Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Memoriam

I’m back in Oregon from Oklahoma after some days helping my sister Jill sort out Mom’s little apartment; my other sister Jan and my brother Doug had already been down from the Twin Cities for over a couple of weeks … we overlapped for six days during which we all were sorting.  It was in some ways an act of frustration in that we were being constantly tantalized by old photos, letters and family memorabilia, with no real time to delve into deeply, if at all.  When I say family memorabilia, I mean there were photo albums that go back to my grandparent’s time before Mom was born.  I may have seen some of these before, but probably not since I was a wee lad … I have vague recollections of seeing some of those photos … way back when … 

Memories … and histories … we all have memories of old times … old friends … and of those who have gone on before … and old photos and memorabilia (objects, writings etc.) provide foci that jog those memories.  For example, I came across a 5 year diary that Mom must have been given on her 14th Christmas, 1938, as she began to fill it in on the 1st of January, 1939, and she was religious about writing each day’s allotted paragraph for the next 20½ months until the second day after her birthday, 1940.  There was no indication why she did not continue after that.  I had no time to delve into it, other than to see if an almost 15 year old American girl might have anything to say about the world events at the beginning of September 1939 … on the 2cn of September she says, “War in Europe!”, and on September 4th, “England declares war on Germany!”  It was not yet the obvious that Hitler’s invasion of Poland the day before on September 1st was beginning of hostilities that would become the Second World War, especially to a young Mid-Western schoolgirl.  A later diary when in college, would deal with the times a little more, but not in a world historical sense, but more on a social sense, in that persons are mentioned as in the armed forces, and where they might or might not be, and whose boy friend or fiancé they were.  Her future husband (our Dad), had joined the Marine Corps at the beginning of 1945, and I she mentions being given a Marine Corps “globe and anchor” pin on his first leave home; “… and his hair is so short!”  Later in our sorting I found a picture of that short hair, and I found the “globe and anchor” pin, the latter which I now have … memorabilia. 

When not sorting, Jill & Jan worked on a slide show of photos of Mom to place on one of those digital photo frames, and to be displayed at Mom’s Memorial Service at her church on Sunday the 20th September.  These were from throughout her life, and brought back many memories of parts of her life that we had shared, and many from before our existence.  The church was loaded with people on that Sunday afternoon, as many came out to remember our Mother … she made friends easily and wherever she went … you have no idea … for most of her life she belonged to the old Swedish Baptist Church (later to be reorganized as the Baptist General Conference … I suppose when they realized that many of their members were not Swedish), and she seemed to know everyone in it … all 100,000-plus of them spread throughout the land!  She was the fount of knowledge of where so many old acquaintances were, whether they were still alive, who might know if she did not (she remained in touch with so many people), that I fear we probably have lost more than just Mom with her passing.

She was born in Alcester, South Dakota, the granddaughter and great granddaughter of immigrants from Sweden … somewhere back there a Norwegian contingent appears as well, but as I write this I am not exactly sure of the details.  Be that as it may, I know that myself and my siblings are ⅞ths Swedish and ⅛th Norwegian … true Vikings one and all (all Swedish on our Father’s side).  I read “Giants in the Earth” by Ole Edvart Rølvåg (Rolvaag), in ninth or tenth grade in school, which is about Norwegian immigrants settling in the Dakotas, living in sod houses, and working the soil.  At present I am also reading the 4 volume set, “The Emigrants” by Vilhelm Moberg, which concerns Swedish immigrants settling at Lake Ki-Chi-Saga (later Lake Chisago), near Taylor’s Falls, and Stillwater in Minnesota Territory in 1850; it took them roughly 16 weeks to  make the journey (all familiar places to me … my carburetor froze up at -38ºF just between Lake Chicago and Lindstrom MN, at 04:30 one morning, and the local baker offered me a place to warm up, but I cleared the slushy snow-like condensation from the carburetor and managed to continue my journey, stopping occasionally to re-clear the slush).  The film of “The Emigrants,” starring Max von Sydow and & Liv Ullmann, was released in 1971; I did not see it since I had no money for anything extra that 2nd Summer in England … I lived on £1.50/week for food at the time.   Those are our people … both our Swedish and Norwegian forbears.  Olav Anderson, Mom’s Great Grandfather, brought his family (her Father was 10 years old at the time) over from Mogetorp, Sweden, to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1869.  In the nineteen years between those in the novel and our very real ancestors, times had changed so much so that it took only 3 weeks for our people to travel from their former home in Sweden to Lawrence, Kansas! 

They remained in Lawrence for four years, before taking a homestead outside of Alcester, SD, in 1873.  It is interesting to think that they arrived in Kansas just four years after the Civil War, and when they moved to the southeastern corner of South Dakota (not far from both the Iowa and Minnesota borders), three more years would pass by before Custer and the greater part of the 7th Cavalry were rubbed out by the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Little Bighorn in Montana; the James Gang (who’s stamping ground was only 40 or so miles east of Lawrence, Kansas), had not yet come to grief in their abortive raid on the Banks in Northfield, Minnesota; Billy the Kid was only 13 or so when Olav Anderson and Co. arrived in Alcester, and had another 8 years to live before meeting his end at Old Fort Sumter, New Mexico, from the bullets of Sheriff Pat Garrett (what can I say ... I like Westerns); and 51 years after arriving in the Alcester area, Olav’s descendent, our Mom, was born.

Her Father died just a couple weeks after her second birthday.  She had a memory or two of him, one of her doing a somersault for him, and she cherished these all her life.  Her older sister and she were then raised by their Mother.  Although they eventually left Alcester when Mom was 8, when her Mother’s work took them to Elk Point SD, she had many fond memories of that ‘little town on the Prairie, just 8 blocks by 8 blocks in size” (it still appears about that size on Google Earth) … childhood friends (Cyril, Bonnie Jean & Spuddy) … 3rd grade teacher, Miss Sogn … Saturday Night in Alcester when the town band played (her father had been in it), and many more memories.  They eventually lived in Muskegon MI, Chicago IL and Minneapolis MN, by the time Mom began her college days and eventually meeting our Father.  Her most happy and contented time of her life (and mine) was when we lived in the woods, 3 miles outside of Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin (and where I attended my first three grades of school).  Money was scarce, but she had everything she wanted, a young and growing family, a perfectly good roof over our heads, friends and “a lovely view of the birch wood through the kitchen window when doing the dishes.”  She was always interested in whatever was going on in the lives of her children, in the life of her church, what her many friends and acquaintances might be experiencing, and so on and so on.  She visited me 3 times during my years in England … never thought she would ever be able to go abroad when she was growing up … and the last time she came to Oregon, was so thrilled to spend two full days pottering about at Crater Lake … and at age 86 at that time.  

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  Her life was full, and busy and full of memories … she was busy in her church activities (she was getting ready to go to one of her church groups, when she had her fainting spell) … and she still drove her own car (I was not nervous as her passenger two years ago) … and we had (and have) our memories at her Memorial.  And sometime in the Spring or early Summer we will go to the little cemetery on the gentle slope in the northwest part of the little prairie town of Alcester, and place her ashes beside her parents, and listen to the breeze rustling through the prairie grasses, and to the songs of the prairie birds as they welcome one who has been long away.

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