Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gooma and Nana Ruth

My grandmothers were polar opposites. Nana Ruth was a petite woman who decorated her little surburban ranch house in the French Rococo style. She had a closet full of fancy boxes filled with decorative hats for every occasion. She had a drawer filled with monogramed silk hankercheifs, and every ilk of ladies gloves. When we would visit on holidays, she would take us shopping for new clothes, then parade us around town to the ladies of the country club.

She always had a batch of slice-n-bake cookies ready, and kept me busy with a lovely little china tea set.

Gooma on the other hand, was a real card. She taught me to play poker in her breakfast nook when I was still in diapers. Her house smelled of fried chicken, musty books, and flowers. Gooma was a nurse who spent most of her career working with babies. She always wanted us around. I think I spent more of my childhood at her house then I did at my own home. I spent hours sitting at the piano with her singing songs like "Bill Bailey won't you Please come Home" and "Down in the Red River Valley." She taught me to sing. She told me stories. She taught me to read. She taught me gardening, first aid, and fishing.

Fishing is all about patience, you know; A tough lesson for a little wiggle worm like me, but one I learned well.

I remember catching 114 bluegill in one day, and counting them all as we gently released them. I remember falling into Whetstone Casting Pond, and emerging with a baby snapping turtle latched on to my shoe. We took the Turtle home, and Gooma told me that it would let go of my keds when the sun went down. She was right, as always.

Gooma took us everywhere. Every day with her was a new adventure. We would drive the hilly backroads and pretend we were on a roller coaster. We picnicked in the park, and played hide and seek in real graveyards. We went to art and history museums. I particularly loved the mummy at The Ohio Historical Society.

It turns out that I did not really know these women, until many years after they died.

When Nana was fading, she was forced to sell her home and go to a nursing facility. She was so upset, she refused to eat. I came to feed her, three meals a day for a period of two years. At the time, I thought we were getting along very well. When she passed, I found out that several years prior, she had written me out of her will stating that she "did not approve of my lifestyle."

Funny. She never said a word to me about that.

After Gooma passed, I found out that she had been engaged to one of the most powerful wealthy men in America, but she turned him down, saying that "although she loved him, she could just not live the life of a debutante." I inherited the engagement ring that he apparently asked her to keep.

I also found out that the big statue of "The Dough Boy" gracing the front of The Ohio Historical Society was modeled after her twin bother Harold.

Funny. She never said a word to me about that.

For me, that silent statue is a proud testimony of the woman she was, and the one I have become.


firedawg said...

You seem to be in a great place in your life right now. Often introspection takes place during times when we are down and yet yours seems to be driven by optimism and self-assurance. These posts will be agreat legacy for your kids.

Kelley Bell said...

Thanks Fire. You have hit the nail right on the head. My entire motivation to start blogging began when I read my Grandmothers diaries, and found a desire to write down my own stories for my children.

Writer Mom said...

Kelley Bell! This post got to me yesterday. My grandmothers have both shaped me in so many positive ways...
I started a tribute to the both of them, then realized I could fill a blog with stories of each individually!
This was a wonderful post...very telling, and inspirational. I hope to read more about both of your grandmothers...but goodness, I'd LOVE to read your Gooma's biography!

Writer Mom said...

p.s. My Dad paint-by-numbered a very similar painting of the red bridge/fisherman when he was a boy. It hung in my grandmother's spare room until the day she died. It symbolized to me how proud she was of her family. All of her pictures and paintings were created by the kids and grandkids.
(See, you've conjured up lots of good stuff for me...)

Kelley Bell said...


Thank you so much for the wonderful comments. Im honored to have sparked your memories a bit.

It's interesting that you said you would like to read my grandmothers bio, as I have been fashioning a novel around her life story, titled "Sissy". Ive been working on it for about two years now and describe it as "The Great Gatsby" meets "Little Women."


I know that many publishers say "dont send us stories about your grandmother..." but Sissy is an exception to the rule.

Your comment was a real moral booster.

garnet david said...

wonderful stories. now i feel like i know you a little better. you're the best of both. thanks for the healing comment at my place. what a great comment!

Writer Mom said...

Don't send us stories about your grandmother!?!

I need to start my own publishing company. That's BUNK!
The world would be a lot better place if more people read about grandmothers.
Harumph!! (I'm so behind on posts!)

Looking forward to seeing you on Oprah. Let me know ahead of time, though. I don't normally watch.