I lost an important person to me yesterday.

There have been two very strong matriarchs in my life, their collective weight probably totaled less than 150 pounds— my grandmother Anne Chatham (“Gran”) who passed nearly four years ago, and the other, Ruth Nichols (“Fooey”), who passed away yesterday.


Both of these women were formidable to me and could give the Dowager Countess from “Downton Abbey” a run for her money: opinionated, strong, take-no-prisoners, both saw a lot in their lifetimes, lived well into their 90’s, and they both were tiny.

To say I adored both of them would be an understatement, and I think I am taking Fooey’s death hard, because selfishly, and even though I am in my mid-40’s and trying to “adult” as best I can, I can no longer run to my grandmother’s house when I am upset and in need of a hug or a caramel apple.


About Fooey

When I was little, I couldn’t pronounce my ‘r’s so Ruthie most easily morphed to “Fooey,” and to this day, I never called her Ruth or Ruthie, it was always Fooey.

In the summers I would go to “Camp Fooey’s” for a week or two. I swam for hours; hit a tennis ball against the garage door; colored page upon page with my fruit-scented markers, then sold said colored pages to her (for a price); played Mad Libs with her; and ate bear claws in her bed all the while getting hooked on “All My Children” and learning Relationship Issues through the eyes of Erika Kane.

We made truckloads of caramel apples; ate blueberry waffles with ice cream and syrup for dinner; and she taught me a very important life skill: how to catalog shop with a discerning eye. My favorite activity though, was sitting on her bed, talking and watching TV, with one of her mother’s many hand-quilted quilts tucked “up just to our noses.” I asked a lot of questions about those hand-quilted quilts over the years, not knowing then that those very quilts would inspire me to pursue a life-long career in the quilt industry.

Having been away from California for nearly 25 years and moving back fairly recently, gave our relationship a boost. I could see her more frequently and the last few visits, she would rifle through her jackets and blouses in her closet, tell me to try them on, and then say, “Oooh, you look darling in that! Take it!” (Whether I liked the jacket or not, I had no choice, I had to take it.)

This picture…this picture just makes me choke up, every time.


It is a picture of Jim Timmins helping Fooey walk across the street to a restaurant in downtown Los Altos. I have no idea what possessed me to take this, but I snapped it on my iPhone and I am so grateful I did, because to me she’s just adorable in it.

Oh, Fooey, I am going to miss you. Thank you for being in my life. I was the luckiest of granddaughters.