92-Year-Old's 'Nanagram' Tradition Ends after 20 Years


Grandmothers are great. Full of love, hugs, and sweets, they often act as a reprieve from the typical tensions of the parent-child relationship.

Too often, however, as a child ages into a young adult, priorities change and the quest for independence weakens the bond.

We all experience this in our relationships; making room for new experiences leaves less time to nurture established bonds.

Twenty years ago, Mary LaCava of Waltham, Maine, made a simple gesture to her eldest grandchild who was away at college. Along with a warm note, she enclosed $20.

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“When the first one went, I just figured she could use it,” LaCava explained. LaCava sent a small note and $20 every week for the duration of her granddaughter’s studies.

The tradition stuck and she repeated the weekly process, dubbed “Nanagrams,” for each of her 12 grandchildren.

When one of her aspiring student grandchildren studied abroad, the undeterred Nanagrams still reached her in London.

The notes were always short, just 2-3 sentences. Originally they were jotted down on pads of branded paper, then official “Nanagram” stationary was printed for the special correspondence.

Their impact, however, was substantial. Away from home for the first time, the grandchildren always knew they had their grandmother thinking and rooting for them.

“The notes really made it ‘cuz she always knew what was going on,” one grandson commented.

“It was really nice,” granddaughter Laura added, “being eighteen, being away from home for the first time, and having a weekly ‘hello.'”

At one point, LaCava had three grandchildren in college, a $60 weekly commitment. Although she admitted that it was difficult, she never wavered.

Some saved the money for special occasions, while others spent it. Either way, each student knew they had someone back home in their corner.

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“To me, it was just something — not that I had to do — but I would never miss,” LaCava said. Now after 20 years and a large amount of money, the ink has run dry.

Last May LaCava sent her last note. At 92, her youngest grandchild has finished college! Leaving home for the first time, for college or otherwise, is a pivotal time in all our lives.

A friendly reminder that we are loved and that someone is thinking about and believes in us can make all the difference.

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