For Whom The RumBelle Tolls
By Jennifer Brouillard
The week my grandfather died after a prolonged illness, my Nana and I bonded by watching British TV shows and films (particularly BBC/A&E’s Pride and Prejudice, our favorite novel), which helped us through our loss. Two months later my Nana continued to cope by going on her dream vacation to the U.K. and while there watched Hamish Macbeth. When she returned home she raved to me about it and Robert Carlyle as its lead.
She tried to find examples of his work to share with me, but in the U.S. there was little to choose from. She brought me to Trainspotting a few months later and The Full Monty the year after. Both were excellent films with stellar acting, but not movies one wants to see with one’s grandmother.
“Isn’t he fantastic?” Nana asked in a daze walking out of the theater.
I was unmoved. “Yeah whatever, Nana. He’s no Colin Firth.”
Fifteen years later, I saw Carlyle’s performance in Once Upon A Time's "Skin Deep" episode: the start of everything Rumbelle. Their relationship became imprinted on my mind. I loved the idea of Belle as a modern woman pursuing opportunities she couldn’t at home — and seeing a softer, more domestic side of Rumple. To me, watching this episode was like reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time — but with a fairy tale twist. I started viewing Snow and Charming as Jane and Bingley while Rumple was a misunderstood Darcy to Belle’s Elizabeth. (I suppose that makes Gaston Mr. Collins and Regina Lady Catherine!) My imagination was piqued and I started writing fan fiction, including Belle’s Diary to fill in the gaps of how Rumple and Belle fell in love. I realized that like Colin Firth, Robert Carlyle acts with his eyes — conveying emotion in just a glance that is both tantalizing and mesmerizing. I started looking at all of his work in a different light.
And in so doing, I finally saw him through my Nana’s eyes.
I rushed to her, now 91 and in a nursing home suffering from dementia.
"Nana," I exclaimed, "I finally get why you like Robert Carlyle so much!"
Her brow furrowed in confusion. “Who?” she asked.
I felt like I'd been struck. If she’d forgotten the man she had admired for years, how long will it be before she forgets me, too?
So it became my mission to help her remember him. Mini-strokes damaged her vision, so photos didn't help. I reiterated all the things she told me of him through the years: Scottish chap, brilliant acting, starred in this movie about this and that, etc. She sat there, listened and smiled blankly. Nothing registered.
Then on Easter (appropriately) I had an epiphany. I brought my iPod to our family's annual Easter brunch, put the earbuds in her ears (quite a feat with her hearing aids), and selected "You Can Leave Your Hat On."
Her cloudy eyes cleared with recognition. “Oh!” she declared, a grin plastered across her normally flaccid face. "I remember him now!"
YES! Success! The neural pathways had connected! Now we could talk about him once more! What would she want to say, now that I was ready to listen? I was a rapt audience as she formed her next words carefully.
“The man with the nice bum!”
Oh, my Nana. I think that if she were my age today, she would love Once Upon A Time, watch Skin Deep countless times, and be a fan of all things Rumbelle. So I’m doing it for both of us.
In the end, what has Rumbelle meant to me? It’s meant joining the staff of Once Upon A Fan and researching contacts to request actor interviews. It’s meant writing and presenting a newscast for those who want a condensed version of fan news, all while maintaining a full-time job and being a mom to two boys, one who has autism. It’s meant greater confidence and people believing in me. It’s about to mean the crazy world of forum management as the new season premieres. And it will always mean new friends and connections with amazing people I might never have known otherwise — as well as a closer bond and better understanding of my Nana during the short time we have left.
All because of Rumbelle.
And a certain man’s nice bum.