A Granddaughter Remembers — A Guest Post from My Daughter

Visiting the blog tonight is my middle child, Joy Trautwein Stenzel. Joy is exactly what her name says she is – a joy to us. She and her husband Marcus are raising three good young men in Monrovia CA and are both special education teachers, working with blind students across the age span from pre-school to 22. (Our eldest daughter also does this good work.) Our children grew up with their paternal grandparents less than five minutes away and were often in their home, as you will see. I love the way this piece celebrates what some might call the ‘old-fashioned’ virtues. To me, there is nothing old-fashioned about any of it — it’s a heritage we are humbled and pleased to call our own. Interspersed throughout her lovely words are photos scanned for us today by one of our grandsons, Joel Fischinger. Here’s Joy:

IMG_0022Joy, Mama, Lisa – on vacation at Mammoth Lakes, an annual excursion for many years.

Solid, dependable, disciplined, hospitable, thoughtful, committed, consistent. 

My grandmother embodied these qualities.  In an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable world, such characteristics are on the decline.   And for an overly anxious and easily overwhelmed child, the unwavering reliability of my grandmother was a source of familiarity and comfort on which I knew I could rely.

IMG_0104The first in her family to graduate from college, at UCLA in the mid-1930s.

Mama was very steady and measured emotionally—quite the contrast to me.  She rarely (if ever) raised her voice, and I only remember seeing her cry twice—when speaking of a beloved brother who had died too soon, and when her only daughter and her family were pulling out of the driveway to move across the country.   Her level mood created an atmosphere of comfortable predictability for an emotionally volatile child—I knew exactly what to expect when I walked through her door. 

So solid.

IMG_0703Enjoying Crater Lake with Jean and Richard, early 1950s

I knew when I went to Mama’s that there would be no surprises in either her temperament or the physical environment.  Almost all of the furniture, toys, games, dishes, and appliances (no new-fangled microwaves for Mama!) stayed the same in their Wagner Street house from the time I was born until they moved to Santa Barbara. I played with my dad’s old toys, as did my children after me.  I took great comfort in the familiarity of it all. 

So dependable.

IMG_0113One of the last pictures of both Mama and Papa with all of their grandchildren, late 1990s

If we ever spent the night at Mama and Papa’s, we knew what we would find when we walked into the kitchen in the morning:  the two of them seated at their little blue kitchen table, drinking coffee, reading the Bible and praying for family, friends, and missionaries.

So disciplined.


Same grandkids, several years earlier! On Kauai for M & P’s 50th Anniversary.
We hope to continue that tradition in the summer of 2015 – can you believe it?

We also knew that we would be well-fed when we entered their home.  Mama was a wonderful cook, and hosted frequent meals for family and friends.  She had a small but delicious repertoire of family favorites:  BBQ short ribs, lemon meringue pie, tapioca, homemade applesauce—terrific food served on the same dining room table with the same china, flatware and crystal goblets year after year.  To ensure that everyone would fit around the table, the piano bench served as a seat for the two smallest family members at one of the short ends of the table—no kids’ table at Mama Trautwein’s!  Every leaf of that table would emerge from the closet so that we could all be together.  That dining room set now resides in my own home, where I can only hope to entertain perhaps a quarter of the number of people she hosted so warmly over the years. 

So hospitable.

IMG_0556Gathering around that dining room table, about 1979 or 1980.

When birthdays rolled around, we knew there would be a dinner in our honor at Mama and Papa’s house.   Mama would let the birthday girl or boy set the menu.  We always picked our favorite dishes (which probably weren’t her favorites!):  orange jello packed with pieces of fruit, butter brickle cake topped with toffee pieces and hot fudge.   When we became teenagers, Mama made each of her grandchildren a treasured cookbook filled with handwritten recipes for the family favorites we all loved, complete with personal notes and anecdotes related to certain dishes—a gift we all cherish and use regularly.  My own children have even been fortunate enough to experience the anticipation of an unfailing Mama Trautwein birthday tradition—every year on their birthdays, she has sent them two dollar bills, the same number of bills as their age.  Needless to say, they have amassed an astounding number of two dollar bills! 

So thoughtful.

IMG_0174Not only did she host birthday dinners at her house, she also came to birthday dinners at our house.
We did birthdays up right in this family.
This picture cracks me up because the Birthday Boy almost got cut out of it.
And we just noticed tonight, he’s wearing doctor gear, of all things! And now he wears the real stuff. Go figure.

Mama established countless family traditions which were joyfully anticipated throughout the year.  Every Easter, we knew we would receive a heaping plate of bunny and lamb cookies decorated with pink icing with chocolate chips for eyes.  We dyed eggs every year at that little blue kitchen table, and Mama took us on annual Easter egg hunts at Descanso Gardens.  Mama decorated a Manzanita tree every Christmas with tiny ornaments, and she gave my sister and me our own manzanita branches when we were in college, with new ornaments for them every year.  Each member of our extended family had a stocking that had been lovingly decorated by Mama, unique to our interests.  Mama found a lot of joy in holiday traditions. 

So consistent.

IMG_0515This woman LOVED Christmas! 

IMG_0060And the Easter egg hunts at Descanso continued with the great-grands, too. The four oldest, about 15 years ago.

Mama and Papa also loved to travel.   They arranged annual extended family trips to Mammoth Lakes.  These vacations gave the cousins a chance to bond, and allowed Mama and Papa to share their love of fishing, jigsaw puzzles, and board games with their offspring.  Mama and Papa took exciting vacations without us as well, and invited us over for slideshows when they returned to share their adventures.  They always brought back trinkets and souvenirs for us and sent us postcards from around the world.  And Mama sent our own family off on road trips with boxes of cookies and wads of dollar bills to purchase souvenirs of our own.  She did these things every summer, without fail. 

So committed. 

D-68cMama, Papa & Jean visiting us in Africa, summer 1967.
I was 4 months pregnant with their first grandchild on this trip.

We will miss Mama, but many of the traditions she established continue in our own families, keeping her memory alive.  We have been blessed indeed to have such an amazing woman so actively involved in our lives, setting an example we all aspire to follow. 

Solid, dependable, disciplined, hospitable, thoughtful, committed, consistent. 

Old-fashioned qualities?  Perhaps.  But never out of style. 

Thanks so much, Joy. Beautifully said and right on target.

IMG_0103Kathryn Trautwein, in the early years at the Samarkand, before dementia.
A truly lovely lady in every way I can think of, a good, good woman.

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  1. Rosemarie Byer says

    Aunt Kathryn was a gracious loving lady…always made us feel loved and cared for…Wlfrie called her a dear dear friend that was there in her darkest hour when her husband died so suddenly….I will remember her fun parties at Xmas, cookie exchanges, prayer times, the weddings…Thom told me some very funny stories about him getting into trouble and his Aunt and Uncle helping him …basketball playing in the late ight was his favorite….may the Lord accept her with open arms, a job well done daughter of the Lord…Tom and Rose Byer.

    • Thanks so much, Rosie – Dick was remembering some of the same things Tom was this past week. She was a gem, that’s for sure.

  2. Pam green says

    Beautiful testimony to a wonderful Mother and grandmother . Quite a blessing for her dear family.

  3. Joy has written a moving tribute to her Mama and I so enjoyed reading it. Even more, I applaud Mama for being so deliberate in parenting, grandparenting, and great-grandparenting. We need more ladies like her! I hope Joy will someday write a story about the dining room set, along the lines of “If this dining room set could talk….” Blessings to all of you as you celebrate the life of a truly remarkable woman.

    • Thanks, Linda. Nice to have someone else encourage her to move into her writing gifts. Each one of my kids has those gifts, but life is crazy busy for all of them, so maybe they’ll have to retire first — like their mom. :>)

  4. Diana – Your daughter has written a beautiful tribute to a woman who has left a lasting legacy. Family and times together are precious. Blessings!

    • She did good, didn’t she? I don’t mean to start an argument or anything, but I have the best kids on the planet, you know??

  5. Sandy Hay says

    Now THAT’S a legacy !!!!!

  6. Janet Graff says

    I have warm memories of some of the same things Joy mentions. I always marveled that such a tiny kitchen could produce such wonderful meals! Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Price functioned as stand-in grandparents for our family and they took that responsibility seriously, especially when Dad was away traveling. Mom just mentioned that they were officially listed as our guardians should anything have happened. For years I watered the yard and brought in mail while they were on vacation — small tasks that were one of their ways of helping me out financially. And we always warmly remember the many New Year’s mornings when we joined everyone else who parked cars in their driveway and out front and then trekked down to see the Rose Parade together — something our side of the family still does, although we no longer park on Wagner Street. Joy’s tribute brings back such a flood of memories — thank you!

    • I know that they served that role for all of you and I’m glad they could do it. Because personally? I can’t imagine anyone better suited to the role of grandparent than the two of them. And who can forget New Year’s? Thanks for reading and commenting, Janet.

  7. Mary Ann Smiles says

    The picture of the dining room table brings back fond memories of my aunts cooking! I loved her cakes! I would love some recipes of hers. This is a beautiful tribute. I asked her one time how she did it, not in those words. I think I was asking how she kept her family together. She told me every morning she read the bible and prayed for her family.

    • The grandkids all have them and so does Jean. I do not, so you’ll have to ask them to share with you! So glad you came over to read this – I thought about you, and the rest of the extended family, when Joy sent it to me.

  8. It is so evident she embodied all those things that have eternal value – the things fame and fortune simply cannot buy. This is such a beautiful tribute Joy.

  9. What a treasure she was, and what a legacy she has left!