The Wisdom of Age Project—Hampton Roads, Va. 2013 Documenting Life Stories & How We Get By
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About the documentarians

Lindsay Alls is a student at Christopher Newport University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She is passionate about photography, music, and Jesus Christ. I don’t have an exact idea of what I want to do when I graduate but I would love to get involved doing service work throughout the next few years until I figure it out.


Hannah Gatens is a proud Botetourt County native (because no one knows where that is) finishing up her junior year at Christopher Newport University.  Working towards a Communications degree with a minor in Journalism, she hopes to one day put her enthusiasm for it to use at a magazine or newspaper.  Her passion will always lie in Jesus first, but enjoys writing, hiking and Morris the cat.



Nanny & The Rainbow Scarf

by Lindsay Alls


SHE WALKED INTO THE ROOM CUTE AS I IMAGINED. I think of my mother's  passion and gift of working with older people her whole life. She is a nurse at a retirement home and, when she would get home, she’d always share her patients' stories with me. Often I would see her tear up, sometimes happy tears and some sad tears. At the time I didn’t realize how much these stories would mean to me now.


 Lacey is our friend Matt’s Nanny. He told us that he is, yes, a very sweet person, but also as a woman who has been on an adventure. A woman who was loving and dedicated to her family, but knew how to have a good time.


 At our first meeting with her, Nanny came into the living room with bright pink lipstick and flashed a bashful smile in our direction.  Nanny has a quiet soul mixed with an energetic spunk. Once the “life of the party,”  she was now an eighty-year-old woman who took a seat on the corner of the couch.  Hands folded in her lap, Nanny flashes one more bashful smile before asking, “So, how does this work?”

She’s a small, little lady with white, fluffy short hair. She wore a multi-colored, windbreaker jacket with a Christmas sweatshirt underneath, and a knitted rainbow scarf to top off her look. When I complimented her scarf, I could see her face instantly light up. She told me about how her daughter had knitted it for her, how she loved the way the colors flowed together, and how she wore it all the time. There was something about that scarf but I hadn’t figured it out quite yet.


Not knowing what to talk about at first, conversation fluttered about school and the beach, or Nanny’s countless attempts to direct the conversation to focus on Terry, her daughter, sitting across the room. She just kept telling us she didn’t know what to talk about because she wasn’t very interesting.  What to talk about? Well,her father was an engineer at the shipyard. Her grandfather was rode alongside Teddy Roosevelt with the Rough Riders. Her son is now an engineer at the shipyard remodeling the ships her father designed. Her daughter is a great knitter. Her two grandchildren are both beautiful and very talented. She just kept saying we should have interviewed them because they were the interesting ones.


Nanny herself. Well, she was born in 1932 and has lived in Phoebus, Virginia her entire life, which is now the Poquoson and Newport News area. She was one of the first people to ride in the Hampton Bridge Tunnel in 1957 before it was open to the public. She and her friends were groupies who followed The Jimmy Miller Band around from bar to bar. When I asked if she was a party animal, she raised her shoulders up to her cheeks and blushed. She replied with a laugh, “Oh, I don’t know about all that but we sure did have fun!”


She has been married two times, and divorced two times with a child from each marriage. When I mentioned remarrying, she told us with a chuckle, “I have already been married twice, why would I do it again?”


Terry helped to make Nanny comfortable and help to prompt her when she was being coy or had trouble remembering certain moments.  Terry would say, “Mom, why don’t you tell one of your classic stories?  Peering her eyes up at Lindsay and me, Nanny grinned and shrugged her shoulders, almost in confirmation that, indeed, the story was a classic, but had a hesitation in telling it in another one of her attempts to direct the attention away from herself.   Although Nanny is a very humble woman, if memory served or she was prompted by a topic of her liking, “aha” moments would flood her head sparking a memory and she would beam her way into the beginning her next story.


The only picture we could get Nanny to share was a Lifetouch portrait she was forced to take a few years ago. When I saw the picture, all I could think about was how perfect this summed her up. This picture shows her bashful smile and kind eyes. She hardly wanted to give us this picture but we insisted it was perfect.

We continued talking to her for a few hours just about life in general, but I was just drawn to her scarf for some reason. When we left, I was still thinking about that rainbow, knitted scarf. As the scarf was coming together, there was no predetermined pattern of how it would turn out. While it all flowed together, the colors were always changing but it turned into something beautiful. It was a gift from her daughter as a token of love. It’s something she takes pride in and something she is proud of. But she would never come out and tell you about the scarf unless you asked first. We wondered, what stories did the rainbow scarf have to tell.