Happy Birthday Helen


This is Helen Fendlason Bottolfs & Arthur Bottolfs, my paternal grandparents. Helen would have been 103 today. She died when I was only nine, but my most vivid early childhood memories are from her house, her big yard, the old chicken houses, and the barn. She lived just across the field from my house and I would find my way to her doorstep most summer days, usually barefoot.

Helen did not approve of my unkept tom-boy ways and for me that was part of her charm. In one look and tsk tsk of her tongue she could both disapprove of what was before her and simultaneously see right into me— who I could be, who I really was. She had higher expectations for me. ⠀⠀⠀⠀

Of all the stories I could tell, my favorite memory is of the Christmas Helen let me help with her gift wrapping. I was probably in 1st or 2nd grade. She let me write all the To/From tags and I did so diligently and with such pride. Helen was very particular and I fully understood what an honor this was. I remember beaming with pride with each little tag.

Later I learned I had misspelled her name on every tag. Hellen with two Ls. I was crushed. Why didn't she say anything? I was convinced my mother was wrong. Helen must really be spelled with two Ls because my Maw-Maw would have most definitely corrected my mistake. Anyone who knew her would tell you that.

I never asked her about it. She never said a word. It was our unspoken secret. The message was clear, "I see you, mistakes and all, and it's ok. You're ok."