Remembering My Mom, 20 Years After Her Death

Laemmlen, Grace portrait

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.

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How we used to find people

2018-10-19 Phone Book (1)

I have been sorting and organizing the piles in my sewing room.  In the last week I’ve uncovered about 20 years of quilting magazines that I could never bear throwing away.  I’m not a clutter-free sort of person, I’m a keeper and saver.  I tell my kids that living in Third World countries for several years qualifies me to be like a Depression Era survivor.  I do not throw things away if they still might be useful.

So, this week I went through 20 years of magazines, page by page, project by project and I actually tore out the patterns and ideas I wanted to keep and I filed them by topic in sheep protectors in binders.  It just about killed me to compromise an intact magazine like that, but I had to let go of them to make room for other things.   I am donating 4 large boxes of mint condition magazines (minus a few pages here and there) to the book sale next month at our quilt guild.  I’m feeling pretty good about the shelf space this will buy in my sewing room.

While I was uncovering piles of magazines, I happened across this old 2005 telephone book.  Wow.  I haven’t seen one of those in several years.  It took me back.

2018-10-19 Phone Book (3)I looked through the pages, remembering life as it used to be before we all carried cell phones wherever we went.  We got our information from phone books.  We had phone books in drawers by the phones in our homes, and we looked at them almost every day to find the phone numbers of neighbors and friends,  to find businesses and services in the yellow pages, and to find information about our local and state and federal government officials.2018-10-19 Phone Book (8)2018-10-19 Phone Book (10)We used phone books to look up zip codes to know where to send letters.  We used phone books before GPS systems were even imagined to find our way.2018-10-19 Phone Book (11)The back half of each phone book was printed on yellow paper.  The Yellow Pages.  This was where we found the phone numbers and ads for businesses and services.  The listings were grouped alphabetically by topic.2018-10-19 Phone Book (5)The white pages at the front had all the names, addresses and phone numbers of normal people, like us.2018-10-19 Phone Book (6)Here we are in 2005 at 24 West 500 South with a phone number of 801 224-9355.  We used that number for about 20 years, discontinuing our land line when we moved to Washington 3 years ago.  Very few people have a land line these days.  It’s becoming a thing of the past.  Today we have cell phones that connect us to a digital world.

2018-10-19 Phone Book (2)

I no longer subscribe to quilt magazines printed on paper.  I see them at the checkout stands in stores, so I know they still print them, but when I want to search for quilting ideas, or fabric, I can go directly to quilt sites or internet sites like Pinterest right  in my phone and on my computer.  It’s all at my fingertips.

Our world has changed.  Quite drastically, I’d say.

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It’s Great to be a Grandma!

2018-10-15 Kansas City (10)

I’ve just spent a week in Kansas City, Missiouri, with GRANDCHILDREN!  Having been away, I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m a grandma and now I can visit my 2 grandchildren!  This is just about as good as it gets!2018-10-12 Kansas City (8)

2018-10-12 Kansas City (4)

We visited Adam at Kansas City University Medical School:2018-10-12 Kansas City (10)

Adam’s study room and studies:2018-10-12 Kansas City (12)2018-10-12 Kansas City (13)Adam’s food supply before our Costco run:2018-10-12 Kansas City (15)2018-10-12 Kansas City (16)2018-10-12 Kansas City (19)2018-10-12 Kansas City (24)2018-10-12 Kansas City (28)Family love:2018-10-12 Kansas City (34)My comfy spot on the floor:2018-10-12 Kansas City (38)2018-10-13 Kansasa City (5)We read so many books!2018-10-13 Kansasa City (10)2018-10-13 Kansasa City (12)Getting ready for church:2018-10-14 Kansas City (3)Is Josie in there??2018-10-14 Kansas City (6)Squirrel eating Clark’s pumpkins!2018-10-14 Kansas City (7)2018-10-14 Kansas City (12)2018-10-15 Kansas City (4)

2018-10-14 Josie and Clark (21)Farewell to little Josie and this wonderful family!

2018-10-15 Kansas City (9)

This grandma job is pretty fun!  But farewells are getting harder and harder.2018-10-14 Josie and Clark (58)

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Quilting at the Cabin During Conference Weekend

2018-10-6,7 (1)We’ve had a Glorious General Conference Weekend at the cabin filled with inspiration and goodness.  We learned of some big changes to our Sunday meeting schedule and 12 more new temples, including one in Lagos, Nigeria were announced.  I am so excited.2018-10-6,7 (13)2018-10-6,7 (12)Here are 3 quilts I bound while we watched and listened to our beloved Prophet and Apostles and our church leaders.  I left with sore fingers and a very full heart!2018-10-6,7 (14)

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Our First Missionary Reunion 5 October 2018, Orem

2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (28)Mission Tradition calls for missionary reunions held the weekend of General Conference in October and in April.  Missionaries who’ve served all over the world get together with their Mission Presidents and Mission Moms for these reunions.  We had our first this weekend and it was glorious!  Missionaries came from all over to spend the evening with us and their dear mission friends.

We brought our yearbook and copies of all the mission newsletters, and this beautiful photograph of our Yakima home:2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (73)2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (209)Here are most of those who attended:2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (93)2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (94)2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (95)2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (96)2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (97)2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (98)

We made a set of Rhythm Sticks for each missionary to take home.  This is a game we played with each departing group the night before they returned home.2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (100)Here are all of the notes missionaries wrote to their mothers each time we had interviews.  They would hold the note and I’d photograph it and text it to their moms.   I couldn’t bear to throw these thousands of notes away!2018-10-5 Mission Reunion (210)Here are a few faces of people I love:

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Introducing Josie Lewis!

2018-10-3 JOSIE is BORN (2)Adam and Heidi welcomed this little darling into our family today.  Her name is Josie.  She made her entrance at 12:47 p.m., measuring 6 lbs 9 oz. and she is 20 inches long.

We were excited to hear that Adam got to deliver her!  What a sweet entrance she made, into her father’s arms!

2018-10-3 JOSIE is BORN (3)2018-10-3 JOSIE is BORN (4)2018-10-3 JOSIE is BORN (5)Oh, those cheeks!  Next week I get to meet her in person!  I can hardly wait.  2018-10-3 JOSIE is BORN (6)

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What Are Little Boys Made Of?

2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (7)

We have been home from Washington for a couple of months now and we have been cleaning and sorting and organizing our home, as we step back into it.  When you go away from your Stuff for a long time, you realize all that Stuff isn’t really all that Important anymore.

Today I decided to tackle Adam’s room.  Adam had his 27th birthday last week.  He’s in medical school now, far from here.  Since he graduated from high school, Adam’s things have been untouched, but his room has filled–it’s been the catch all and storage room for wedding gifts, old clothing, outgrown baby clothes, ski equipment and Claire emptied much of my closet into boxes and bins in Adam’s room when they lived here and used my closet.

When we returned, you could hardly take a step into Adam’s room, it was so full.  Before we left, it was my Days for Girls flannel storage room, being upstairs right next to the laundry room.  His bed had 3-4 feet of washed and folded flannel covering it at all times, ready to be cut.

I didn’t think to take a before picture, but I did send this quick snap chat to the kids after several hours of sorting, cleaning and organizing the dresser, drawers, bookshelves the closet and all the scary things under his bed that were covered in a blanket of flannel lint and dust.


It was an interesting day for me.  Eighteen years of Adam’s life flashed before my eyes in a few hours.  I laughed and cried and remembered little parts and pieces of his life I’d forgotten.  I felt so close to him, my firstborn son.  I was 32 years old when he was born.  I’d waited a long time to meet him.  And oh, what a gift he was to our family!

Here are some of the things I found as I worked today:

What is my little Adam made of?

School Papers, Binders, Homework Assignments
Cub Scouting Awards
Trophies for Swimming, Tennis, Basketball
Legos parts and pieces
All sorts of Chile Mission Memorabilia
Reindeer Skin, Springbok Skin, Rabbit Pelt
Stuffed Animals, lots of them
Pillows, lots of them
A dusty Fake Tree
Ceramic alligators
Ski Boots, Snowboard
Old Mac Laptop
Black Light
Bug Collections and Bug Books
Rock Collections
Fossils, Arrowheads, Pieces of 100 more
Coin Collections
Sea Shell Collections
Posters of NBA Players
Basketball Jerseys on the walls
Old Socks
Parking Tickets
Tithing Receipts
3-column Record Books of money earned
Old Yearbooks
Bags of Outgrown Clothing
A large Sack of Bags of old Beef Jerky
Ski Passes
Artwork of Jesus Christ
3 Candy Leis from MVHS Graduation
Old Christmas Candy
Science Fair Project Photos
Packaging for lots of old Cameras and Phones
Lots of Headphones and Ear Buds
Bookshelves stuffed full
Harry Potter Books
Dan Brown Books
Signed Basketball
Tennis Balls, Golf Balls, Softball, Football
Chess Sets
Glow in the Dark Constellations on the ceiling and floor
Bowling Ball
Posters of Mission Photos, Wedding Photos
More old Socks
Boy Scout Patches and Badges, Merit Badge Sash
Treasures from Vacations from the Statue of Liberty to Civil War bullets
Photos with Cousins
Letters from old Girlfriends
Birthday Cards from many years
Notes passed in school
Records from years of teaching tennis lessons
Signed Soccer Jerseys
Dodge Ball Competition winner’s certificates (City League Teams)
Stacks of Outgrown T-shirts
Big Rocks
3 old Lamps from BYU Apartments
Lots of Old Scripture Cases
Framed Picture of Aunt Bonny who died
Full Bulletin Board
Graduation Cap and Cords
Wedding Photos, mounted
Joy School Artwork
African Masks, Carved Animals
Daggers from China and others from other places
A Dinosaur Tooth Replica
Winnie the Pooh, wooden and one stuffed
A small Box TV with VHS, Remote
Lava Lamp
Rubber Duckies, various sizes and characters
BYU Banner
Lakeridge Jr High Planners
Ski Masks
T-shirts with the sleeves cut out
Old Text Books
Extension cords
Basketball card collections
Pokemon cards
A Talking Ninja
NC Tar Heels Football Pillow
President’s Physical Fitness Awards
Athletic ribbons

I felt like I spent the day in the Museum of Adam Lewis.  I relived summer days of catching bugs and collecting coins and searching for arrowheads in dry lake beds.  I relived hundreds of ball games and competitions.  I remembered books we’d read and trips we’d taken.  I felt like a Mom who was given a gift–to raise a boy like Adam Lewis.  My heart was full to tears.

Here’s how Adam’s room looked as I neared the end of the day:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (4)

2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (3)

His bulletin board:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (6)Remnants of Cub Scouting days:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (11)Some of his posters–A Basketball Birthday Party:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (8)MVHS Basketball Star:2018-9-21 Adam's Room cleanReturning from his Mission in Chile:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (9)Adam’s first trip to Mali:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (10)His bed, clean and cleared:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (12)The bookshelves:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (2)2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (1)Some of Adam’s rocks taken out to the garden:2018-9-21 Adam's Room Clean (13)

I am grateful to be a Mom.  Adam is my first.  Claire and Aaron followed.  Their rooms are in pretty good shape, but I may go take a few photos of what’s there, just to capture the memories.  I am grateful for great kids who have taught me to be a Mom.  It’s the Best Thing I’ve Ever done.

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