Everyone that hears this story says, “That is so mean…you were picking on your Grandma…How cruel to you guys were to that sweet little lady.” But we weren’t making fun of her or teasing her…well ok maybe a little, but she always loved a good story; she always told a great story. This woman was a fun in a skirt – she personified a good joke. By this time, you have to be wondering what the heck this is all about. My family has an “imaginary family”. Yep you read that correctly an imaginary family, just like the invisible friends of your childhood. We have a whole family that is always around; well we think they are there. Sit back little ones and let me tell you a story.
In a land not so far away…actually it was just Nevada…
At Christmas about 1992, we were all together for dinner and gift exchange when my uncle started talking about Nesbitt’s Orange soda. Gram was listening and asked, “Who are the Nesbitt’s?”
“You remember the Nesbitt’s Gram they lived next door on Airport Road. Sure… remember they had that little black dog.” My cousin quickly replied before anyone could answer her simple question.
“Oh yeah, the Nesbitts… they were such nice people.” Gram said. Voila! The Nesbitts were born. We all started to laugh and joke about our new family. The conversation was about orange soda, not a household with a little black dog. It was just a quick smart-aleck response from my cousin that started the whole thing. For the rest of that evening we laughed about these Nesbitt people.
To some this may seem cruel, but you have to understand she taught us to be like this. Her sense of humor, her cute sayings, and those fun grandma attributes were successfully transferred to all of us. This is the lady that would put salt in the sugar bowl on April Fools Day. She would wrap up a rubber chicken for Christmas and pass it around. She was always ready with a little song, a tongue twister, some saying from the old country, or a story. On trips with friends, she would replace the toilet paper in the hotel with crinoline. This stuff presents as toilet paper, but it is a stiff material used in drapery making that doesn’t tear very easily. She was famous for putting dummies on the toilet for unsuspecting newlyweds to find upon returning from their honeymoon. So, this kind of teasing and joking was par for the course when it comes to Gram.
Very soon, these Nesbitts seemed to come up in conversation every now and then, usually as a comical scapegoat. “Those darn Nesbitts were in charge of that and they flaked.” And the blame would fall on them. When one of the cousins got married, a present from the Nesbitts appeared at the reception. The family of the groom was trying to figure out the story and find out who these people were, but to no avail. And when the newest member to our family tried to explain it to his family what the scoop was they only answered with, “…they have a what? …An imaginary family? Scott do you know what you are marrying into here? These people are crazy.” Well we really aren’t we just know how to have a good time and enjoy the fun the Nesbitts have created for us.
As a joke, I sent out Christmas cards (that I had purchased) to everyone in the family from the Nesbitts. This first mailing was to eight homes. My sister-in-law called my mom to ask, “Do we really know someone named Nesbitt?” Everyone had a great laugh at Christmas. The list grew by two or three over the next few years. These store bought Christmas cards got boring so one year I wrote a Nesbitt Family Christmas letter that told everything about the Nesbitts over the previous year. This was based on some exaggerated events that happened in our family and some things that were just made up to add to the levity. Everyone loved the letter. That year also debuted the Nesbitts return address stamp. The mailing list has increased to about 80 people.
One year we found a bunch of old family pictures in Grandma’s stuff, but we could only identify about half of the people. So we started joking that those mystery people were obviously…who else but …the Nesbitts. We pasted these into an album and created stories about each one to keep the “posterity” of the Nesbitt family intact. Those Nesbitts are such nice people.
A friend of the family was driving through Kansas where some of our relatives live (real ones this time). So, we asked her to deliver the photo album to them as a joke. A friend, Jolene, took the album and walked into Bill’s office. As he looked up she asked, “Are you Bill?” His affirmative answer prompted the response, “Well I am Sara Lee Nesbitt and I this is for you.” She dropped the album on his desk and turned to walk out.
“Wait! What? Where? Who? Who gave you this book?” Bill said as he sat there with a surprised look on his face. Jolene told him she was asked to deliver it and that he would know what it was all about. Bill called us shortly after that to tell us the story and laugh about the Nesbitts.
The crazy part (as if something this crazy can get any nuttier) is that now the Nesbitts are getting return mail from other families at Christmas. And they have received a few postcards from as far away as Spain and London from friends (real ones) who have gone on vacation. Thankfully, the IRS has not tried to levy any taxes yet, but who knows what could happen.
Our Grandma, a lady who loved fun, inspired this nutty Nesbitt family. She didn’t know about her creation at the time, but I am sure she is there now with us every time we speak of the Nesbitts. In many ways, this has kept her memories alive and very active in our family life. That little bit of teasing has become a fond and funny was of memorializing a very funny lady.
We learned many things from my grandma – caring for each other, how to love and be loved, and how to “make fun out of your work” or most things. Along our journey, each of us will create an identity for ourselves throughout life. That little dash between the date of birth and the date of death packs quite a wallop, there’s a whole lot of stuff wrapped up in that tiny mark. Our identity, and the stories of our ability, can last long after we are gone. Think about those people in your life that have passed on, they still have an energy that survives on in perpetuity.
The person may be gone, but what they created and how they are remembered will last for much longer. The same, obviously, is true for all of us. We have the ability to use our powers for good and create a legacy. In addition to honing our own brand, others may attach their perspective to our actions, ability, and leadership. The trick is to maintain the projection of our brand, our message, and our image.
This is the time of year to remember traditions and prepare resolutions for the future. Think for a moment about your inner Nesbitt, the combination of what you think you are, what others think you are, and how the stories come together. This inner Nesbitt relates to who we want to be (cause) and who we are (effect).
What are your abilities? What are your strengths? From whence did they come? This raw ability, or the multiplicity of abilities, is up to each of us to mold and form. 2015 will be here soon…lean in, lead on, and develop your abilities.