Friday, November 25, 2016


on this day, november 25th, 1913.
(103 years ago)
my grandmother irene isabelle hardwick baldwin
was born.

i've said this so many times, but can i just say it again, the older
i get, the more admiration i have for her.
i just want to reminisce a while today about her, her life and
her amazing legacy.

gram was one of 6 children, 5 girls and 1 boy.
grama lost her mom from pneumonia when she was still a teenager,
and her only brother died quite young too so from my
earliest memory- it was all about her 4 sisters.
edith, leona, evelyn, irene and opal- sisters~and the best of friends.
these 6 children had 2 stepmothers in their lives and
they were both mail order brides who were mean
and ended up divorcing their dad and taking most of his money with them.

my gram met her future husband through her sister evie.
evie and her new husband mahlon introduced his brother and
her sister and the sister's ended up married to brothers.
gram had the first of her 7 children when she was just 17 (and she wasn't even catholic).  
all of her siblings stopped at about 3 kids and i
remember gram telling me that her sisters would say "oh no~ you poor thing"
when she would announce another pregnancy.
galen (grampa) and gram had two boys followed by twin girls, (one of
which was my mother)-
then a 3rd daughter and they wrapped up their family with two
more sons.

my grandparents farmed their whole life and never had a lot
of money but what they did have was a whole lot of love.
they were strict parents but they were also fun.
there is nothing i love more than sitting with some of my
aunts and uncles and having them tell childhood stories.
they all laugh till they are crying.

for most of their childhood they lived in a big rented
two story farmhouse. it was built right on the banks of the chippewa river
near milan, mn.  the 7 kids learned to swim early on and
spent hours of every summer playing in that river. the house
sat atop a big hill so gram couldn't even see down where the
kids played and her sons and daughters used to tease her, that at the end of the day
she'd watch them coming up over the hill and start counting...
"one, two, three"------till she got to six and then when the last
head appeared, say, "shoot---- seven".

she'd just laugh and go along with it- but it wasn't true,
she cherished her family and always said that she wasn't sure if there
was a heaven, but it didn't really matter to her because she felt like
she'd been so blessed in her life that she was already in heaven!

when my mother died right after she turned 30, my gram and grampa
decided that they would raise my sister and i. we had two younger brothers
who a niece of my grandmas adopted. i know it was hard for them to
split us up, but they just didn't feel able to take on 4 more children.

as a mother myself i can't even imagine the heartbreak my gram must
have experienced loosing a child, but she had a strong will and she
never really let my sister and i see her suffering. she raised us to be
tough and resilient. she spent her whole life serving her family,
she grew huge gardens to feed the multitude that kept growing.
she lived long enough to know 22 grandchildren and 13 greats.

our gram sewed for all of us and she knit, embroidered, refinished furniture,
and gardened.  she taught most of us girls
to do all the things she loved. she loved nature and was a "birder" long
before the whole country fell in love with that backyard hobby.
gram loved many dogs, but she had no time for cats.
gram loved what we now call "junking" before that was cool too.
she took dawn and i to countless auctions and she'd buy
something no one else wanted and turn it into something beautiful.

we did a lot of camping as a family and those were some
of the best days of my childhood. we had a huge old canvas tent and
gram and gramps had their own side with a simple wall that
separated any of the grandkids that were sleeping
(or horsing around) on the other side. it was about the only time
i ever remember my gram just sitting around doing nothing.

one of the funniest memories about my gram is that she made most of her own
clothes and she'd make a
lovely polyester pantsuit and wear it for awhile. then the next time we saw
her she would have cut the sleeves out of the blazer and made it into a vest.
by the following summer the pants would be shorts (she was usually hot) and she'd keep
wearing those till they wore out.
it was a big joke between dawn, she and i and we loved teasing her about it.
gram could seriously make something out of nothing and she never (ever) complained
about having to do that, or wished for anything anyone else had.

 gram had a wicked sense of humor and loved
to prank her neighbor friends and dress up goofy to make us laugh.
gram rarely missed church, but religion and politics weren't talked
about around our table- she and gramps let us form our own opinions about
most things in life.

some of the rarest gifts on earth were bestowed upon me by the woman
i was lucky enough to have for both a grandmother and a mother.
she was a one in a million kind of girl who lived a simple life
and could not have been more content.

i'm remembering her with love today,
xo, beth

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