Monday, December 29, 2008

Next years presents

Often I began Christmas presents in January. A woman in Sweden whose name is, I think Inga Persson, designed a yearly Christmas wall hanging. It was cross stitched on an off white piece of linen material. No bigger than maybe 8 by 10 inches. The designs are priceless and so much fun to work. I remember a few that I sewed, a whole choir of people in church, one with a star shining on the shepherds in the desert. One of three horses in the stable where Jesus was born. I will ask one of my children to take pictures of the ones they were given. It was a quiet, warm kind of occupation after the hectic pre-Christmas work. I loved that kind of time. Soon, after Thirteenth Day, all signs of Christmas would be hidden away in the attic. And when School started I would be all alone with my own thoughts and plans for next year.

I think all the girls asked to sew these IP DESIGNS and they are hung in their homes when decorating the house begins. Usually after the Lucia Day. Sometimes after December 1.

When I moved out of the house where we had lived since 1983 I made many foolish decisions and sold much of the Christmas decor at the garage sale. I was moving into much smaller quarters and didn't want to be buried by all those belongings. The children were allowed to take whatever they wanted. Now that Christmas is over, I am glad not to be so laden down by things. And if there is something I would like to own again, I can always make it anew. I will let you know what develops.

My grand-daughter who is a Lt. in the US Navy is going skiing in Canada and on her way back to Ventura and is stopping by here. I am so eager to see her again and I will make one of her favorite meals, Swedish Meatballs. They must be eaten with Lingon Berries and mashed potatoes and gravy, and since her Mother is the worlds best salad maker I will have oven roasted vegetables. Maybe Tosca for desert.

Friday, December 26, 2008

in years past

Christmas always ended with me in bed. I was prone to getting a sore throat which usually turned into a strep throat and only penicillin would cure it. After a few years of this, I was told that it was not smart using penicillin and so I suffered through all the phases of the sickness. I knew I had used up too much energy getting ready for the Holidays and I knew I would do it again the following year, so what could I do to prevent getting sick. Maybe I was allergic to something I came in contact with, only during the Holidays.

I searched and searched trying to find something that happened only at Christmastime. During the Holidays we kept a bottle of Aquavit in the freezer. When we had a reason to skol we took a small sip of this freezing cold liquid and chased it with a small drink of beer. Could that be the reason? When I felt well again I would practice and have a little snort and it never gave me a sore throat. We used ginger in baking cookies. Hardly ever used during the rest of the year. I did some research in this area also. No certain outcome. Could it be that using the two together caused the trouble. But I could not go on with the research for I might become an alcoholic if this went on too long.

Someone told me about a cold preventative. Take one generous amount of Listerine into your mouth, hold it in your mouth for 30 seconds, spit it out. I have done that for 6 years and Voila! I have had no cold for that length of time. I am not being paid by Listerine and it might be all in my mind, but for me it works. I use a clock in the bathroom and I time the treatment.

This is a very boring blog and the only thing I can do to lure you into continue reading this, I can make a promise to do better. I began blogging by telling you that I am a name dropper, and I have not dropped anything for a long time. So I will promise you that there are some interesting names in the near future. Examples? Diane Sawyer and Ron Ziegler, Nixon's Press secretary and Chihuli the giant glass artist. Wait and see.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

We here in Western Washington have been inundated with snow and it has been going on for quite a while. More is expected for the rest of the year. I was invited to spend Christmas with my daughter's household about two hours away from where I live. That was cancelled this morning when freezing temperatures were predicted, and unsafe conditions were a sure thing.

So I decided to make our usual standby, Cardamon Sweet Rolls. When the children were growing up and even after they had flown the coop and created our empty nest, I would have our freezer full of lengths of this delicious breakfast food around Christmas time. I used to send it to the child who could not come home for the Holidays. It seemed essential.

This morning, early, I decided this is how I would spend Christmas Eve. I have never made one recipe. I multiply the recipe found on a yellowing page out of an old cook book. It calls for one cup of milk. I used four cups, forgetting that I no longer own a freezer. It took virtually all day. At four p.m. I wandered around this place where I live, knocking on doors, giving my fellow inmates rolls for breakfast and wishing them Merry Christmas. It was a lovely day and the house still smells like our old Christmases.

1 cup milk
1/4-cup sugar (I usually add two or three Tbsp sugar)
1-tsp salt
1 tsp crushed cardamon
1 env or 1 Tbsp yeast
1 egg
1/4-cup softened butter (or more if you are wealthy)
31/2 cps all purpose flour

Pour milk in bowl cook in microwave for 1min. check that milk is luke warm before adding yeast. Stir in sugar and salt and cardamon add softened butter yeast and egg slightly beaten.
Add half of the flour, beat with wooden spoon until smooth. Add some of the other flour and work the dough on floured board. Add and work dough until smooth and firm. Keep dough covered with damp cloth in warm place until it is double in size. If you have not doubled the amount of the milk, cut dough in two and roll it out. Spread butter and sugar and cinnamon on dough roll it and cut it to look like a braid, put it on buttered cookie sheet cover with towel and let it grow once more. Paint it with egg liquid and sprinkle sugar on top and
bake in 350* for thirty min
I have a note in the corner of the page which states, if you use 8-cups of milk, you'll need a little more than alb of flour

Please let me know f anyone makes this. Cardamon should be bought in a health-food store and then crushed in a coffee grinder. Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No parties

Our traditions, way back then, allowed nothing but work before Christmas. We cooked and we cleaned and we made presents. No matter how good our intentions were, we never were ready, and we had to sit up half the nights to finish the embroidery on a table cloth, or knitting the last sleeve on a sweater, If it was something that was noisy, like sawing on a project or hammering, that had to wait till the house was empty. Painting the project could be done somewhere provided the smell didn't wake up the sleepers. My youngest reminded me that I would become 'stressed' and no wonder. I was not very smart when I decided I could make all my own Christmas cards. And all the gifts for friends and neighbors were homemade goodies.

And then came Christmas and we spent the days with family. Sam's brother and family came for the big dinner. His mother and step father, his brothers in-laws and the three little cousins. The Wilsons were fun and helpful, Sam's sister-in-law gave our girls the neatest presents. Good GIRL things. Things I would never think of. And our girls treasured her.

Second Day Christmas in Sweden was a real holiday. Stores were closed. And no work would be done. That's when all the parties began. The period between Second Day Christmas (we called that day Annan Dagen) and Epiphany was a time of continuous parties. On Epiphany (we called it Thirteenth Day) was usually a huge children's party somewhere. They came to the house to strip the tree of all decorations. Many of the decorations were edible, such as ginger bread cookies and nuts and candy canes. They got to keep whatever they took off the tree. We had only real candles in the tree, and in many cases the tree would be hauled out of the corner of the room so we could dance around the tree. With the candles burning. Even for our School Party the giant tree in the gym would be aglow with candles and we would dance till long into the night. Our trees were probably fresher than the average tree in this country, but I never heard of a tree catching fire.

At our house, if it was our turn to have the party for the children, after the tree was denuded we would pull it through the house and out the front door and next day it would be moved to the back of the wood shed were it would linger until the evening before May 1. when it would be used for the fire down at the beach. I have mentioned it before but that was called Valborg's Masso Afton and I will tell you more about that when we get closer to May1

Meanwhile, I hope all of you will have a wonderful, blessed Christmas. I feel as though all you readers now belong to my family and I feel much enriched by your well wishes. Gertrud

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More of my own memories

Before I was born my father was home for one Christmas. My sister who was four years older remembered it . I always felt jealous of her having that memory. I have been told that he came home so seldom that he was home on leave only five or six times during my first ten years. I remember drawing pictures for him for Christmas.

Then one year we were all sitting in the living-room. My paternal grandmother was there. And suddenly there was a rumble in the front hall. Loud rumble. And then a knock on the door and before anyone said : "Come in", there was Santa Claus, or Jul Tomten, as we called him. He came into the the living room with a large sack, and asked which of us children had been Good Children. Three of us responded Me, Me. I couldn't for I had been told so often that I was bad. (my Grandmother died when I was eight years old, so this happened when I was younger than eight.) But it is burnt into my mind. Tomten sounded like a nice guy and he even smelled good. As a grown up, on my first visit home from America I found out that Santa was played by my favorite relative. She and her husband was my children's favorite couple, they spent time with in Sweden, even though they didn't speak a word of English. That was the only time that Tomten came into the house. All other years there was a rumble outside and we would rush out to find the sack of presents outside the front door.

We usually got clothing as presents. Socks or PJs. Many years I wanted a grocery store. I don't now how I knew there was such a thing. I pictured it as rows of boxes made into a counter, and then flour and sugar and salt and maybe some goodies and I would pretend to weigh the items and put them in tiny little paper-bags for anyone who wanted to play with me. I never got one. All this happened before there were prepackaged foods. In my next life I may be a grocer.

I can't remember if I wrote about the Dipping day. It happened to come three days before Christmas Eve. Mother bought a leg of pork. She would put it in a giant soup-pot. Add pepper corns and whole All Spice and Bay leaves. It would simmer for hours. Then the meat was carefully removed from the pot. The liquid would be reheated and put on the middle of the dining room table and we had home made bread and we could either serve ourselves into a soup plate or dip the bread into the pot in the center of the table. It was the most delicious meal of all year. We all looked forward to the dipping day. If you were making a date for any day around this time you'd say "I'll see you at the windmill at 12 noon, the day before the dipping day.

The ham would then be baked with mustard and pineapple marinade. We would eat from this delicious meat all through the holidays.

Christmas eve we had boiled Lut Fisk. With it we had mustard sauce made with the seeds from the mustard that grows along the highways in the summers. We had a special bowl for crushing the seeds. It was smooth on the outside but rough on the inside. We had a canon ball that would go around and around as you swung the bowl to propel the ball. A few drops of water were added slowly It would be a long tiresome chore and a child was usually the one doing it. There was one other really tiresome job. Boiling the milk for the Christmas Rice pudding. It had to be stirred from beginning to end. After the milk boiled it usually took more than an hour to slowly let it cook until the rice disappeared into a thick pudding. One blanched almond would then be dropped into this huge pot. Then the rice pudding would be separated into eight serving dishes and then put in the cellar. We would use one of these for dessert on Christmas Eve, one for Christmas Day and one for Second Day Christmas, one for new years Eve and one for New Years Day, one for Epiphany eve and one for Epiphany day. In one of these lay an almond and all of us wanted to be lucky enough to find it. Various things might befall the lucky one, such as he might get rich or he might get married first. In all those years, I found it once and if that was the reason I found Sam, then I thank the almond deighty.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Jodie asked me to remember Christmas memories from the time the children were little. I remember being tired and needing more sleep. I still worked under the impression that all gifts had to be handmade. In Sweden people did a super extra house cleaning before Dec. 1. Then all preparations were about baking and sewing and presents. I still have wonderful things that the children made for us. All secret even from each other. I have asked all four of them to write to me about a good or bad memory they have from long ago. As soon as I get a couple I will post them.

We let the children pick out one present on Christmas eve. We tried to get them to bed at a decent hour so the presents that arrived knocked down could be assembled before midnight. Early in the girls lives they sang in our church choir and that meant an early attendance. Gilbert was an altar boy and when he stood near the altar he looked angelic.

I have received some memories. Nr. 1 daughter said: "I remember that you were always knitting. When we asked what I was working on, you told us that I was making covers for Dad's golf-clubs but when the right moment came it turned out to be sweaters for everybody." She also said that the big bake was a wonderful memory. She used to sneak a few little bits of dough. She makes the same bread for their Christmas and the result is better than what I ever made. Nr. 2 daughter said her biggest memory was the advent calendars. They all had a calendar with 24 curtain rings sewn on. On each I would hang a wrapped present. The rings were marked with the dates from Dec 1 to the 24th The items were simple and inexpensive and I would pick them up during the year. One might be as simple as an eraser and could be as large as a small tube of tooth-paste. It was a huge job tying them up after they were wrapped. It was fun to hear them talk about who got the better one that day, for they all got the same eventually. I am so happy that all the girls carried on that tradition. When people went to college they pled to have them sent to school. Nr. 2 also remembered one year when we made handmade little Santas for the tree. We strung red yarn from the back of one chair to another as far away as possible. We went back and forth stringing the yarn until we reached a suitable thickness. Then with red thread we tied of certain lengths, a long one for the body, a shorter one for the arms, a little red felt triangle for hat. A few stitches for face and beard and a loop to hang it with. We made hundreds and the tree looked great with the little red figures.

Nr.3 daughter remembered another decoration for the tree. We saved hundred of walnut shells from the Christmas baking. A little hole was drilled in the shell, they were sprayed gold, filled with cotton (from drugstore cotton balls), and a little half an inch nude baby doll. This daughter also remembers how I used to get stressed out and I would shout at everybody. I remember all of us being blissfully happy and calm. (kidding) She also remembers getting a bike one year and since it rained on Christmas Day she was allowed to ride it indoors, in that long hall in the back of the house.

Nr.2 remembers learning how to make cardamon coffee cake. We had orange juice and coffee and coffee cake during opening presents.

Haven't heard from our Nr.1 and only son, yet.

Los Angeles

We were met at the Los Angeles Flyg Station by an anxious father and husband. It was wonderful for all of us being united again. He had unwelcome news for us. We had to go to a friend and furniture plant owner of his, for lunch. His wife was a famous cook. I had met them several times during the SF Market. And we all liked them a lot. It was just that the thought of food was unbearable. That early morning Coffee still revolved in more than our thoughts. And this was a new morning where it was unseemly to think of Gourmet food. We all wanted to get home as soon as possible.

The food turned out to be what had been predicted. Absolutely fabulous. We tried to be hungry and we ate all we could, but we lacked the acting ability to give it what it deserved. We did not dawdle and soon we were on our way back to the airport to fly back to Oakland and then home. We all had questions for Sam. Did the renters leave the house the way they found it? Was anything missing? How had the guesthouse worked out for Sam. He said he would never let us leave without him. He had been so lonesome. We all promised to spoil him, now that we were back. Even Jane promised to help rake leaves when they began to fall. I had other unspoken promises.

The first thing that happened when we got home was that we all fell in bed and slept till next morning. The children checked on their belongings and the only thing missing was the Christmas record of the Kingston Trio. (I found one before the following Christmas in a junk-store) I could not find anything missing but I did discover that their children had set off fire crackers against the green walls in the living-room. Each one left a white spot and the repainting cost was taken off their cleaning deposit.

It was wonderful being back and I felt I would never want to leave again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

End of vacation

I saw an old friend the day before we were to leave, and she complained that 'here you are leaving and you have never been to my home' I said ' why don't I come tomorrow morning, before I leave, and you and I can have a cup of coffee together.' She insisted the children come too. Little did I know what this little cup of coffee would become. We were seated in the dining room and never have I seen a table so full of goodies. It was 9-am. There was a mountain of what we call here Danish. In Sweden they are called Wienerbrod. The children were served Coke. Then came the loaf type cake, sockercaka, and spice cake. And then cookies, probably five different kinds. And then a CAKE. with whipped cream. The looks of these riches were enough to make you feel sick. The children even resisted. and I was thinking of what all this sugar would do to their patience as we waited in lines here and there at the Air-port in Kopenhavn. We tried to hurry, but that was difficult, when one considered the labor this woman had gone to to gather all this food. We did, however, hurry.

The night before I had packed and put all the suitcases on top of the car. And I had lashed everything to a fair-thee-well. The rope I used looked almost like some kind of pre-historic embroidery. My father was a sea-man but I had never learned about knots and such. My friend, Tora, gave all the children gifts and all I could think was "where will I put them". When we returned down the lane to Mother's house, there were all the children's friends, all bearing farewell gifts. And my thought was the same. WHERE WILL I PUT THEM. I still had all their wooden shoes and my wooden shoes that did not fit in any suitcase. The packages were all over the back of the car when we drove out of our yard and up the lane. When we passed Grandfather's house, the house he had owned, I drew my first relaxed breath of the day. I had decided what to do about all our unpacked stuff. When we got into Helsingborg our first stop was at a Ship-chandler store. I bought the largest sea bag they had. The kind of bag that you see a sailor have slung over his shoulder as he leaves home in his 'boot cut' pants. I told the children they could keep one gift or one book out. The rest goes into the bag.

We took the ferry to Helsingor. Then drove South to the air port. When we came to the environs I told them I had a couple of stops before we got to the Flyg Station. I found a building that was named BAD. None of us had had a BAD, translated bath, except for the swimming in Oresund and what happened with our ewers and such. We had an enjoyable couple of hours and all of us managed to shampoo our heads. Gilbert had not been able to swim and came out of there a different color. After a wonderful lunch at three in the afternoon, we checked in. I returned the rental car, and we all felt as if we were practically at home. Little did we know we had another eating frenzy when we arrived in Los Angeles.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Before beginning on the next chapter= Anon asked about Mother''s mental health. She was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. She was up on world history, and the state of the world. She was strong physically and into her late eighties could work circles around an average human. I began writing her memoir from the time she knew she was pregnant with me and the first days after she came home from the hospital. (things she told me and things others told me) Anon also asked about my relationship with my father. He died at sea when I was ten or eleven. He was a captain in the Merchant Marine and came home for vacation every other year or year and a half.

The reason my mother gave for having nailed the cellar door was that it wasn't safe to go down there for there was a broken bearing beam holding up the kitchen. I asked her why she had not told me, never got an answer.

The whole trip was not miserable. We all made friends and the children were honestly happy and were surprised when I related some of the worst stories to Sam when we got home. At one time I was about five minutes away from deciding to go to Norway, to finish our trip there. But Sam said when I called him: Keep a stiff upper lip, and stay as planned.

One day the children and I were returning from the harbor when we ran into a tripod in the middle of the street, with a Hasselblad Camera ready for taking a picture of the church spire which looked denuded. The Cross was down for repair. Along came a man who told us he was there for the summer, on vacation from being a teacher at Lund University. We talked and I told him the Cathedral in Lund was one of our future visits. He said the Cathedral is being restored and the public can not see it. What a disappointment. But then he said: In exchange for a ride to Lund, I will take you and the children for a tour.

So the following week, he in the passenger seat, I in the driver's seat, and three children in the back,(Jane was too young) took off for a fabulous history lesson. He knew every bend in the road. Look to the left. Do you see that farm house? There the Danes killed fourteen Swedes on June 12 in the war of so and so. Next corner the Swedes got even and so it went the whole way. The children were bored ( his English was hard for me to understand even, and with the children making noises, I missed a lot.) I wish it could have been filmed an taped. He was fabulous.

He told me the reason he had to go to Lund was so he could buy his ration of liquor. He had to have his Motbook in order to buy snaps. I don't quite understand. If you did not have money in the bank, you could not have a Motbook. It was a very undemocratic way of rationing. Meant that if you had money, you could afford to get drunk. This system has been changed. But I remember when Sam came to Sweden in 1945 he borrowed my uncles Motbook.

When we got to Lund he took us to his favorite Conditorie. There he told us all to have what we would like and the children (and I ) were in 7th Heaven. It was a fabulous day. When the children got noisy in the car and I tried to shuss them, he said: Don't do that. Don't kill that wonderful American lust for life.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Cellar

We, my children and I are still in Sweden. Lucia just happened yesterday and I thought people would be interested in hearing about it. But there is another reason I was so happy to diverge from our daily life in Viken.

My mother. She still had problems with me. She loved the children and she was a wonderful grandmother. With me it was another story. I will give you one example and then try to forget it.

Sunday we had dinner, all six of us. And I tried to have a Sunday dinner like the ones we had when I was growing up. I bought a beautiful veal roast. With that we had boiled potatoes and string-beans. I forget what we had for dessert.

An aside before I go on. There was no running water in the kitchen. There was no refrigerator.

We ate and all went well. I had hot water ready for washing dishes and after the children had cleared the table I told them they could go out and play, while I washed the dishes. Mother said she was going to visit a friend. Before I could wash the dishes I had to decide how to preserve the leftovers. I decided to cover the serving dishes with foil and to put them down in the cellar. We had enough for a good supper the following day. When I opened the cellar door, I thought there were too many spider-webs down there.

Well, next evening when I went to get our leftovers, the cellar door was nailed shut. That meant the food would sit there and rot and the serving dishes were lost for us for the duration. It wasn't just a little brad used by my mother, those were huge nails pounded in totally. The people who bought the house many years later must have been surprised when they tore the kitchen down to modernize it. Two beautiful dishes with green stuff growing under the foil. There was some sort of adventure like this for me on a daily basis.

I will try to tell you about the fun times we had.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Before I talk about Lucia, I must tell you why I have been unable to blog the last few days. The other day, while waiting for yet another generous comment from you, my public, I noticed that I had KGO on my 'bookmarks'. So I hit on it to see what would happen. I have listened to KGO since we lived in Diablo and I can't function without listening to Ray Tailjafero (Wrong spelling) from 1 to 5-am. I have heard him way down South in Mexico and I have heard him way up North in Canada. But he does not do so well in Port Angeles Wa. So I thought I could fix up with him on the computer maybe. I checked around and said to myself, I'll do it later. And so I turned off the computer, and when I got back to do a blog I opened the laptop and here was KGO broadcasting. While I was reading the comments on the King, I had to listen to the ads from SF. This morning I finally got rid of KGO.

And so to Lucia. Pre Christians in Scandinavia believed that their Gods had forsaken them when in December, the night lasted longer than ever. They were smart enough to figure out which was the longest night. Which is around the 22nd of December.
And people would celebrate the fact that light would return to them and there were parties in the dark. Later the merchants felt that the 22nd was too close to Christmas and they changed the holiday to the 13th of December. When I was a child in Sweden, we celebrated in every house in our village by putting candles in every window on the route to the church. I remember one year we had enough snow to have a horse-drawn carriage driving from the upland farm area with lighted flares through the village to the church. The church was heated with free-standing round tall stoves, one on each side of the building. People who were forced to sit near the stoves would die from over heating, and we children who sang with the choir would almost perish in the choir loft.

In each house the family celebrated with breakfast in bed. Baking had been done the day before and the blondest girl of the house would take a tray with coffee and Lucia Buns to each person in the house, singing the Lucia song all the while. It was a lovely custom and the year when I met Sam in Sweden I discovered how it had become very commercialized. It was a beauty pageant and The Lucia chosen by the public, rode a white horse through the dark streets of Stockholm. followed by the nine girls who had not won the contest and by boy-scouts carrying lighted flares. It is still a lovely custom but I can see why the merchants changed the date.

In our house, while the children were growing up we celebrated Lucia. We invited the families we were close to and their children to breakfast. Since we all had four children (not true) the number of people who came filled several tables. Martha was the blondest of the girls and she most often wold be our Lucia. She was dressed in white and wore a crown of lighted candles on her blond curls. Only one mother refused to come. Guests had to arrive at six, and she felt it was too early. Her husband and four children came. We would tell the story of the early Scandinavians and their fear of eternal darkness, and we would sing the song. Then the fathers went to work and the children went to catch the school-bus and the mothers could sit and talk about what just happened. I may make myself a Lucia-bun for breakfast tomorrow.

Happy Lucia, every one

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dear King

We were eating breakfast the next morning when Anna came rushing in, announcing 'I did it. I did it'. I asked 'What did you do? ''I wrote a letter to the King.' I said 'May we read it before you send it? She said 'Of course.'

I do not have a copy of her actual letter. This is what I remember of it. Dear King, My family and I came from America yesterday. I was surprised to hear that you are a neighbor of ours. I have never met a real live King. Could you come to our house and have Tea or Coca Cola.

I thought the letter was so to the point, and so child like, I put it in an envelope and mailed it for her.

Three days later there was a letter in the mailbox. So official and so important looking, the mailman must have bowed as he put it in my mother's mailbox. Anna still has it in her memory box from that trip. This is what the letter said.

My Dear Anna, I am desired by His Majesty the King to acknowledge the receipt of your lines of July 5th. The King had pleasure in reading your letter and asks me to inform you that the gardens of Sofiero are daily open to the public between one and two p.m. So if you and your mother and brother and sisters come here during that hour any day next week and about two o'clock ask the policeman stationed in the park to phone me, I will tell his Majesty, who will then come out and have a chat with you and yours. C.F. Palmsteirna, private secretary to H M the King

Well we had a nervous week-end and rehearsed how to make a curtsey, how to take a picture and what should we wear and what should we talk about and rememeber not to turn around until he has turned around. The children asked me not to speak Swedish with him so they would know what was going on. How do you know he knows how to speak English, they asked. I know, because he was married to an English Princess.

Everything worked like magic. All the females in the group forgot to curtsey. We were waiting by the back stairs of the Castle when HM the King came down the stairs. He was gracious and kindly and actually a handsome man. I forget what we talked about. He asked each child a pertinent questions and they answered without any ers and ers. He even gave me a question and I do not remember in detail but something about why had I emigrated. Then he told us he was going to Bastad to watch a tennis match.

The children, especially the younger ones were very disappointed. He did not wear ermine or red velvet robes and no crown. He was actually wearing Pat Boone shoes. I prayed that the one picture I took of the event would turn out to be a success.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2nd day

The girls' whispering woke me up. I looked at my watch and it was 4.15. I tip-toed into their room and hushed them so they wouldn't wake their grandmother. I woke up Gilbert and we snuck out of the house and began a two hour walk. I had promised them I would take them to every significant place from my past. We began by going North, out on the heath. There I showed them where we had played house in the mountains of timber that my uncle had gathered from the boats that had foundered on the reef between Viken and Lerberget. And then we talked about the Pavilion, the one remaining of the two that were there when I was growing up. As a young teenager I had been allowed to sell soft drinks and candy when there were dances in the summer. And then we came to the sorry little stream, or rivulet that we called The Mississippi. There we turned around and went South.

We called this Svangen, which means the turn around. Once, on our way home from school a man stood in the trees exposing himself. He had pulled his pants down and was clapping on his stomach to draw attention to himself. Pretty stupid. And his rhythm was poor. We ran home and told our mothers who really got upset and began a search for him. We did not understand what the hysteria was about. But now I know, I said, there is danger from people like that and that they should do what we did. Tell a grown up if you ever happen into something like that.

And the rest of the two hours went on like that. this is where I fell off my bicycle and and here is where a man lived who was scary for he looked as if he never took a bath. And here is the wind mill, built by my great grandfather. And this large house was his and while we grew up the Anderssons lived there. Inga Andersson was my best friend and her sister was Birgit's best friend. We got to go there to help with their Christmas baking and it was so much fun. This later was made into a hotel. If you want to I will arrange to have you see the inside of the wind mill and see how they grind the flour from the seeds brought in by the farmers. In front of this place is where we had huge snowball fights. Always the girls against the boys.

And then we ran down the hill that had seemed so gigantic when we were little. The hill that went down to the harbor. Way over to the south was where the ship building took place. My great grandfather who came from Denmark and who had also built the windmill and surrounding houses had been a rich man and when his youngest daughter wanted to marry the poorest boy in Viken, he showed her the door and told her not to come back. Luckily his wife used to smuggle food for them. They had lots of children who all went to America. I only met one of them, Aunt Hilda. There was an uncle who became a Coast Guard officer and according to the rules at the time, he had to take his mother's maiden name, Lindberg in order to work for the government.

I was at this time stalling for time. I wanted to finish our trip at the same time as the sweet rolls were coming out of the oven at Vibo, the local Conditory. We were going down to the beach in front of our house to eat them and then go home to see if Grandma was up. When we walked in the front door we heard her on the pone saying. 'No they are still sleeping. Not a sound from upstairs.'

Friday, December 5, 2008

our trip to Sweden

I forget what year it was when I decided the children had to meet their grandmother before it was too late. I asked Sam if this was the summer we could afford to go. he informed me that the two most important weeks in the furniture business happened during the summer. He had to attend the furniture week in Chicago and one in San Francisco, and I would have to go without him. And yes, we could afford it. I got in touch with my mother and she said 'Yes, she would love it if we came.'

I spoke to my friend, the realtor, and asked if she could rent our house for three months. She said maybe. then I asked if Sam would agree to live in the largest of our guest houses. He said 'what a great idea.' It would then be much easier to afford the trip. And he said he would travel a lot farther in his territory and business would grow and improve. I had three months to get the house ready for strangers, I would get the guest house ready for Sam to live in, and I would pack for our trip. Little did I expect that to be so difficult.

There were private things that would be locked into one of the little guest houses. And Sam had to have a bed with bedclothes, he had to have cooking equipment, he had to have one of our TVs. When I think of all the hard labor I wonder how I survived. I was tired but felt I could revive on the long flight. We left on a Monday morning and on Sunday afternoon before leaving, Gilbert broke his wrist while swinging on a rope over the creek. We drove to Kaiser in Walnut Creek and they set the askew bones and said for him to try to hold the arm elevated till the next day when he should be seen by an orthopede to check that there was not too much swelling in the arm.

So we got aboard a SAS plane in Los Angeles after having flown from Oakland to LA. I was so exhausted I thought I would not be able to hold myself together much longer. The girls slept most of the way across the Atlantic and Gilbert and I tried to. When we arrived in Kopenhamn we rented a volkswagen and since I had never driven a car with a stick-shift we jumped through the city. Gilbert was so embarrassed. We drove to Elsinore and got on a ferry and then headed North to Viken where I grew up. We drove past a beautiful spot and saw spires and flags and Anna said: What's that. I said that was the King's summer Palace and when the flags were flying, it meant the King was in residence. Anna said, 'I have never met a real live King. I would like to meet him.' I said, because I was exhausted, 'write him a letter'. And then I forgot it. We got to Viken and I unloaded the car and the children and then turned around to go back to the city, Helsingborg where the hospital was. There we waited and waited and when we finally saw the doctor he said the arm was OK but come back tomorrow and we will take an X-ray. And so we drove out to Viken again and both Gilbert and I fell into bed and slept until 4.30 am. to be continued

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The bells are ringing

There was a long hall running in the back of the house, running from the didning room to the bedroom area. In it were three cuboards with a counter top covering all three plus two knee holes. We had taken the children to see a movie, I think the name was 'The Bells are Ringing.' It was about a girl working for a telephone messaging company. Our three girls instantly became that girl. All three of them sat in that hall taking orders for a furniture company. They had discontinued order books, they had pictures of discontinued furniture, and they had a telephone they answered, (one they were allowed to disconnect from the bedroom) sounding just like the person in the movie. They took orders that were written in some foreign language. This game lasted for months. They invited all their friends to learn the things you have to know if you want to be a Bells are ringing kind of girl.

It was amazing how much language they had learned from the movie, but also how much they had learned from listening to their father talking to his customers. They knew about the range of the fabric and the difference in price. It was as much fun to listen to them 'working' as it was seeing the movie.

In the cupboards we kept all drawing and painting and craft supplies and it was constantly in use by some one of them. When our youngest, Jane, was sitting there one day, I saw a drawing of hers that was really fascinating. There were two girls, consisting of heads, and legs coming out of the heads. One girl had longer legs than the other, and those legs were folded up sideways at what was probably the knees. When I saw it I said tell, me about this drawing. Jane said 'that is me and that is Anna. Why are her legs looking like that? 'She is tired'

In the San Francisco Chronicle, on the comic page, was a Jr Art Contest. I sent in the drawing. Jane was three at the time. I didn't want Anna to be teased by her friends, so I titled the drawing 'Me and my tired sister. About a week later there was Janes drawing in the paper. She had won two dollars and her name in print. We waited and waited for her price money to arrive in the mail. Finally one day there it was. I said Jane your money has arrived and I gave her the envelope. She tore it open. And then she cried. 'I wanted pennies' I tried my best to assure her that I could change the check into pennies.