Twenty Things I Know About My Mom, Grace Helen Smuin Laemmlen
1. She was born in Glendale, CA, and grew up in San Gabriel near Pasadena. She worked on the Rose Bowl Parade floats every year while she was in high school.
2. Her mother was a beautician and her father was a disabled veteran of WWI. He struggled with emotional health much of his life. He was a gentle scholar who lived a fairly private life. Both died before I was 3 months old, she of cancer, he of a broken heart.
3. Her parents’ first child, and only son, Glen, died of a mastoid ear infection when he was 1 ½ years old. He had blonde hair. I’m sure he was adorable. They didn’t have the right medications to heal him. Grace has a younger sister named Marilyn, who one day became the Queen of the Rose Bowl Parade.
4. During high school, Grace planned to combine her artistic talents with horticulture and one day have her own greenhouse and nursery, making ceramic pots and sculptures for her plants. She put herself through college by working in a nursery propagating tropical plants.
5. She attended UC Davis, where she studied horticulture, but changed her major to elementary education after her first semester. She transferred to UCLA and graduated with honors in 1954. She would be a 3rd grade school teacher for many years, then a supervisor of student teachers at Fresno Pacific College.
6. She met my dad, Arthur Laemmlen at UC Davis. They were secretly engaged, attending different universities for 3 years. They married in 1954 in a simple ceremony in the Chapel of Roses in Pasadena, California.
7. Their honeymoon trip took them across the country to Maryland, where Art worked as a hospital administrator for 2 years. As a Mennonite conscious objector, he refused to go to war. This was his assignment instead. Grace taught school in Leitersburg, earning $2,800/year.
8. Grace and Art went to Europe after their two years in Maryland. They toured and visited Laemmlen relatives during their several weeks there, living out of a VW convertible.
9. In 1956 they moved into an old farm house on road 52 in Reedley, CA, next door to my grandparents, Rudolf and Elsa. My dad started farming their 30 acres of alfalfa, vineyards and orchards. In 1957 my brother, Paul was born.
10. I was born in 1959, and my younger brother, Eric was born in 1962. In 1961 my dad joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my mom returned to the faith of her childhood.
11. Our family was happy and enjoyed life on the fruit farm, although mom was more of a city girl. She really enjoyed gardening and canning fruit and did plenty of both.
12. Mom always struggled with asthma in the old farm house. Dust everywhere was a problem for her. She always had her inhaler nearby.
13. In 1967 we tore down the old house to build a new one in the same place. We lived in a 30-foot trailer for 5 months as our new home was built. Mom and dad designed every inch of that home. As a little girl I remember them staying up late in the evenings working on something called “house plans.” The home became a model home and was on many home tours. Shag carpet was new then, and we loved going barefoot inside.
14. Mom was creative. She loved oil painting and watercolor. During several summers, she took design and calligraphy classes at UC Santa Cruz which lasted several weeks. She enjoyed entertaining and gardening. Everything always looked nice in artistic ways.
15. Mom was a really good cook. She didn’t need recipes. She was intuitive in the kitchen, knowing what flavors complimented each other. She also took many cooking classes. She made excellent breads and soups. She loved to use a Wok. She loved making Swedish and German foods from our family’s heritage. Saturdays were baking days. We loved her cinnamon rolls and Kuchen best.
16. Mom loved children’s books and taught us all to read (from Dick and Jane readers) before we attended school. We always had lots of books in our home and we were all good students. Mom taught me to love the smell of books.
17. Mom struggled some years with depression and her health. Sometimes during those times, she struggled with her weight. Marriage became difficult for my parents. They divorced in 1988 after 33 years of marriage.
18. Mom was private and a bit reclusive in her older years. She liked to be alone. She moved to Orem, Utah in 1994 to be near us. She enjoyed reading, gardening and watching the stars with her widowed neighbor friends. She loved classical music and her apartment was always perfectly organized. She loved keeping things in Ziploc bags and she folded laundry perfectly.
19. Mom died on a beautiful Halloween afternoon in 1998, unexpectedly, with no warning. She had all of her decorations and treats set out for her grandchildren, who would come to visit, but who would find her gone for now.
20. On the day she died, there was not a thing out of place in her home. No dirty laundry in the hamper, no old food in the fridge, no trash in the wastebaskets. She had spent the morning cleaning oil off her garage floor. Every single thing in her life was in it’s proper place, as if she knew her home would soon be exposed to all after her departure. Appearances were always very important to my mom. She wanted things “just right” and that’s just the way she left them.