Our Family Biographies


Ruth, the last child of Felix and Julia, you were born at the beginning of the century. Your story wove a tapestry combining many family threads. When I view your tapestry, Ruth, I see that it is like an Oriental carpet. Across the background colors of your inheritance, are woven the designs of your story: the branches of an apple tree, human figures, and the patterns and colors of your life.

Once upon a time, on a wide tree-lined street, there was a large white frame house with a tall gabled roof, and a wide veranda along the front. Here a baby girl was born. This completed the family of two boys, a girl, and finally another girl to make an even number. The four children made a family portrait their faces lined up in a vertical row with baby Ruth’s round face at the bottom. Inside the house, upstairs, tucked under the gabled roof, lived Grandma. Also, living there was Papa who went to work each day, and came home late with his newspaper under his arm. And there was Mama, upstairs, downstairs, her keys jingling on a safety pin at her waist. In the back yard was a large apple tree.

When spring came, baby Ruth often lay in her bassinet under the apple tree which was covered with fragrant pale pink blossoms. Sometimes Ruth’s brothers, who played in the backyard, would chase a cat up the tree. Ruth’s sister liked to watch her Grandma crochet a border or piece a quilt of blue and green strips. As Ruth grew plump and strong, her nurse would say,”How big is the baby? “So big,” Ruth replied, her arms raised like the spreading branches of the apple tree.

At the end of her second summer, yellow-green apples appeared on the tree. “I want one; I want one,” Ruth demanded. Her Mama, who spoke softly, was sometimes wrapped in gray silence. She said to her little daughter, “We’ll see. We’ll see.” Soon the apples will be red and ready to eat.”I want one now,” Ruth said, her face red with anger, her brown eyes flashing. She began to cry and stamp her foot, as she clung to a low branch trying to reach the fruit.”No one loves me. If you loved me, you’d give me an apple from my tree.” Grandma, who heard the commotion, came down the stairs and into the yard. “Poor child,” she said, “Come to my room and I will give you some candy.” “No, I want an apple from the tree to hold in my hand,” Ruth said.

Ruth’s father, who had just come home from work was still dressed in his seersucker suit, white shirt, purple tie, and worn black shoes. Though he was a kind man, he didn’t believe in over-indulgence. Yet since he hated tension in the house, he tried to control the scarlet threads of anger. What would be the harm of picking an apple to please his baby girl? He plucked an apple hard and green from the tree, and handed it to his daughter. She smiled, forgetting to thank her papa, and was quick to bite into the bitter pulp. That night, Ruth awoke cramped with pain, flushed with high fever. Her frightened family gathered round her bed when they heard her screams.” I have poisoned her,” her father thought. Ruth’s mother telephoned the doctor, who came in the night with his black satchel.” he said “She’s a very sick child, but she will recover,” the doctor said, as he walked down the stairs. At last, all was quiet in the house that night.

Years later as little Ruth grew up, her father always believed that long ago, he was the one who had once made his daughter ill. He often felt sorry for the daughter whose name means pity. Ruth admired her papa whom she called “Father.”Yet when Ruth could not have her way her mouth tightened into a pencil line and her face turned dark with anger. Orange threads danced across the tapestry — she fought, she played games with her brothers, but Ruth always wanted to win. Yellow-green strands of envy crossed the orange threads as she played the game. Ruth stamped her foot, this time with sharp words, which aroused her father’s guilt. “I want to go to New York. Take me to Japan,” Ruth demanded. She returned with dolls in native dress, a desire to travel, and the beginning of a collection of beautiful objects.

As a young woman of the twenties however, still needing to be the boss, Ruth never married. Yet she had a special fondness for children. Perhaps because she was once the pampered youngest child, Ruth doted on babies. She bounced each one upon her lap while chanting,”dee, dee, dee.” Children called her “Rootie”, and to her, each one was an “Angel”.

As an adult, the colors of Ruth’s tapestry softened. Purple threads of pride sometimes became lavender patterns of quiet accomplishment. Like her admired father, Ruth worked for education, and to help children and the needy. In later years when her hair turned white, although the harsh pink threads of demand still pulled tight across the weave and gossamer strands of gray clouded her tapestry, Ruth proudly wore a purple robe of honor.

Ruth, when I view your whole tapestry, I can see the strong purple strands of family pride, and the faded brown velvet bands that adorn the borders of your tapestry — your possessions. I see red and chartreuse threads tied in angry knots. And, pink concentric circles play across the background behind the foreground figures of the tapestry. There are also rows of soft pastel figures — the children in your life. However, overall, gossamer gray mists and tight knotted threads distort your tapestry’s story pattern. And, despite bright spots of joy and honor, at the end, your persistent need pulls taut your tapestry’s lowest strands. Ruth, despite your pride in honors won, I feel your angry sadness.