Bohemian Bonnie

My cousin Barry, who lives in Phoenix, visited his family in western Ohio this week. He is my mom’s sister’s second son – of four boys. He came over to Columbus Tuesday to explore German Village, a favorite spot of his, and then met me for dinner and a stroll in the Short North. We estimated we hadn’t seen each other in three years. And he has lived in Phoenix for almost 30 years, I think, so we don’t see each other often in general. As we were making plans last Sunday to meet, Barry asked for the url to this blog. Between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday, he read the entire blog, which touched me quite a bit. Below, Barry offers some memories of my mom. He has a terrific memory, and reminded me about how poor my memory can be about certain events. A common thread with anything involving Barry is laughter – he is a jokester, and when I’m with him, I want to make him laugh as much as he makes me laugh. But also, what he wrote below, in this case, made me cry. Thank you, Barry, for contributing here, for having such great observations about Bonnie, and for being so kind to me. As you recall other things about Mom, please send more memories this way!

Barry and I stopped to admire the fountain in front of the Greystone apartments on High Street.

Barry and I stopped to admire the fountain in front of the Greystone apartments on High Street.

Being a new reader of this blog, and also being a nephew of Bonnie, I have had a myriad of thoughts, emotions, and memories occupying my mind in the past week. As a result, I feel compelled to share my own small tribute to this woman.

Bonnie is my mom’s only sibling. When I was a child growing up our respective families shared the holidays together, and one or more of us kids would spend the vacation days at one another’s house. I, more than any other of my siblings or cousins, reaped the biggest benefit of this arrangement because I got to spend the most number of days visiting my aunt and cousins in the course of a year. These were visits that I saved my money for, looked forward to, and relished when they finally came.

I was a child of the 60s and 70s when the women’s movement spawned and bloomed into full swing. Bonnie was the first feminist I personally knew. That in and of itself is not particularly so significant, but I was aware of her independent spirit and found it not only admirable but more importantly inspiring. I view myself during my childhood as someone who struggled with confidence and who at times tolerated unpleasantries from peers. So, when I would witness my aunt confidently expressing herself at various times I saw it as a courageous trait that I was determined to incorporate into my own character.

Emily has alluded to her big laugh. Yes, she certainly had one. But what I found most admirable in that was her ability to laugh at herself. I identify laughing as the key ingredient in my memory of Bonnie. There are so many anecdotes I could share to illustrate this, but since the topic of poop has come up before in this blog, I’m choosing this particular one. I was with Bonnie and my cousins one Christmas holiday after we had grown to adulthood. We ate chili for dinner and to our horror the toilet became inoperable. A house with 5 adults full of chili and no toilet – not a good situation. Bonnie in particular was suffering the consequences of this misfortune. We had to to take Laura to the airport the following day, and Laura cheerfully suggested that we go to the airport a little early and get her checked in, which would leave Bonnie time to comfortably use the bathroom there. Bonnie’s response: “Well I can’t poop on cue.” I don’t know, maybe you had to be there, but we were in stitches.

There was a bit of a Bohemian spirit in Bonnie that I embraced. She had what I thought were interesting friends, LOTS of friends – quite different from the adults I knew in my own home town – who also had that Bohemian quality.

The Ohio State Fair was always a big event for my cousins and me during my summer visits. I remember Bonnie going with us only once, but on this particular outing we decided to take a short cut through the fairgrounds. This required climbing a chain-linked fence, and although Bonnie was wearing a dress and low heeled shoes, she was the first to climb over. I remember watching her complete crossword puzzles and cryptograms in the Dispatch with impressive speed and ease. She was valedictorian of her class but was actually humble about her intelligence. I’m a teacher now and just recently completed a summer school contract teaching a Chess class. It was Bonnie who taught me how to play Chess. And though it obviously wouldn’t lessen any of the treasures of my memories of her if this were otherwise, she was indeed beautiful. I loved looking at her. After a parents’ night on the eve of my cousin’s college graduation I told my cousin she should be proud that she had the prettiest mother in the room.

What I have shared barely scratches the surface of a multitude of memories I have of this woman who in many ways I looked up to and admired. She certainly played a role in shaping my character in ways for which I will always be grateful. Many of the entries in Emily’s blog break my heart, whether or not that was the intention. Thankfully I know the person who is “lost” to this dreaded disease. And how fitting that this woman’s daughter, my cousin Emily, is also the recipient of my admiration and respect, and has inspired me with her dedication and devotion to her mother when she needs her most. Emily, you are like a precious flower to me and I know your Mom’s “Hallelujahs!” are heart felt, as are my words.

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3 comments so far

  1. Amy Howorth on

    Emily, I have loved reading your touching blog about your mom. While my mother does not have Alzheimers, I do miss the woman she was when I was younger. This post by your cousin was really touching. It is evidence of the power of sharing stories, and of doing so on social media. Have a wonderful weekend. BTW- great photo of you and your cousin

  2. sandy on

    Awww is that a self-portrait? Very nice! And I love the vivid pictures your cousin Barry paints of your mom, especially her bohemian spirit climbing chain link fences… priceless memories!

  3. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Amy and Sandy! That is a self-portrait. I tried three times, and I crowded myself out of each picture. That’s OK – Barry is the important one in this photo. He did do such a nice job of remembering Mom. I hope he contributes again. Thanks for reading!


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