Love for Gigi

Ma, Grandma, Gigi. Words of affection in our family. The following is a tribute to a strong and amazing woman. I knew I wanted to write an article for my Grandma, but I also knew I needed help, so with Facebook as my tool, I asked the rest of the family if there is anything they would like to share. Below you will find a collage of thoughts and pictures, pieced together not unlike the beautiful quilts our Gigi makes. This is our gift to her. Much love and thankfulness to our Gigi.

Smells and Feelings

Gigi with my mom and uncle. Isn't she stunning?

Gigi with my mom and uncle. Isn’t she stunning?

When I was just learning to speak, my mother tried to get me to say “grandma.” Not as easy as one might think. It always came out “grrr-mama!” and likewise, “grandpa” was “grrr-papa!” I had lots of opportunity to learn to say “Grandma” because my brother and I spent a lot of time with her. My parents, being in the restaurant business, worked long and hard hours, but they were able to leave us in Grandma’s capable hands. She had raised 6 kids already. And I think she enjoyed being a grandma.

I have memories of my grandparents’ little house near Lake Nokomis. I would see Grandma cooking or baking in the kitchen, and I would run and find my special green stool and drag it in next to her so that I could stand up to the counter and “help”. If she was baking pies she would let me bake a small one for my dad. I must have been pretty young because the memories are faint, the kind made up of smells and feelings rather than words and specifics.

Smells! Yes Grandma has gifted me with my favorite scent-memories. Butterhorn rolls, gingerbread men, meatballs, brownies, banana bread. Fattigmand (Scandinavian for “poor man’s food”) that everyone fights over at Christmas. She introduced me to the grilled peanut butter sandwich. These are things that can form your life.

Feeding the geese, and being chased by them. Bedtime snacks by candlelight. And trips to the beach where Grandma would use baby oil to make her Norwegian skin as dark as molasses. And from the beach we would go to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. These are things that make up a perfect childhood.

The smell of cinnamon gum and tobacco along with the occasional swear word. That was the beloved Grandma of my childhood.

Gigi & Uncle Scott (aka "Grr-mama" & "Coo-coo Oo-coo"). Uncle Scott passed away last year from cancer. I miss his sense of humor and his smile.

Gigi & Uncle Scott (aka “Grr-mama” & “Coo-coo Oo-coo”). Uncle Scott passed away last year from cancer. I miss his sense of humor and his smile.

Grandma is fearless and fun! Games of “hide the thimble” and books like “Super Pickle” were frequent entertainment at Grandma’s. I would brag to my friends in junior high that my Grandma would ride every ride at Valley Fair with me.

She raised six kids, and she was also the “ma” of the neighborhood. The kids felt welcomed and valued. My aunts and uncles would tell stories of the shenanigans they would all be part of together. One of my favorites involved Grandma spraying my uncle Scott through the kitchen window with the sink sprayer. And Scott returned the favor with the garden hose sprayed into the kitchen. You have to make life fun! She had fun with her kids. Had fun with her grandkids. Now she has fun with her great grandkids.

Great Grands

I found this shirt online and couldn't resist

I found this shirt online and couldn’t resist

When I was pregnant with Alec (the first great grand), Grandma was reflecting on becoming a great-grandmother. She said, “I don’t think I want to be called great grandma. It just doesn’t sound right. I think I want to be called Gigi.” And so she is forevermore Gigi. Our matriarch. Our love.

I am a little sad that I never had a baby girl because I’ve had a name picked out since I was a teenager. Gabriela Linnea. Linnea is Grandma’s name. It is a little Norwegian flower. Isn’t it beautiful? If you are pregnant and having a girl, I give you permission to use it. My quiver is full of boys, as fate would have it. And I love them to pieces and wouldn’t trade them for the world! But just know that my intention was always that Linnea would become a family name to be passed down. Well, I suppose there’s always the possibility of granddaughters someday. I should probably inform my boys of my request now, don’t you think?

Gigi with Lily in the sun room

Gigi with Lily in the sun room

Grandma does get her great-granddaughter fix, though. She currently lives with my aunt and uncle, my cousin, and my cousin’s two sweet daughters. Four generations in one house. A blessing, and a challenge sometimes, I am sure. But a beautiful example of family. “It’s pretty loud in the evenings,” Grandma told me, “but I get the house to myself during the day.” It is a wonderful situation for her. And I am thankful to my Aunt Angie for making that happen.

Angela says of Gigi:

So … I’m thinking back to my childhood and ya know what? We weren’t rich, we didn’t have a lot of toys, we didn’t go on any trips, we didn’t have ipads or computers or phones or even 200 channels to pick from. But I don’t remember ever wanting for anything. If we were bored we could always clean our room. If we didn’t like what we were having for dinner we could always go hungry. If we were fighting we could continue to do so as long as we did it in another room. And I learned a lot. How much is too much, what really isn’t enough, what to put up with, when to put things down, what kind of day deserves a “bump”, what not to put in the dryer, how many times to run the vacuum over whatever that is in the floor before I finally bend over and pick it up. There was an awful lot I didn’t learn too. How hot the oil should be for fried chicken, how to calm a screaming child at 2am, how to hem pants, how to balance a checkbook … I could go on forever. But my lifeline was never more than a phone call away. Now, I have my own way of doing things, my own opinions, my own preferences, ideals, morals, ethics. I know where they came from and I’m pretty satisfied with them. We are different people now than we were then. But there is still room to learn. I wonder if I inherited the green thumb?

Quilting a Legacy

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Our wedding quilt

Gigi is amazingly creative. Painting, crocheting, cooking, gardening. She is always creating. My favorite thing she makes are quilts. She has made quilts for her children, and her grandchildren, and now her 9 great grandchildren also have their very own Gigi quilt. These are treasured above all else! Each one is unique, made from different fabrics, and pieced together with such love. She made the most beautiful quilt for Cata and I as a wedding gift. It decorates our bed in teal and purple and cream.

The quilts she made for my boys each have matching black borders, but the fabrics she used for the designs are as unique as my boys are. Alec’s quilt has softer, more sensitive tones. Manny’s is wild and bright. Beni’s is all boy with a sports theme. And a matching pillow for each of them. She makes these beautiful masterpieces, and when she presents them to the child it is a special moment, usually at Christmas or a birthday with the whole family there. These are gifts of beauty, but they are also so practical. Grandma wants these beautiful gifts used. And they are definitely used in our house!

The youngest great-granddaughter receiving her Gigi quilt

The youngest great-granddaughter receiving her Gigi quilt

My sister-in-law Kimmie says of Gigi:

Gigi’s love for family has always inspired me. Every family member has an afghan and all the kids have quilts. She puts so much time and love into the things she creates.

These gifts will be a symbol of the legacy that Grandma is leaving with us. A legacy of loving and serving her family. And there is much more to Grandma’s legacy than quilts and afghans.

More from the Family

Gigi with Colleen and her beautiful kids

Gigi with Colleen and her beautiful kids

My aunt Colleen says:

“There but for the grace of God, go I!” She drilled that into my head when I was a teenager after she heard a friend and I talking negatively about a girl at school who was not graced with good looks. She taught me compassion and empathy for those less fortunate. Ever since, I’ve been sticking up for those people and trying to be as genuine and friendly as I can to the people that cross my path. It sure didn’t make my teenage years easy for Mom because I was going to save every low life that I came across! Anyway, she made me the opinionated bleeding heart liberal that I am! So blame her! Lol

She also taught me the best tool of all! The secret of happiness! GRATEFULNESS! Another mom quote, “You don’t have to look far to see someone worse off than you!” Life is all about perspective. Gratefulness got me through some of the hardest times of my life so far. Thanks Mom!

Gigi with four of her kids (Tim, Angie, Mike, & Mo) at Tim's "I kicked cancer's butt!" party

Gigi with four of her kids (Tim, Angie, Mike, & Mo) at Tim’s “I kicked cancer’s butt!” party

From my uncle Tim (Doogle from the last name McDougall):

Doogle In,

For Susie and I, I’d like to mention a conversation we had with Gigi not long after Grampa Mike passed away.

We were visiting at Gigi’s place in Edina, and we got into a conversation about raising kids. I told her that both Susie and I only knew how to raise our kids based on how each of our mothers raised us.

The proper mix (always adjusting over time) of blended strictfullness (is that actually a word), a fairly loose leash when it’s called for, and the willingness to sit and listen rather than constantly preach.

We as children were allowed to reach to whatever goals we dreamed of, without a lecture of the potential for failure. When we fall, mom is there to help us back up.

With those basic rules, we taught our kids to “be a leader, not a follower”. We believe this helped our kids to be the responsible adults that they became.

That day that we had that discussion, I thanked Gigi with tears in my eyes, and to this day, Susie and I still strongly believe and follow what each of our mothers instilled in us as parents ourselves.

Love you Gigi!

Doogle Out


Gigi with my cousins Kasey, Lauren, & Karlee. This was our last Christmas with Lauren.

Tim and Susie’s daughter Lauren lived with Gigi while she was student teaching. It was a time that I know Gigi treasured, and Lauren loved. Our beautiful Lauren passed away at age 23 very unexpectedly the next year. I still cannot believe it. But I am thankful that Gigi got that special time with her. And I thank Tim for writing the above note about how Gigi impacted their parenting. I love you uncle Tim and Susie! You raised amazing children. Ryan is such a welcoming and gentle giant of a man. And Lauren lived life fully.

The Place Where Safety Lives

I could not share about Gigi without acknowledging the deep impact she has had on my mother. My amazing mother! Super-mom and gramma extraordinaire. And this is what she has to say about Gigi. I love her poetic style.

Gigi with 7 great grands

Gigi with 7 great grands

From Maureen:

I love my mom…no one could ever replace my mom who I know and love…my mom with the heart where safety lives..the heart that demonstrated to me what an encourager looks like…who made us all into ‘can do’ kids. My mom with the heart that demonstrated to me an involved mother..the kind of mother I wanted to be…a memory maker. A mom to many… She has the heart that demonstrated to me what a friend looks like…what commitment looks like. The heart that showed me a daughter’s dedication…the heart that always put her family first… a mother’s dedication in the most difficult of times, as her heart was breaking…a heart that showed me what Gramma looks like…the best Gramma there ever was! So impactful in my kids lives. I’m so thankful for that. And now, an awesome Gigi to the next generation. I love you mom, not only for what you have done in my life and others, but, mostly, for who you are…My most favorite, cherished and loved mom, with the heart where safety lives. I thank God that He gave you to me.

My mother saw the kind of mother and grandmother she wanted to be, a great example from Gigi. She emulated Gigi’s family-centered servant heart in how she raised my brother and I and now in how she is a grandma to the next generation. Everything written above could be said about my mom, and I hope that someday my children might say the same about me. Legacy. Generational blessings. A heart where safety lives.

I have no words to explain what gramma means to me. I keep trying to come up with something but nothing I put together seems good enough. But here's my favorite picture of us.

From my cousin Karlee: I have no words to explain what gramma means to me. I keep trying to come up with something but nothing I put together seems good enough. But here’s my favorite picture of us.

Some people impact your life so deeply that it is difficult to put words to how much they mean to you. It was hard to even write this tribute to her. I agree with my cousin Karlee who said, “I keep trying to come up with something but nothing I put together seems good enough.”

In Jeremiah 1:5, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” I feel like Gigi knew me before I was even born, in a way that only a grandma can know her grandchild. An earthly reflection of the deep knowing of God. There are no words for it. Just a deep knowing. Who in your family makes you feel known, creating the place where safety lives?

Gigi is over 80 now. Still young at heart! Heck, she has an iPad and a Facebook account! Her smile fills me with joy. Her laugh makes my day. If you have someone like that in your life, be sure to let them know what they mean to you. Call. Write. Visit.

Thank you Gigi for loving your family so well! You are a treasured jewel. You have created a family who cherishes one another. You have taught us to be unique, like the beautiful things you create. You are appreciated and you are loved.