What follows is based on unique access to the letters exchanged in the Christmas season of 2018.
After spending many Christmases together, the Baldwins have fanned out across the United States from the East coast to the West and two different locations in Illinois. The family spent many Christmases together in this house where “Lady of the House” first welcomed them to add their special beauty to the iconic Christmas tree that was a central glory of the season in Joliet, Illinois.
You’ve no doubt guessed that the Baldwins are not people. But that will become clear to you as I share portions of their Christmas letters to one another in this unique year of their lives.
Several of the letters shared memories of how the family came to be in the first place in a “Marriage” of two companies, one in Reading, Pennsylvania and the other in Rhode Island. Here’s one excerpt that refers to that genealogy.
“With a patriarch known for the finest brass door and home hardware, remember how surprised some folks were when we were introduced? They should have taken note of the fact the beautiful architectural hardware of the Baldwin family was often described as ‘Jewelry for the Door.’ So when the “jewelry” crafting Baldwin family allied with Chemart we were born, and the world got a Christmas gift of elegant, delicately crafted ornaments of the finest brass and equally fine gold plating. Our genetics are hard to beat!”
Emails from various members of the Baldwin family, now relocated in Upstate New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, came with these photos and notes.
“We arrived in Pawling where we will make our new home with Patrick whom we remember from the time he was little boy. His sister Meagen took care to include the original gold box in which we traveled to 953 to star in a house tour of historic Victorian homes. Pat’s children met us when they were little children. They’re busy now making a home for us as our tradition continues with families named Fay.”
“Look what Meagen and Bill and James R. Fay III have done with us here in Old Hollywood. It’s a big trip from Joliet to the location some describe as ‘Under the Third O in the Hollywood sign.’ But this family has gone out of its way to make us feel at home, adding the white doves and roses that we lived among in the home of Meagen’s parents and their first born grandson who keeps alive the tradition his late father knew when he was the first “little Jimmy.”
“Catie and Ed and their boys opened their door and their hearts here to welcome us. We loved listening to the music created by the Wilmette Fays when we watched them grow up gathered near the tree where we lived and from which we had a bird’s eye view of the fireplace. Hoping not to be vain, we always thought that the firelight made us look even more handsome. The fireplace here on Forest Avenue will be another touch of home for us Baldwins as we take our place in a new set of traditions.”
“Chris and Milena and the Glencoe Fays made a home for us in just the way we would have imagined from this family of world citizens. Our new home here gives us an honored ‘born in the USA’ role along with the new neighbor who hangs near us and has roots in Taipei, Taiwan and Tokyo, Japan where the Glencoe Fays met another Glencoe family when they both lived in the Japanese capital. I heard Chis say as he welcomed us, ‘Small world. Big world.’”
All of us who have known and admired the original Baldwins say how lovely it is to see a tradition take wing and while remaining firmly fixed in so many hearts. All the human members of this extended and extending Baldwin family are indebted to Carlene Moloney who launched the Baldwin Christmas Ornaments while with Baldwin Hardware.
Opening photo | Pexels; all other photos courtesy of Annette Cunningham