Life in General

Mom B

Luella‘s high school graduation picture

I met her when I was 20, the year before I married her son, Cal. I was in the Army and on my way to Germany from Ft. Hood, Texas. Marriage wasn’t yet in our plans, but it was time to meet the family in Cloquet, Minnesota. She was still married to my boyfriend’s father, and our visit necessitated a large family gathering to the home. This included aunts and uncles and some cousins, the siblings and a couple of nieces, and friends from high school that she managed to find. She loved a family gathering and had lots of food ready for everyone. We married a year later. Her name was Luella, but I called her Mom. My mother had always called her mother-in-law “Mother”, and I saw no reason not to do the same.

Later, after she divorced, life was in a tiny apartment. She supported herself by cleaning at a motel and for people’s homes, and regaled us with stories of things she found in the rooms she cleaned. Once, while staying with her during this time, she made the biggest buttermilk pancakes I had ever seen in my life to that point, the size of a dinner plate.

The happiest years for her were after her remarriage. She married a man named Paul, and began being known as “Grandma B” because no one could pronounce Grandpa Paul’s Macedonian last name. Together they had a wonderful life in a tiny house in the Minnesota countryside. They planted a garden and canned their produce to last for the whole winter. They visited and lunched with their many friends, and had family over often. Over the years, their walls became filled with her cross stitched pictures which were always framed by Paul with wood he had laying around in his barn. Paul would cut out wood crafts and she would paint them. She also embroidered, quilted, and crocheted. She would go to rummage sales and boast about what good deals she received – stacks of vintage material for a dollar that would go into her quilts, embroidery, craft, and household items, books, and whatever she thought someone else might need.

Mom and Paul. Mom would have just taken a break from preparing Christmas dinner. She made the quilt behind the couch, the clothes that the dolls are wearing, and the apron she has on.

Mom B was a cross stitcher and so am I. I would bring my latest project to show her – usually the same project because I was so slow – and she would show me all of the things she was working on, something I looked forward to. We also shared a love of reading – especially non-fiction on her part – and we’d discuss the latest book she’d read, and she always had several to give me.

She was a giver. She shared their canned and baked goods, garden produce, crafts, and rummage sale finds not only with us but with family, friends, and anyone who had done her a good deed. And she was a giver of love. There was so much love to go around in that little house. Our girls loved going to “Grandma B’s and Grandpa Paul’s” house. They’d bury themselves in her craft room. One cold winter day, Mom and Paul built a big bonfire out in the snow, and we roasted marshmallows. Grandma B had Tupperware containers of homemade goodies to eat, and “pop” to drink from the refrigerator. There were hours of Rummikub played at their table with both of them, and they were tough to beat.

After Paul died, she moved into a retirement home near where she had been raised, in Duluth Heights, and made many new friends. She volunteered for the activities department. She slowed, and finally stopped, her crafting. Last summer she was no longer reading her books. With her usual efficiency, she gave away a lot of what she had left over the ten years she lived there. If I told her I liked something, she’d then want to give it to me. When her daughter came to clean out her apartment, the cupboards were bare. She had even either given away many of the dishes, or put them in a rummage sale. She took care of the things in her life so that no one else would have much to do.

Our last visit with Mom in August, 2021

My own mother was 44 years old when I was born. She spent the last several years of her life with dementia before she passed. Mom B was only 22 when Cal was born, so I enjoyed many more years with her after my own mother passed. Although I had given her the title upon my marriage, she truly became my Mom with the love that she gave to me, and so I have been blessed with two wonderful mothers.

Life never brought us to the Duluth area to live, so she is not someone I ever knew on a day to day basis. Once our daughters were born, we focused on getting them up to Minnesota at least every eighteen months or so. There would be a summer visit, and then a winter visit. During most of their childhood years, the trip to visit her was a twelve hour drive for us. They were never far from her thoughts. She made stuffed animals with elaborate clothing for them, and cross stitch pictures for their rooms. Letters and packages were always going back and forth. After each visit she would load them up with more “stuff”- handmade items and rummage sale finds for them, baked and canned goods for all of us, including her famous cinnamon rolls. There would even be a frozen pie in a rummage sale pie pan which we could keep, and which we hurriedly had to get in the oven once we got home.

Life is seldom perfect, and it was not for Mom. She had a hardscrabble upbringing and bore six children at a young age. She was a young Army wife who often lived far from the home and family that she loved. She struggled with mental illness, the worst times being prior to her marriage to Paul, and did not always receive the help or consideration that she should’ve had. The divorce from her first husband was rancorous. All of that left marks not only on her but on the people she loved.

Yet she didn’t wear these scars on her sleeve. Instead, she focused on giving her love in many forms, especially to her grandchildren. She loved every one of her fifteen grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren, but the ones that she was able to see and communicate with regularly were most special to her. They loved her in return. In her example, I have learned what kind of grandmother I want to be.

Mom B passed on St. Patrick’s Day of this year, and her funeral was this weekend. It was a celebration of her life, and four of her grandchildren stood up to say what she had meant to them. The visit to Duluth was an occasion for Cal and I to have all of our own family together. We visited favorite places and shared memories with other family members. We went with our family, including our grandchildren, to Canal Park. That is a place we have enjoyed visiting with every trip over the years, and it feels that the torch has been passed. The grandparents are all gone, and now we are the elder generation. It was bittersweet, because I don’t know when or if we will ever have this time all together in that place again.

Our family at Canal Park, Duluth, minus Cal – the photographer

Thanks for the memories, Mom. Rest in peace knowing you were appreciated and so, so loved.

Next time – Back to Maui!


Duluth, Minnesota: Part 2

The marina at sunset

Once my husband and I started a family, we tried hard to come to Duluth at least every 18 months. One year we’d come in the summer, another year we’d come after Christmas. In between all the family visiting, we found things to see and do. The snow was a novelty in the winter, since we did not receive much snow at home in Missouri. We would snowmobile and tramp around Canal Park in negative temperatures with a cold wind blowing. Ships would come in with layers of ice piled up on them and dripping down the sides. There would be light displays and we would put on layers of clothing to go see them. In 2013 we came up after Thanksgiving for a family celebration, and got snowed in with an epic storm. Well, it was epic for us but typical for Duluth. It had never happened to us before, and we have never been Up North since, in the winter.

Duluth also has the Great Lakes Aquarium, the aforementioned Maritime Museum, a railroad museum and various rail excursions, a zoo, the William A. Irvin ore boat and the mysterious Glensheen mansion to tour, plus sightseeing cruises of the harbor and the lake, just to name a few. We’ve done all of these over the years, plus hiked and biked on various trails. We’re always on the lookout for something new. We found two new places to hike. Cal probably ran through these woods when he was a boy, although he doesn’t remember.

Trails converging in Chester Park

For our Chester park hike, it was getting ready to storm and hardly anyone was out. The woods were hushed, verdant, and damp. We had no idea where we were going, so that added to the feeling of mystery. We turned around and retraced our steps as soon as we felt the first drops hit!

Chester Park trail
The trail followed Chester creek though some pretty waterfalls, although the water was low from an unusual summer drought.

We also hiked Chester’s twin, Lester Park, with its aptly named Lester Creek:

All things are possible! Climbing this rock was my little challenge for the day.

Seeing the Lester Creek bridge did trigger a memory for Cal: one night he was in the same parking lot where we parked the truck, drinking with his buddies. A cop came by and didn’t make trouble for them, but they all had to pour out all their beer. He was really mad about the wasted beer!

In both Lester and Chester parks, we really felt away from it all. You would never know you were in the middle of Duluth. They were substantial walks and we never saw any houses.

Near Lester Creek is Seven Bridges Parkway, which really does have seven pretty little one-lane bridges. It dates back to the days when people enjoyed getting out in the horse and buggy for a Sunday afternoon ride.

At the end of the road from Seven Bridges , someone’s yard was lined with these beautiful flowers:

We also took a drive along Superior’s North Shore to the town of Two Harbors. I can’t remember ever having been to Two Harbors when it wasn’t foggy and cold. For this visit we had a beautiful day, and a picnic over looking the breakwater. We had almost finished when the Edwin Gott came into view.

Of course we had to watch it park! We sat for awhile and admired the captain’s expertise in parking such a huge ship along the ore dock. The great hopper on the left of the dock will come down and deliver the load of iron ore.

It was such a nice day, we walked on the breakwater:

From there, we could see the Two Harbors Lighthouse, which is the oldest working lighthouse in Minnesota. A pilot house from an ore ship sits in front of it.

What a day for a daydream…

We had seen the Edna G tugboat on the evening news, so we went to look for it. She was sitting on the other side of the ore docks. The Edna G is celebrating her 125th birthday and is now a museum ship.

Of course, it was time for some pie, and Betty’s Pies delivered. Mine was strawberry-rhubarb, and Cal’s was apple. Delicious, and too good to share just one piece! This will be a new favorite place to go.

There are a number of places for dining and treats that we always like to visit while in Duluth. Sammy’s Pizza is one, as well as Bridgeman’s for ice cream. Grandma’s down in Canal Park is good but we didn’t eat there this time. A trip to Coney Island cannot be missed.

The problem with Coney’s is that one Coney is not enough. So I tried two, and forgot that it comes with this huge plate of fries! Waaaaaay too much food, but oh so good. It’s the only place and time where I ever eat hot dogs.

Cal’s sister Jane and her husband Dan gave us the royal treatment. They showed up with breakfast in hand for our first morning at the marina. They invited us to their cabin on a lake for lunch another day. It is fun spending time with them now that all four of us are retired.

Enjoying a ride on the lake in their pontoon boat
The lake level was low due to the drought, but the lakeshore was beautiful
What a lovely, idyllic place to come and relax. Dan is always fixing or improving things at the cabin.

We also visited our niece Sarah, at her store – DLH Clothing – in the up and coming Lincoln Park area of Duluth, and were able to have some private shopping time even though the store was not yet open for the day. We just happened to run in to her and her husband, Mike, on the boardwalk while we were riding bikes. They were trying out some e-bikes. They let Cal give it a try, which he thought was pretty cool. I wasn’t brave enough.

Of course, here is the reason for our trip – Cal’s Mom! We had lots of time to visit, and I really appreciated the fact that now that I’m retired, we don’t have to squeeze a trip to Duluth in just a handful of days.

This blog has been longer than I would have wished, but there was so much to pack in. So many pictures, and plenty that I had to leave out. For multiple reasons, we truly are looking forward to the next visit.

Next time – Anyone’s guess…