Thursday, February 13, 2014

Miss Nervie

When I was in first grade, my entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins) had to move. For generations we had lived on the banks of Falls Lake on New Light Rd. It was a beautiful, picturesque area, so much so that the state decided it would be the perfect place for a state park. Dozens of families either built new homes a few miles up the road like my parents did or they moved their old ones. I can still picture the day my grandparents’ house was moved ever so slowly up the curvy road to its new home, just a few miles short of the Granville Co. line. Their house went from two stories to one when the basement was left behind. We had lived in the country before. But now we were really in the country. This area was known for its moonshine. (That’s a story for another day.)

Soon after moving, we met our new neighbor, Miss Nervie. I’m not even sure if that was her first name, a nickname or even the correct spelling. Every google search leaves me empty-handed. She died a few years back & I remember reading her obituary in the Wake Weekly & noting that she was around 103 or so when she died. She was around 80 years-old when we came to know her. I remember her age because on our first visit she mentioned that it was her birthday. Listening to her talk, my mom discovered that she had never had a birthday cake, much less a birthday party. My mom went home and baked her a cake that afternoon. There was a look of sheer joy on her face when we brought it back. Can you imagine never having had a birthday party or cake?

Miss Nervie looked like she came from another era. Miss Nervie was from another era. I don’t even think she had electricity. If she did, she didn’t use it. She wore a really old dress that looked handmade and an apron overtop. It always was dirty from her work in the garden. Her hair was white and a bit unkempt and she wore it pulled back in a little ponytail. Sometimes she would come to my grandpa’s church & on those days, she would dress up. She’d put on her best dress, which was several decades out of style, and a wig. Oh yes, the wig. Her white hair would peek out & it truly was a sight. We kids would laugh about it. She dipped snuff and the remnants were always around her mouth. I always kind of drew back when she hugged me because I hated the snuff. I was afraid it was going to get on me.

She lived in a very old house and the farm implements and other things around it would officially qualify her as a hoarder today. There were chickens & cats everywhere. Behind her house was a huge field that she worked by herself way up into her late 80s and early 90s. Like my grandma, she didn’t dabble in gardening. She was planning for the apocalypse. There must have been several acres that she tended to. I kind of giggle at that when we are tending to our little 6’X6’ garden nowadays.
Although she had family, they must have lived a ways away because I never met any of them. Miss Nervie seemed to have lived a solitary life until we moved close by. She didn’t own a vehicle and my grandma would drive her to town. But most of the time she would be seen walking up and down New Light Rd. going back and forth to the little country stores. Now that I think about it, she must have walked dozens of miles per week. Her well was bad, so most of the time she carried two empty gallon milk jugs to collect water from my grandparents’ house.

I loved her chickens and for my 9th birthday she gave me a hen and 8 biddies which were a pretty black and white pattern. My grandma told me that the hen was one of her best. My daddy built a coop for them. She would come by and check on them and tell me how to tend to them. I think she was really just coming to see me. That realization makes me cry now. I wouldn’t pull away from her hugs now. When someone offers you love, you should take it. Snuff and all.

Update: Hey everybody, I continued googling & am amazed at what I found. Her name full name was Mary Nervia Davis Lloyd. She was born on June 30, 1899 and died on Dec. 3, 2005. That means she was even older than I remembered. If my math is right, she would have been 106. It seems like my mom told me that but I just couldn't believe it! Going to buy snuff ASAP!