About Beatrice Rapp
Beatty and Ben - 1982 This narrative about Beatrice, a.k.a. "Beatty", "Bea" and "Mom" has been written by Dorothy & Larry (her children) and by Joy, (her niece). It seems appropriate to read about Mom from at least three points of view, because looking back through offspring eyes she definitely presented a variety of her more positive character traits to different people.
As I am finding it difficult to describe my mother, I am struck by Lloyd's description of Aunt Ethel, and somehow felt immediately that I could write more about her than my mom, but immediately linked the two together, because I know it was my mom that Lloyd saw greeting her and admonishing her (as the now wiser one) that she did not have a body any longer! That of course frames the "sisters" and their strong impact on all of the family that they came in contact with. Strong is a weak word here, Julie once in describing the sisters, described Beatrice as rock. Not in an unkind way, my mother was strong in every way imaginable. Disciplined, loyal, unrelenting, unyielding, opinionated, unbounding energy for any task, loving, talented, and the source, I am afraid, of my perverse humor.
Long before it was fashionable for women to keep their maiden names, my mother used hers. It was this simple statement of fact that spoke of her loyalty to her family and her clear understanding of what was important. Her sisters particularly, were not just important, but focal in her social life. I do not remember many friends who could ever matter or measure up to the standards which these women set for my mother. She was not just strong but steel in her decisive manner about everything from what was for dinner, to what was right and wrong. I always wondered if it was easier to believe that ferociously or if it was just that it was nearly impossible to fathom as a child growing up.
Few stories trickled down from her childhood...there did not seem to be much laughter. Once I remember her laughing about how the twins used to get away with things because of her mother's confusion, but generally it was a topic not discussed at all. The "sisters" all so different from each other and it seemed to me, different from Beatrice, the youngest. We spent our weekends visiting, one or another, particularly the New Jersey two, Ethel and Rose. It was always a great event, these weekend visits. At Rose's, there was a dog, noise, arguments/discussions to eavesdrop on, music as each cousin or adult played the violin, piano, or mandolin. At Ethel's there was even more fun as Ethel loved games and was always doing something fun, from scrabble to "Pisha Pasha" a game which I wonder if anyone else knows? Joe had stilts, a dog, we were allowed to climb on the garage roof!
Beatrice loved Helen and Dottie best, was set on edge by Ethel, and had a soft spot for Rose. Her loyalty never faltered for all of them especially with Rose, who my father and she visited each week for all the years that she was at Roosevelt Hospital after her stroke. Mother was a great baker, seamstress, homemaker and mother. Difficult, to be sure, but her heart was in the right place. She played tennis with us, in fact with Dad she taught us how to play, she pushed sleds, played baseball, ran behind our bicycles and swam her "side stroke" next to us as we learned to swim. She made my clothes, dressed my dolls, designed Halloween costumes and gave us what she never seemed to miss or need. She packed great school lunches, and baked pennies into cupcakes for birthday parties. She was a fierce taskmaster when it came to music lessons, and I (Dorothy) having less talent was never let off the hook until I graduated high school. She walked me to dance lessons, walked us to Hebrew School, walked us to the library and viewed college as a given, not a privilege but merely what one does when one graduates high school. She should have been a lawyer, and would have been if she had been born 30 years later. She was women's lib before it was fashionable and chafed at the bit of a traditional housewife routine, but threw herself into it as if it were a paying job. I was always amazed at the "sisters" and their power and beauty and really am to this day, but I think Beatrice being the youngest took the beauty, power and grace of her older sisters and absorbed it all and turned it into her own Ranz brand of personality.
Beatrice was always "Mom" to me. To the rest of her family she was always "Beatty", and she was, (and still remains) "Beatty" to Dad (Ben). For some reason she was "Bea" to neighbors in our New Jersey apartment. During our childhood years, all parents were always "Mom and Dad" (no first names in the fifty's). I think that if our relationship was other than parent-child, I would have chosen "Bea" to address her. The fact that she easily adapted to Beatrice, Bea, Beatty, and of course "Mom" indicates to me that she was comfortable with all four names. I don't remember her ever correcting anyone in favor of a particular name. Names are funny, It wasn't until last year, reading the Ranz Family Tree that I realized that Aunt Dottie was her nickname for Dorothy. "Aunt Dottie" was the entire name to me as a child! My sister Dorothy's comments on Mom's character traits are as I also remember her.
I remember Mom through several images that are now icons to me. During the 1967 riot in Newark New Jersey, (following the Detroit riots the previous year) Mom and Dad were living in a house located in Irvington New Jersey. Mom was working as a stenographer for a downtown Newark law firm. On the day of the riot, oblivious to the lack of people on her regular bus commute to work, puzzled by the rifle-toting National Guard posted on all highway overpasses, she reported to work as usual. Of course the office was closed for the day, and she made the round trip in complete safety - there is a higher authority.
Another icon is Mom drilling me with flash cards, learning to read at home for first and second grade. Dorothy's "fierce taskmaster" for music was also an accomplished teaching taskmaster.
Mom was very high on education, music, college, anything that improved the mind. I have continued to play the violin since I was 7, and it is because of Mom's immediate action to my request to start violin lessons at the age of 7. I became interested because Abraham (Rose's son) played the violin, and we often visited them.
Mom was a marvelous giver and an extremely poor receiver. She not only was hard to shop for a gift, she took the fun out of the giving part. She was uncomfortable receiving a gift.
My most lasting memory is Mom's chocolate marble cake, a great gift, and a great taste. Caren (my wife) carries on the memory with Mom's original recipe.
We used to call her "The Woman in the Green Hat" as a paraphrasing from the Michael Arlen "best seller" of that time. Aunt Beatty always wore a green hat. It was a felt hat - in those days women always wore hats. She lived about half a mile from our home with her husband Ben and, of course Larry, who was a baby then.
Aunt Beatty was always a big part of our life. My first memories of her are from before she was married, but going with Uncle Ben. They used to love to tease me by hugging and kissing on our living room couch - at least they *thought* they were embarrassing me - I couldn't have cared
less - or even understood what was going on! I adored Uncle Ben who used to play the mandolin with my father and I loved the songs they'd sing. Uncle Ben had a tremendous sense of humor. He could always make us laugh. I wasn't surprised when I was told that his brother or brothers worked at movie scripts for Walt Disney.
Once the five of us piled into my father's old jalopy and took off for a trip to Maine. I don't think that's anyone had every read a geography book or had any idea of how far away Maine was from Brooklyn, NY. We did get to Connecticut though. I must have been about five years old.
We had a wonderful time, though I wonder how they felt about having me tag along. Not that's there was any other way in those days. Hats may have been a constant, but baby-sitters didn't exist.
When they finally got married, children weren't invited to the wedding. Beverly and I were pretty angry about that - in fact, Beverly still talks about it. It made us feel like - well, like children! My mother got all dressed up in a long evening dress with a heart shaped front. It, also was green.
After they were married Beatty and Ben moved to Washington Heights in NY. They were on a street directly across from Dotty and George - each in a tall "high rise" - and claimed that's they could wave at each other. Whatever, it was quite a trip to get from one house to another.
You had to walk down a long steep hill and then up another long steep hill. Let me tell you, I couldn't do that today!!!
When Larry was born, they decided to move to Brooklyn to get out of the city. It was nice having them so close to us. Beatty visited almost every day. She used to chew gum, cracking it very loudly, bothering my mother very much. My mother didn't feel this was very "refined" behavior. Beatty was always knitting - click, click, click. She once knotted me a red pullover vest. Eventually one of my grandchildren wore it!!!
My mother would send me to Aunt Beatty's house to eat bacon! She didn't like to cook bacon in my grandmother Gilman's house where we lived as she was afraid that's the smell would be offensive. Later she found out that my grandmother, herself, cooked bacon, as did her daughters. Was my mother ever mad! But by then Beatty had moved away. But I was able to eat bacon in my own house.
But I loved going over to Aunt Beatty's house. It was a nice walk, and I thoroughly enjoyed Aunt Beatty, Uncle Ben and the baby Larry. To this day, whenever I think of Larry I think of him in his stroller and as about two years old. They moved away shortly after the war began because Uncle Ben got some defense work in New Jersey. But we continued to visit extensively - in both directions.
Bert met the Rapps on his first date with me. He came over to pick me up and they were visiting. He spent some time talking with them. Poor Bert! He met so many relatives that day. All those Gilmans and the Rapps. But, of course, he was most impressed by all the animals - especially our rabbit, Twitchy, who had free run of the house. By then Dorothy was around and Bert had an especial affection for her.
The concerts between Ben and my father continued, and Larry also picked up the mandolin. I still have a picture of Larry and my father playing together at some family affair or another. We continued to see a lot of each other for the rest of our lives.
One of the most awful moments of my life was when Beatty was hit by that car. At that's time Bert was President of Hahnemann University in Philadelphia and that's where Beatty died. Had it not been for that car, she'd still be around with her cheerful face, undoubtedly still cracking her gum and knitting.