I’m just amazed the way history repeats itself. From Emma’s to AJ’s, there seems to be hidden messages in the names given to our ancestors that trickle down into our lives today. My grandmother and granddaughter share the name, Emma. My father and grandson share the initials and nickname, AJ. Just as mysterious is that my granddaughter, Anna, also comes from a long line of Anna’s…Auntie Annie (pronounced Ahntie Ahnie) and one of my favorite people in the whole world, my Aunt Anna Mae.
I don’t have personal recollection of Auntie Annie as she was fondly called, but the stories that filled my childhood make her a living legend in my mind. She was my grandmother’s sister who also migrated from Sweden in the early 1900’s. It’s told that she had great influence on my grandmother and mother to follow Jesus Christ. Her legacy impacted my entire family to this day, even though she’s been gone for most of my life.
Auntie Annie and Uncle Charlie owned a cottage on a lake in Michigan which became our family’s favorite vacation spot. There’s a certain smell that even today will catapult me back to that little white house on the lake. I couldn’t have been more than three or four years old, but pleasant memories come to the surface whenever that familiar summer fragrance fills the air and my nostrils. It had to be a good place with good people because I’m instantly soothed. And the stories that were handed down about this loving couple assured me that they were the hands and feet of Jesus. They bought my mother’s graduation dress and made sure she had a well-deserved celebration. For a young girl who never celebrated her birthday, received a doll or presents on Christmas, my mother’s lack was somehow restored through Auntie Annie. Even after marriage, my mom and dad were the recipients of their kindness. Auntie Annie must have been a very special lady.
Turn the clock ahead several years to another Anna. She was my father’s sister, and she was dynamite on heels. Anna Mae! I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world when I was growing up. And it was more fun when she’d let me try on her shoes. She wasn’t much over 5 feet tall and soon my height and shoe size expanded well beyond this little beauty. But she was always my hero. I never saw her without her makeup, dressed up, or in heels. I wanted to be just like her.
One of the things I loved about Anna Mae was her enthusiasm. It seemed she was always waiting for me to enter the room. As soon as she spotted me, she was the voice of encouragement. “Oh, honey, you look beautiful. You’re getting so tall. You are so smart. I heard about that great report card.” How could anyone not love Anna Mae! She was the epitome of joy. She always built me up, especially during those awkward adolescent years. How would I have made it without her bragging on me…within hearing distance! You had to love her. I know I did.
She was special to our family. When she became very ill, my parents drove two thousand miles from their retirement home to see her. She was dying, but it was as if she was waiting for my parents to get there. My mother was privileged to pray with her before she left this world, and we were all very sad to lose her. She had a zest for life that was contagious, and I find myself wanting to be “Anna Mae” to my little granddaughters today with that same voice of encouragement, waiting for them to enter the room so I can dote on them.
It made me think about Anna in the Bible who was waiting for the Messiah to be born. It’s said that she never left the temple, praying and fasting in anticipation of the Redeemer’s coming. She was in the temple daily waiting, looking. Would this be the day her Savior came to life? We read in Luke that Anna approached Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus at the very moment they entered the temple, praising God and then telling everyone about His coming. The child’s parents marveled at all of this attention. Anna was a worshipper of God and an encourager of people.
That brings me to our modern-day, Anna Noel, the second one to call me Grandma. Her nickname is Anna Bell for she was born days before Christmas. She used to think the carol, “Noel Noel,” was about her! Anna is a lovely reproduction of her mother, and she is very interested in looking pretty. I love catching glimpses of her in the mirror checking out her own image. It’s almost like a little Anna Mae comes to the surface, as Anna Noel loves to play dress up and don those high heels. I love the way Anna looks for me. No matter where we are, Anna runs to me like she hasn’t seen me in weeks. She anticipates my coming. Her hugs and kisses melt my heart, as she welcomes me into her world.
Creative juices flow through the veins of our Anna. She’s continually making something from scratch, using up every piece of computer paper to form cards and gifts for her family. She loves to wrap up little surprises for them to open. One of the best gifts I ever received from Anna was a little Mexican doll she bought me with her own money while visiting Cancun. She cried when she left me and wanted me to know she was thinking of me while she was gone. No one told her to do that. It’s who she is. I think she’s on her way to being a great encourager much like her great aunt, Anna Mae. I think she’s beginning to develop the hands and feet of Jesus like Auntie Annie. I pray she’ll have the heart of the prophetess Anna, worshipping God with great abandon and anticipating His coming.
How’s it possible to bring the influence of generations past upon our little ones today? Tell their tales. Live their legacy. Make some memories. It’s what connects the past to the future, and it’s what extends godly influence well beyond the walls of time.