When I began this year of stories, one of my intentions was to occasionally feature one of the vintage items that I own. I wanted to share the stories behind those special pieces. I began recently with the story of my mom’s wooden shoes from Holland. Tonight’s vintage story features beautiful floral needlepoint pieces, from Greg’s grandmother, Ruby Moore.
Even though she was not my biological grandmother, this matriarch of the Moore family was always Grandma Ruby to me. She insisted. Our families actually had connections that went back generations. The first time I met Grandma Ruby, Greg and I had barely begun dating, and had not considered marriage at all. Grandma greeted me enthusiastically and told me immediately that she hosted a baby shower for my grandmother, when she was pregnant with my mother, back in the “hollow”. “And now look,” she announced, “you are part of the family!”
I was both amused…and embarrassed!
When I did eventually become a part of the Moore Clan, I was a bit intimidated by Grandma Ruby. She was a strong woman, with strong values and equally strong opinions, about everything. I was afraid to speak up to her, and certainly never wanted to cross her or cause her disappointment. In her strength, she could appear severe, or even harsh. And yet, I sometimes caught glimpses of her tender heart.
The first family Christmas gathering I attended, prior to my marriage, was at Grandma and Grandpa Moore’s house. They were not expecting me, and I was not expecting a gift. Grandma Ruby slipped away to her bedroom and returned moments later with a gift she had hastily wrapped. She gave me one of her own bottles of perfume.
My relationship with Grandma Ruby shifted while I was expecting my first child. At least one afternoon a week, she would drive to my house, while Greg was at work, pick me up and take me home with her. There was always a plate of food waiting for me. I’d watch as Grandma Ruby worked on the old cradle that held her sons when they were infants. We sat together for hours as she stripped layers of paint, applied fresh stain and waxed the wood to a soft finish. The cradle would hold my baby when she was born, and as I sat watching her restoration progress, I felt the love that Grandma Ruby poured into that project.
The best part of those afternoons with the Moores was listening to their stories. Grandma Ruby would haul out an old battered suitcase, full of photos, and tell me story after story from their youth. I heard about their early lives, their fun escapades, and their hardships. Their faces softened into smiles and Grandpa Bill would shake his head and chuckle as he remembered the young man he once was. I loved these glimpses into their pasts, and into their hearts.
Some of their stories were quite shocking. Perhaps because I had not grown up with them as my grandparents, or perhaps because freedom is won in advanced age, they felt comfortable telling me things that their own grandchildren had not heard. Whatever their reasons, I treasured those stories. I came to love and appreciate Grandma Ruby very much.
Later, when Grandma Ruby and Grandpa Bill were gone, and their house with all its contents had sold, I was allowed to run in and grab one item. I am grateful that Grandma Ruby showed me the suitcase full of photos. That’s what I grabbed. I rescued those old photos, with those young smiling faces and sparkling eyes. As a bonus, we discovered bundles of letters and postcards within the suitcase, correspondence between Ruby and Bill before their marriage. He is polite and friendly as he writes. She is playful and flirtatious and sometimes downright naughty! I love that about her.
I have more than those photos and letters and that vintage suitcase that I create vignettes in. Through Greg’s parents several pieces of exquisite needlepoint came to me, crafted by Grandma Ruby in the 1960s and early 70s. Those pieces have places of honor in my home. The footrest shares my studio with me, parked near my thinking chair. I often tuck it beneath my writing table and prop my feet on it, if I’m going to be working for a long period of time.
The other two pieces hang on a wall in my bedroom. They are both florals as well. The bell pull has a working bell that does indeed ring merrily when the pull is tugged on. My granddaughter has a fondness for that pull, and uses it to announce her trips to the bathroom. Ironically, the cat that shares Aubrey’s middle name also rings the bell, if she wants to go outside and I’m ignoring her.
I think of Grandma Ruby every time I look at the footrest, the bell pull and the framed flower needlepoint. I remember her great heart and how generously she shared it. I look at photos of her near the end of her life and now I can see beyond the serious expression on her face and the somber demeanor. In her face I can see the young woman there, eyes crinkled up with a mischievous glint, a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth.
Thank you, Grandma Ruby, for the flowers that will not fade. Thank you for the gifts of your time, your presence and your stories. And thank you for loving me as one of your own.