Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Girl Named Bessie

Baby Girl
So, she made it known, if Curly, Leonard, Bianchi, and LaLa had real names, she should too. Baby Girl is not really a name and she deserved one just as much as the rest.

She had her point, but what should we call her? We thought of Elizabeth many times and wondered why. It certainly had the dignity she was seeking but it just did not fit. We slept on this dilemma for a week or two, and then finally, someone said Bessie. Could that be it -- a name with determination for a determined little girl? We decided to sleep on it just one more night.

The next morning we still liked it, but decided to keep it between the two of us while I was at work, to give her time to digest the change, and to make room for any last-minute change of heart. She later admitted to whispering her secret in LaLa's ear, which was a good choice for a confidante since he only speaks Tiger. That night, she made her announcement: She is no longer Baby Girl; she is Bessie. Since then, on occasion, she has allowed family to also call her Bessie Girl.

It's interesting to know, this source says Bess and Elizabeth are Hebrew names that mean "house, God's promise, and God is my oath."

That's the end of this story . . . but it reminded me of another . . .

Bobbie and me, Mother's Day 1958
I was pretty little when I first met her, so I have no idea why I called her BaBa. Her real name was Bessie, but everyone in my family called her Bobbie and claimed I had renamed her.

When I was a little girl I had a wonderful babysitter, a sixty-something woman with white hair, large hands, a soft Texas drawl, a gentle loving nature, and sometimes the sparkle of mischief in her eyes!

I expect her life had not been easy. She was a young woman during the Great Depression; her husband worked for the railroad. The photograph of President Franklin Roosevelt on her living room wall seemed to tell it all, but I'm still not certain what all of it was. A search online reveals moving from Texas to New Mexico to Colorado . . . decades of moving around from one tiny town to another until they got to Trinidad, Colorado and eventually Pueblo, Colorado.

When I was high school age, she told me about her job as a cook in a cancer ward. Her grown daughter, who lived with her, had a cleft palate that made her speech hard to follow. Despite all this, my babysitter was a gentle, kind woman who just moved forward through her life.

She was well-known in her church. I know because she brought me with her to the annual Mother-Daughter Dinner several times.

She loved to retell a sweet story about the two of us. I'll save that for another day, but suffice it to say the punch line ("BaBa, Mindy wants an egg") confirms I was calling her BaBa -- not Bobbie. Nevertheless, Bobbie is who she became. I'm guessing it was my mother's invention; she probably did not like calling her daughter's babysitter something that sounded like Bubbah.

For me, she was the closest thing to a doting grandmother -- someone to make a fuss over me. Both of my grandmothers loved me but neither was doting. Perhaps that is why we always made a visit to Bobbie's home every Mother's Day and Christmas.

Her small backyard was crowded with fruit trees; the peach tree (trees?) was her favorite. I think it had something to do with her early years in Texas. I remember her discussing freestone versus cling peaches with  my dad and wondering what stones had to do with peaches! Ha! I can't remember for sure which she had but I want to say that they concluded the cling peaches were more trouble to eat but they tasted better...but then again, I may have made-up that part!

I remember for sure, her roses were grown under Mason jars, each one in its own private greenhouse. Often, she would say in her thickest drawl, "Well, I have to go irrigate." So I wonder, did she grow up on a farm somewhere in Texas? I wish I knew more about her childhood.

In her old age she struggled with her breathing -- emphysema, I think. Still, when my mom called and put me on the phone, Bobbie told me she was not doing so well and could not do any handsprings or cartwheels today. That was it; no long stories of illness; just a short line with a smile at the end of it. I have a photo of her as a very young woman, dressed in a long white dress with her arms folded and resting upon the back of a tall open-backed chair. She had a big bright smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes. That girl could definitely do a cartwheel and a handspring!

I miss her to this day.


Sherry said...

What an incredibly sweet story. And picture. Thanks for sharing this.

patricia said...

hey! i really like have a face to pin a name on. have been following your blog for a while--no idea why i've not commented but will tell you that i've appreciated and enjoyed so many of your pieces! the red glasses case? wow. the study in black--yes! glad to know you.

Minka said...

Follows Thread: Thanks for stopping by! I always love a comment and enjoy your blog as well!

Nancy said...

What a lovely story here. I too had sitters in the 1960's who were kind and doting in their way. My grandmothers were not that way (but still loving).
I still remember going to Mrs. Holt's house on days I was home sick from school :)
I also had a Bessie who along with her elderly sister ran a home day care I attended.
And I have never been real fond of Nancy (although my parents thought it was 'dainty', I never saw it that way). I have so many feelings about names.
Glad to be traveling with you :)

Minka said...

Nancy, thanks for stopping by. Sitters play such an important part in our lives, don't they? If we collected stories of babysitters that would be a fine thing. BTW, you can always use another name. Here on the blogosphere, I'm Minka. It's a nice way to try out a new name. Naming has power in it.


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