In the coming weeks and months my blog will tell the stories of important nannies in our lives – stories submitted by you in the “Honor Your Nanny” section of this Web site.
Today the subject is my own nanny, Elizabeth Hanna, called Miss Hanna. I wrote my book, Nanny: A Memoir of Love and Secrets, to honor her. She was my human umbilical cord to the normal world, a mother to me far more than my own mother could be. In so many ways she saved my life.
Before I wrote my book, I had my secrets and my memories – some bittersweet, some sorrowful, all loving – but I knew only three facts about Miss Hanna. She was Catholic; she had grown up in an orphanage, and she had died in St. Rose’s Home, a lower-Manhattan cancer hospice. I didn’t know anything about her family, about the orphanage she had grown up in, even when and where she was born. I was determined to unearth every detail I could find about her.
I began my search to learn who she was, and in the process discovered nearly as much about myself as I did about Miss Hanna. To tell you all the memories and the results of my search, I would need to write the book once again in this blog. I can share some collected thoughts from the last chapters of Nanny: A Memoir of Love and Secrets:
“What I didn’t understand was how Miss Hanna could love… Miss Hanna had nothing, really. No family she could point to with pride. No husband. No children except those she was paid to raise and whom she raised as her own… From the orphanage, to her tiny cold room next to mine, to the Towers and finally to St. Rose’s, she was surrounded by institutional red-brick… (yet) She wanted to make sure that I knew I was loved, that I didn’t feel as lonely as she had felt when she was a child.”
© 2014, Nancy Salz