This post is in honor of Annabelle "Peggy" Bakaitis, my mother-in-law. Every child should have a grandma like her. I feel so blessed she was in my life and my children's lives for so many years. When I was sifting through photos, I noticed that every picture I have of Mom shows her with a smile on her face. We miss her, but rejoice in the sure knowledge that her Spirit lives in peace now.
|5 year-old Rachael with Grandma Bakaitis, September 1994|
Love Grandma's smile.
The first time I met my future husband’s family was December of 1986. Jim and I drove across the country the day after Christmas, from Petaluma, California to Detroit, Michigan. We had just gotten engaged a few weeks before. It was the first time I had been in the Midwest. To be honest, I thought the rest of the nation revolved around California, and that Northern California was superior in every way. Little did I know that 20-30 years later, I would begin to feel sorry for some of my California friends who had never lived away from the West. Seems like it’s hard to be “for real” if you’re not from the Midwest.
Everyone was welcoming in the Michigan and in the Bakaitis home. I don’t know what I was expecting. Jim kept telling me not to worry about meeting his family. His mother especially was “accepting.”
I was a little surprised that Joe and Peggy had three adult children ages 24, 26 and 28 living at home though.
At the dinner table the next evening John and Marlene, Jim’s brother and sister, got into a discussion about whether one would turn orange if one ate too many carrots. The discussion turned into a heated argument. As their voices got louder, John argued passionately that it was totally possible. Marlene argued that no one was physically capable of eating that quantity of carrots; you’d die or pass out before you could eat enough carrots to turn orange.
This was a funny argument to have, but what made it funnier was that after we married and returned to Michigan I witnessed John and Marlene having this same argument at the dinner table on at least three more occasions in 1987-1988.
Lively discussion about all sorts of topics were a regular feature of the Bakaitis family during those early years of my marriage. Sometimes Mom would leave the dinner table right in the middle of a meal and bring the encyclopedia back to the table to look something up in order to settle an argument. This surprised me, because my own mother did not allow us to leave the table during mealtime as she considered it poor manners. But Mom Bakaitis liked to be a peacemaker. Too, the entire Bakaitis family, perhaps inspired by the Matriarch Peggy, has always been seekers and keepers of random facts. That’s something I really enjoy when spending time with all of them.
(Remember, there was no Internet in those days, so we couldn’t google “turning orange with carrots.”)
Mom often gossiped about Ronald Reagan. She did not like him, and actually diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s Disease while he was still in office, though it wasn’t officially announced in the media until a few years later. But both Mom and Dad Bakaitis were avid newspaper readers and they kept abreast of every move the POTUS made. (Dad was a little obsessed with Michael Jackson's activities. I considered it poetic justice when both Dad and Michael died the same year).