Caveat: There are women out there, reading this blog from time to time, who knew and loved my grandmother well. They will find factual errors in these "Baumie Posts" and they will know more details than I do about different scenarios from the past. I hope they will correct me or add those details when they see fit. I hope, too, that they will enjoy thinking about Baumie and feeling her spirit move in us as we remember her together.I want to write a little bit about my grandmother, Helen Jackson, or "Baumie" as we called her. I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately. She is one of the main reasons that we have this little farm. I frequently offer a silent thank-you to her while wandering the breezy pastures in summer or gazing at iced-over trees glinting in the winter sun. And I think about her as I learn to sew and build my own furniture and plan a garden and a horse barn and all the other things that come up in a creative life--not just country life.
Baumie was an extremely creative and accomplished woman. I was talking to my sister Kathy the other day and said that we come by our varied interests naturally--just look at Baumie. "Yeah, but Baumie did all those things really well," said Kathy. And it's true. She could cook anything from scratch, she could sew, knit, crotchet, tat lace, she could play the piano and organ, she painted in oils, she rode horses, she gardened, she decorated, she ran an antique shop for awhile, and so on.
And when I say she sewed, I mean that she sewed fitted suits and ball gowns and quilts of her own design. When I say she decorated, I mean she made all her own drapes, and hooked rugs and braided rugs. She reupholstered furniture. In her living room, she had a winter palette of reds and golds that switched out to blue and green for summer via slipcovers and new drapes and throw pillows. When I say she played piano, I mean she was good enough to teach it, and so on.
Baumie had a 200-acre working farm in Indiana. She grew up there and she returned to it many times throughout her life before taking it over herself as an adult. She told me more than once that the farm was a real blessing to her and her family. It was good to know that she could return to it if times got hard financially, or even spiritually. When she was pregnant with her first child (my mother), she and my grandfather were living in an apartment in Chicago. She was suffering from a bad case of morning sickness that was exacerbated by the fact that the elevator shaft was connected somehow to the exhaust fans for the kitchens. Every morning she had to ride that elevator filled with the smells of other people's breakfasts. Every morning, she'd have to find a bathroom and toss her own. Miserable, she returned to the farm--to clean fresh air, to wide open spaces, to a quiet and lovely house. She got over her morning sickness there and was able to join her husband again.
Baumie owned that farm until I was about twelve years old. It was, is, an iconic place for me. The farm was Baumie and she was the farm. I loved going there because I loved being outside and around animals and barns. I also loved being in a house that was a creative expression of the person who lived there. And it was a well-developed creativity, fully expressed. That was magical.
I've realized, especially since living here, that my grandmother is one of the most influential role models in my life. I can't hope to do all the things she accomplished. I'm starting late! And she grew up in a different time. But that fully expressed life--that's what I'm striving for. That's the prize I keep my eye on.
Just one look
4 hours ago