By Judie Brown
This is my last commentary for 2020. It was truly a year of turmoil, unknown threats, and of course a virus and lockdowns. Clearly, we have had our share of negative news. So rather than write about another problem, I have chosen to write about my grandmother.
Bertha Tekla Baldi was quite the lady, in my opinion. My mother, my sister, and I lived with her and my Grandpa Louis from the time I was two-and-a-half until I was eight. This was so because my biological father abandoned us immediately after my sister was born. At that point, my mother was devastated, overwhelmed, and in need of help. And like every loving mother and father, my grandparents invited us to live with them.
Almost from the moment we arrived in their home, it was clear that my grandmother was a Christmas miracle in more ways than one. She brought us into their home with grace, unconditional love, and of course—as a German—a strong will to demand that we do as she instructed. My sister and I tried to resist her leadership, but to no avail.
When she brushed our hair before we started our day, we either cooperated or she hit us in the head with the brush. Not hard, mind you, just a love tap to remind us that she was in charge and that we would sit still to have our braids neatly put in place no matter what.
When she invited us to sit down at the kitchen table for dinner, she would not hear of complaints about what we would or would not eat. God forbid! She always said, and our mother concurred, that “people were starving in China,” so we better clean our plates. Little did we know that there were people starving within blocks of their home as well. After all, it was Los Angeles in the 1950s, and poverty was real.
But for me the most remarkable experience we had with our grandmother was our weekly walk around the block every Wednesday evening at 6:45 to say the Rosary with a group of ladies, many of whom also had children in tow. My recollection of those weekly pilgrimages has never left me, even though my grandmother is long gone, and I am now 76 and the grandmother myself of many amazing children.
The Blessed Mother became, for me then and now, the intercessor who hears our pleas and shares them with her beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
Mary is the mother of the One who suffered excruciating pain and succumbed on the cross, not because of His sins but because of mine and because of ours—each and every one of us.
Mary is the central figure in a story that composes the foundation of our pro-life struggle. She is the single mother who surrendered herself to the will of God, even at her young age. Mary welcomed Christ into her being because she trusted—trusted in the same way so many expectant moms trust pro-life pregnancy care workers who are truly the servants of the Lord.
I have my grandmother to thank for this understanding and my mother to thank for allowing us to spend so much time with our grandparents in our formative years. And I have my grandmother to thank for the seeds of faith that were planted in my young mind during our walks around the block to pray. Even though we prayed the mysteries of the Rosary when I was only five, that experience has helped me see what is really important today.
It is one of the reasons American Life League exists. It is also why we followed Bishop Strickland’s lead and started what is now an international program known as the Marian Blue Wave. Mary has been our hope in so many ways, and every time I say the Rosary I think of my Grandmother Bertha, and I thank God for her once again.
So this Christmas, as you join together in this age of COVID and celebrate the birth of Christ amidst the gifts, the food, the Zoom visits, and more, please never forget that, at its core, Christmas is about that baby, born of a virgin, whose humble beginnings were but a sign of the wonder that Christ would bring to the world, to each of us, and to our family members today, tomorrow, and always.
Have a very blessed Christmas, my dear friends! Hug your family members near and far with sincerity and love. And most of all praise God for the story of Christmas, because without that amazing miracle you and I would not be here at all.
Thank you, God, for my Grandma Baldi.
God bless you, one and all.