, dusty roads. On the rare occasion that those bikes were parked, she and her friends loved to play marbles out in the yard. They always found something to entertain themselves with, contrary to what this generation of kids are used to doing. When asked if she would consider herself a good child or a naughty child growing up, she responded that she believed she was a good one because, “When I was told something, I knew to do it so that’ll keep you good.” I often wish that more of our young people had this same kind of outlook nowadays. Graduating from high school in Garfield, Ms. Louise is a part of a rare group who remembers what the old school house looked like because she was able to attend all of her school years right there. There were only 13 members of her graduating class, and according to her there may only be two including herself who are still living.

As most love stories of their day go, Ms. Louise began dating her future husband shortly after high school. Rufus “Buddy” Oglesby won her heart right from the very beginning. During their courtship, she described how he ended up joining the service because, “Back then it was hard to get any kind of job working on the farm for somebody. It wasn’t a John Deere tractor. It was a mule and a plow.” Therefore a career in the military was almost inevitable. During one of his times of leave, they made the decision to marry. They exchanged vows during a weekend trip to her brother’s house in South Carolina, and as fate would have it Buddy would ship out the following week to be deployed to Korea due to the start of the Korean War. It was during this conflict that Mr. Oglesby was injured. While on the mend in a hospital in Japan, he was eventually sent back to the states, ending up in Fort Bliss, Texas. It seems that there is a common theme between couples of this time. None sought out grandiose, elaborate affairs to signify the beginning of their new lives together. They simply wanted to join themselves as one; husband and wife in the holiest state of matrimony. Mr. Rufus and Ms. Louise would eventually go on to have three children; Randy in 1952, Joy in 1955, and Angie in 1964. Throughout their 50 years of marriage, they would see six grandchildren born. It was during this time that Ms. Louise was given the name Nanny, and it is one that she takes the utmost pride in. You can see it written all over her face as she speaks about them, but she really glows when she begins to chat about her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. She giggled as she told me that she has lost count on how many she has but that it was a good problem to have. I guess perhaps that’s why they’re called grand because the happiness they bring is almost indescribable.

When couples seek to marry and speak their vows to one another, the ultimate promise is put on the back burner and rightfully so. What marriage starts out with the idea of possibly one spouse losing the other one? Not many if I had to guess, unless it happened to be a union built upon extenuating circumstances. However, most build their lives praying that departure from one another is many, many years down the road. Almost like a storybook, Ms. Louise would have that day arrive in 2000 when she said her goodbyes to her beloved husband, Rufus. He had spent three and a half months struggling with an illness that eventually he would succumb to. When asked what she would say was the secret to a successful marriage, she replied, “I think first off you have to trust one another.” This was a sentiment shared throughout the previous two interviews. As stated earlier, 50 years was a lifetime with one another but still not long enough when it comes to saying goodbye to the one you’ve loved for as long as you can remember.

In navigating life without her husband, Ms. Louise developed more independence not only because she had to but because she knew that there would be things to do that she wanted to do on her own such as taking care of her yard. It’s funny how simple tasks like making sure your yard is neatly cut, watered, and maintained can end up being so important to a person. It was in the process of doing such tasks that her life was changed forever. She has always had a close bond with her grandson David Ellington, but it wasn’t until this pivotal moment took place that she would realize just how much she would grow to count on him and appreciate him. As she had often done, Ms. Louise had spent an afternoon overlooking her yard. It was at the conclusion of her tasks when she realized that she wanted to get some much needed creamed corn out of her storage house freezer. After grabbing the vegetable, she began to make her way to her back door. She always tried to carry her phone in her pocket due to the fact that her grandson liked to keep in contact with her regularly to make sure that she was okay. Thank God that she did so because as she walked under her carport to step up to the door, she tripped and fell. Her foot had caught in the blocks which sent her backwards towards the ground. She hit her head and fortunately she was able to reach for her phone to contact David. Between a few others and him, they were able to get her into a chair and then on to the hospital. After arriving at the hospital, she found out that she had broken her hip. This injury proved to be life changing for her. In her words, “One of the worst things that bothers me is that I can’t get out and do. See I kept my yards. I cut my grass. I trimmed my shrubs. I was the yard man, ya know. I did it all, and that was my pleasure out there doing. I’d rather be out there doing than sitting in this house.” I could see it on her face and hear it in her voice just how much it truly bothers her not to be able to do those types of activities anymore, especially having to get someone else to do them for her. I guess right now in this phase of life that I am in (and by the grace of God still am able to be fully independent) I cannot fully comprehend the gravity of knowing that the simple tasks you once enjoyed doing would slowly slip from your grasp. This would lead into the answer of wanting to know what has been the most challenging aspect of getting older as well.

As one gets older, they find it easier to look back and define some of their proudest moments. When I asked Ms. Louise what she would consider her proudest moment(s) to be, this is when she responded by saying, “Well, I have always been proud of my children and what they have accomplished. They can make you proud. They can make you sad, and they can make you proud.” As a mother myself, I can understand these thoughts now. I guess until a person reaches these milestones, you cannot comprehend them until you’re in them. According to Ms. Louise, “You know what? You just can’t really comprehend that they’ve got to that point. You know. You want them to grow, but you want to keep them close.” I enjoyed hearing her reminisce about always having a big calendar and making sure to jot down all of the important dates and moments that were to come. This led to her sharing with me one of the best parts about growing older and that was, “all these grandchildren.” I asked her were they as grand as I have alway been told they were to which she lit up with the biggest smile and said, “Oh, yeah! Have you seen our newest addition?” She was referring to the birth of Davie Dean who is the daughter of her grandson David and his wife Gabrielle. Speaking of this young man, we began to talk about how hard of a worker he is and how considerate, dependable, and trustworthy he is. I agreed to every comment that was given about someone who you could tell meant a great deal to her. Her response was simple but magnificent, “That’s mine.” Don’t we want our parents and grandparents to refer to us that way? It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture or speech heavily laden with sappy vocabulary declaring some cliche relationship that they may have with us. She is a proud grandmother declaring that her grandson is hers, and in my humble opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.

Speaking of David Ellington, it was at this moment I asked her who she would consider to be the person who has made a big impact on her life. “I guess it would have to be David because he has been here with me longer than any of the children have.” He lived with his nanny for several years after high school and into his early twenties. It was during this time that he made sure she was looked after. Not only that, but his presence after her accident and breaking her hip was more than a God send. Ms. Louise, being a typical grandmother, made sure that he had supper on the table every night and that whatever she could do to help him she tried her best to accomplish. He stepped in, stepped up, and stayed. What a gentleman and even better grandson!

When I found out that one of Ms. Louise’s favorite songs is Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone), I couldn’t help but make the comparison between her and the lyrics. “And like a flood, His mercy reigns. Unending love, Amazing Grace.” Grace. Sweet, amazing grace. When I look at her and listen to the gentleness in her voice, you cannot help but see a picture of grace and a true, Southern lady. She built a life for herself. She’s experienced loss. However, she’s also experienced love, not just love from her spouse but love from those that she watched grow up and turn around to help her in her own time of need. In ending our interview, I thanked her tremendously not only for allowing me the opportunity to talk to her but also for giving me time to press the pause button. For that hour I felt as if I had been given a moment with my Nana again. I know that she’s been long gone, but because of her kindness and sincerity Ms. Louise gave me that grandmotherly comfort and love that I have missed for over a decade now. I hope to be able to go back and visit with her again soon because it’s true as they say, “There’s no place like Nanny’s, and there’s no one like Ms. Louise.”