Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthday Geetings from Two of Rob's Nieces ~ Thanks to Mary Ellen

Matt, Sheridan, Meredith, Morgan and Allison with Goggy/Nai Nai about twelve years ago

My good friend, Mary Ellen Blizzard, with whom I went to New Haven last year for the 95th anniversary of the Yale Spizzwinks, arranged a birthday surprise for me. She asked my nieces and nephews to write personal accounts about me for my blog. Below are two unedited results

Two Tributes to Robert Fleming Rich Bell ~~~ April 16, 1949

Allison’s Poem

I remember being in your house
I was ten
with a broken arm
it was the first time I spent quality time
with my Uncle Rob
up until then you were
that voice on the phone
that man in the picture
I was with my mother who is your sister
and my Texan grandmother
You hosted three generations of women
for a week
and you such an excellent host
you were our guide
arranging a car up 101
beautiful coast lined with cliffs
that weaved in and out
the Pacific
went on for miles miles and miles
beautiful weather

And the Hearst Castle
rooms of European furniture
Marin county

On a hill overlooking the ocean
I imagined the golden days of Hollywood
the 20's the 30's

The redwood forest
to a child

And that chilly windy salty ride on the ferry
You showed me a different way of being
you showed me the best of nature
it was a peaceful
wonderful experience

Uncle Rob
you always show me the best of life
whether visiting you in San Francisco
or when traveling with you abroad

Happy Birthday!

By Morgan Bell

Dear Uncle Rob,

Here are a few of my fondest memories of times we’ve shared.

Picking a Bouquet in the Red Wood Forest

On our way back to Beijing, my father, mother and I stopped in SF.

I must have been 12.
You, Dennis and my family went to the Red Woods. It was my first time. It would have been August and the forest was teaming with life, as were the tourists.
In China I had the luxury of being a first class foreigner, which allowed me access to the Ming Tombs with my family where we went for picnics. There were no rules or guidelines. No one to stop us from taking tiles that had fallen off the ancient structures. I mention this because I had no idea that in the US there were rules.

I picked a bouquet of beautiful wild flowers and with a bounce in my step went to give them to Mom.

You saw a park ranger at the same time as you saw me, and quickly assessing the situation and trying to avoid the fine, you grabbed them from me and said “no!” You then very kindly explained that you weren’t really mad at me, but had to pretend to be so that you would not be fined.

I recall that memory with a laugh.

I also remember that I wandered away from you and my parents and Dennis caught up with me and we talked and joked and laughed. It was the first time I really got to know Dennis.

Watching the Parade in Paris

It may have been in the summer of ’85, but I can’t remember. My mother and I met you and Dennis for Bastille Day which is on the 14th of July in Paris.

We may have been near the Champs-Élysées. I do remember sitting on steps and the big grin Dennis had on his face as we watched the incredible parade of soldiers marching through the streets. It felt as if we had gone back in time a hundred years with the costumes in bright red and bayonets. Were there sounds of Cannon Balls? Definitely fireworks.

From our view we could see the parade cross in many different directions in a complex formation, perfectly executed. It simply took our breath away.

Moving to SF

I had dreadlocks and a dog and I was looking for a way home. Home had become an elusive, abstract idea; memories of five or so different homes I had in Paris, DC, Beijing, Geneva, PA, and MA. My family was scattered between Chicago, Beijing and Zurich, and there was not enough room for me to live with them, no life that I could conceive.

So after a fight with my mother I called my father i[n] Beijing and asked him what he thought of me moving to SF and I was very surprised to hear his enthusiasm at the idea.

Buck, who had adopted me only weeks before, and I embarked on our journey.

I remember how welcomed I felt sitting at the dining room table eating asparagus al dente, risotto and chicken. Enjoying a glass of wine, though I was barely twenty.

Dennis commenting on Elizabeth’s chemistry experiments in the kitchen, i.e. “meals in Harrisburg” that had ruined your ability to distinguish between fine cuisine and what Dennis would argue was practically inedible. There was so much laughter as Dennis spoke in an irreverent way, yet at the same time revering our family. Satire made the past that I had never known come alive to me.

I felt like I belonged and that I had always belonged.

I cherish that memory.

1 comment:

jutka said...

Aaaaaaw! What nice tributes!
Happy Birthday, Rob! God bless you for many-many more years.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)