|Fern Lucinda Tanner Lee|
Nana had two daughters, and she was delighted as the grandsons were born because boys in that family were a rarity. Five grandsons later, she finally got two granddaughters, Martsy and Jane, then three more grandsons followed. We were a very close family -- cousins were more like brothers and sisters.
I was her oldest grandson. At some point, Nana and Mom conjured up the idea of having her "big boy" David come to stay with her on weekends to keep her company. These were long weekends. Jet travel had barely been introduced. The General Authorities often left home on Friday to travel by train or car to their stake conferences which were held over two days – all day Saturday (two sessions, morning and afternoon) and all day Sunday (two more sessions). Often they travelled home on Mondays, so they were gone for four days out of the week.
Mom would drop me off at her home, 847 Connor Street in Salt Lake City, usually on a Friday night after school. We would settle in for the night after she made dinner. She was a marvelous cook. I learned early and often just how skilled she was, and it was apparent where my mother had learned her homemaking skills.
Nana loved it. I think she loved it so much because the “good guys” always won. She loved the innocent person being let free at the end. What you always knew is that Perry Mason’s client was never the guilty party. All that remained was to discover how he or she would be proven innocent. She often guessed the plot in advance, and would tell me who the real guilty person was going to be. She was seldom wrong. I used to think she was brilliant, and wondered why she hadn’t been an attorney.
The stars of Dragnet were Jack Webb and Harry Morgan (long before he achieved fame in M*A*S*H as Colonel Sherman T. Potter). If Nana had lived long enough, she would have been hailed as a prophetess. She told me as a young boy, observing all the smoking on television, that people could die by smoking cigarettes. Jack Webb later died of lung cancer.
She would tuck me into bed down the hall from her bedroom by reading me stories just as my mother did in our home. Then we would kneel down together and we would take turns praying together. I loved to hear her pray. Her prayers were to a Father with whom she was on intimate and familiar terms.
The next morning she would always be up before me making breakfast. She called it a “big boy breakfast,” and it included EVERYTHING: pancakes or French toast, toast with peanut butter and jam or honey, eggs cooked any way I wanted (scrambled or “sunny side up or down”) and orange juice or apple juice and milk or hot chocolate if it was winter. Sometimes she would even cook oatmeal or put out cold cereal I liked. Grandfather suffered from ulcers much of his adult life, so fixing "stuff" for her big boys was particulary exciting for her, since Grandfather's diet was often restricted to milk toast and soft foods that didn't irritate his ulcers. At an early age I associated ulcers with stress and pressure -- that's how they always explained Grandfather's ailment.
|President Harold B. Lee|
During the winter after breakfast, I would go outside and shovel the driveway and the sidewalks. In the summer I mowed the lawn and raked leaves in the fall. They had stately elm trees in the backyard and the leaves were gigantic, easy to rake and gather up into the compost pile Grandfather would use for mulch in the spring. That pile always smelled bad as it decomposed, but Grandfather loved it when he could spread it around his rose garden in the spring. His roses were planted in two rows with a decorative pedestal holding a round shiny blue ball anchored by a piece of rebar so it wouldn't fall off. I often helped him prune the roses, and he taught me that cutting them back every year assured more robust blooms. She was very particular about how I did all the yardwork, knowing how important a well-kept yard was to Grandfather. She always made sure I did it her way.
|Newlyweds, first home|
Those were magical years for me as a little boy growing up. She loved us all, but I always knew I was her favorite. As my brothers and cousins grew older, they often came with me, or got their own turn to stay with her. And then I learned the sad reality -- they all thought THEY were her favorite too. The reason this was so important to her was that Grandfather’s work as an Apostle took him out of town so often and she welcomed the company on weekends when he was gone.
Grandfather loved Nana very much. However, she died in 1962, when I was fifteen. He was so sad when she died. I loved her very much too, and I missed our sleepovers when she was gone.