3 minute read

Nanny’s Photo Album by Stephanie Edwards

Nanny’s Photo Album by Stephanie Edwards

As a child, I loved crawling around my grandparents’ closet, the plush beige carpet smooshing against my knees. Every time I visited their house, I had a routine. I combed through the neat stacks of coloring books and Little Golden Books with faded covers. The scent of crayons filled my lungs, and my grandmother’s collection of designer coats brushed my head until I found my entertainment for the day.

At the ripe age of 12, I dug deeper into the stacks. By then, I’d colored enough pages to wallpaper a house. Nearly a teenager, I was too old for reading picture books. I desired something more substantial, clueless about what that entailed.

With discarded books towering around me, I found a large brown box filled with black and white photos, mostly of people I’d never met. Women wore elegant swimsuits or dresses, and men stood in front of expensive-looking cars, smoking pipes. Who were these people? Why did my grandparents have pictures of them?

I’ll never forget the wonder of the moment or what came next—the chill that crept down my spine when my grandmother walked up behind me, clearing her throat. I held my breath, trying not to panic. Nanny kept all her possessions in their rightful place, and I disrupted the order. Anticipating a scolding, I returned the box where I found it, but she stopped me.

Instead of yelling, she pulled the box out of the closet, carrying it over to her brown and tan tweed sofa. She dug a leather album from the bottom of the box and told me about the glamorous people and beautiful places that graced its pages.

The corners of my mouth hurt because I couldn’t stop smiling as she showed me pictures of her as a child and teenager living on Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina, with my great grandparents, who had a remarkable love story.

My grandmother’s past resonated with me more than anything to that point. Each time I visited, she would pull out the pictures and pour raspberry-flavored Kool-Aid into two of her tall stemware glasses for us to enjoy. Mind you, we didn’t drink while flipping through our prized photos.

I think she recognized I wanted to feel more grown-up. I felt seen, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. Through her stories and photos, I developed a love for my family’s rich history and the beautiful North Carolina coast. Her stories inspired a deep passion for reading and writing about coastal settings. Undoubtedly, I wouldn’t have written my Isle of Palms Suspense series without the inspiration.

Last month, I visited Carolina Beach for the first time in almost a decade. I could feel Nanny’s presence as I pictured her lying on the beach, watching the waves roll out to sea. When I return to Wilmington for a book signing later this month, I know my grandmother will watch over me.