Grandma Nellie
   Ann Berger Frutkin

My memories of ‘Grandma Berger’ are always rooted with 218 Hosea Ave. Our family would descend on the house for holidays and, I suppose, eliminate any peace and order that had been there. Grandma presided in the back ‘sitting room.’ Here she sat on a small but upolstered comfy chair, usually in front of the toy closet, supervising the traffic in and out. No one could get another toy without bringing back the one used before. Most prominent in the toy closet was the teddy bear which everyone seemed to think was special but I thought stiff and funny looking.

The two special activities that I remember were poring over her collection of post cards from all over the world. I think that they were important primarily as a view of the world, but most were also written by family and friends so they always had a story attached to them. She also had a spectrometer (?) which was a contraption that looked like goggles on a horisontal stick. When you put your eyes to the goggles, you looked at a card that was in a slot at the far end of the stick. This card had two identical pictures on it, placed side by side. When you looked at it through the glasses, it looked three dimensional. This is the way we travelled to China or Egypt. It was magical and the opportunity to look through it kept us on our good behavior - most of the time.

Easter was the most fun at Grandma Berger’s house. The back garden was full of lilly of the valleys and other low plants. There was much excitement with all of the ages of children categorized so that the little ones could have a true hunting experience. We all branched out and shrieked with glee every time we found a good one. I don’t know how many eggs that Mildred helped color but there were lots! One Easter, I was sick and had to stay home by myself. When everyone came home, Mother brought a gray flocked perfume-bottle box that had a little green grass and one special egg in it from Grandma. I kept it in my drawer for a LONG time until everybody insisted that that was enough smell!

Grandma’s voice was soft and well modulated. She smiled a lot but it was a gentle smile. I don’t remember her being hearty or boistrous. She wore a bun at the nape of her neck as most Grandma’s did. She was rather small and felt very soft when you cuddled with her. She did a lot of knitting. There was always a new baby in the wings (there were 26 in all!) and she bought a lot of yellow yarn. Yellow was both noncommittal and bright and I have my baby sweater that she made. She liked lots of pufs and scallops and mine tied with a ribbon at the neck.

When her children were in their teens, Grandma loved to go with them to the beach. In a little entry book, she listed some of the trips. The family went yearly to Ruggles Beach in northern Ohio from 1923 through 1928. They travelled to Hot Springs (1924), Muskoka Lakes (1928), Clark’s Lake (1929) and Rowona Park, MI (1931). Alfred, Adele, Richard and Carl drove with her to Yellow Stone and the Rocky Mountains in the summer of 1930. Alfred had tales of corduroy roads, logs lined side by side on the roadway. He loved this trip and they all felt very adventuresome on the way. I remember him saying that his Mother could tell the cleanliness of the lodging from the curtains hanging in the front window. Pictures from most of the trips though were of hotels, rather than tourist homes. In the winter she and Grandpa travelled to St Petersburg (1923), San Antonio (1930) and Lakeland and Hollywood Florida in 1931. She and Grandpa travelled to the west where he golfed in Tuscon, she became very interested
in the Indians there. It seemed as if she was always sending money to a Reverand who had school on some reservation. I have no idea how much money she gave, but it was very important to her that she help others.

One special day I remember quite clearly. It was their 50th wedding anniversary. She and Grandpa had had a Mass at their church on Clifton Ave and afterwards, the whole family walked home. I remember feeling very privledged because for a long while I walked by her side and we ‘chatted.’

Before she died, I talked to Mildred Knigga who had lived with my grandparents from the time she was sixteen until they both died. She really loved both of them and remembered Grandma’s kindness and gentleness. Her own bedroom in the farm house on Farmers’ Retreat Rd in Indiana has many momentos of her time on Hosea, including a picture of Grandma and Grandpa in an oval frame. In fact, her room reminded me very much of Grandma’s room.

My father, Alfred, remembered that when his little brothers, Carl and Richard were rumpusing around the house too much, his Mama fled to the garden where she could have peace among her flowers. She loved collecting exotics and the ‘European’ larch was one of her pride and joys. She grew roses and tended them carefully (with the help of a once a week gardener). Grandpa always wore a rose in his lapel as soon as they were blooming and there were always flowers on the breakfast table.

Nellie had many blessings in her life but also many heartaches. The loss of her baby George must have been so tragic. He was a little three year old when he fell sick. They traced it to contaminated milk from the milkman and this must have sent turmoil through the household full of children. She, herself was ill and had Alfred during this time. This is when ‘Weedie’ (Louise) came to help care for the children. She was Mildred’s Aunt and Alfred knew her as “Mother” when he was little. He remembered that his mother was so sad when he would turn to Weedie first instead of to her. Grandma and Grandpa became very interested in nutrition because of all of the children’s illnesses. Alfred was jaundiced and he thought that he probably would not have pulled through without a little book on nutrition that his Mother got. It was written by a Doctor and emphasized whole grains and simple foods. I think that this is the time that Alfred began to be interested in things scientific.

Then too, Marcia was a worry from early on. Alfred remembered that she always insisted on things perfect. She was very demanding on herself and others. She had excellent handwriting as a child and received prises on it. Alfred remembered her dresses as always the best and early memories included summer trips to give Marcia more happy experiences. As she developed her artistic interests, she had a community of people that were interesting. In an old calendar, she noted club meetings and lectures as well as art shows. Florence said that she would never sign any painting unless she was perfectly happy with it. Mildred remembered that she was very sensitive to sound and that when Mildred had to sweep the front porch beneath her window, Marcia would complain about the loud sweeping.

Marcia’s art work was wonderful and has given much pleasure to us all, but Alfred said to me that he thought that Marcia broke her Mother’s heart. As a mother with a daughter who has disabilities, I feel very close to Nellie.

Music was a very important part of the Berger household. Geroge was an excellent baratone and Alfred remembered that after dinner, the children went to study and his Mother and Father retired to the music room where his Mother played the piano and his Father sang with her. Fred has Geroge’s song book which George used for evening entertainment. I think that Geroge was more interested and active with his singing than Nellie was because as soon as he could, George bought a player piano with rolls so that Nellie didn’t have to learn and practice all of those pieces. Only once did I attend an evening of music at Grandma and Grandpa’s and the main thing I remember was that there were a lot of people and I should be quiet and good. I think that Norma Richter was there as well as other musical members of the family.

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