Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Family stories – Continued

Now for my mom’s side of the family:
My mother’s mother, Clara Mathilde Morrell, “Tillie” was born and raised in Sweden. In 1891, when she was 11 years old, she came to Portland, Oregon to be an Au Pair girl for her stepsister. She finished her schooling there and the first English words she learned were taught her by her brother-in-law; “Open de door.” She stayed in Portland, working as a nanny until the age of 19, when she traveled back to Sweden to visit her family.
When she returned to America, she went to Cambridge, Minnesota to stay with relatives. I don’t know how long she stayed there, but eventually, she traveled to Lyons, Nebraska to visit her cousins.
My grandfather, Andrew (A.G.) Anderson, came to this country from Sweden in the 1870s. They farmed north of Lyons, Nebraska and he was the youngest of 9 (I think) brothers and sisters. One brother had died in Sweden. Grandpa was about 8 years old when, in January, the Blizzard of 1888 swept across this continent. It became known as the “Schoolchildren’s Blizzard” because of the sudden onset of the storm, the ferocity of it, and the time of day it hit. Many school aged children were on their way home, or stranded at school and many, sadly, perished. Grandpa was in school and if I remember right, he either stayed at school or made it to a friend’s home to wait it out. His parents had no idea where he was during that whole time, but just “trusted God to keep him safe.”
A.G. was one of the cousins Tillie came to visit and Lillie Breuer, who was there when it happened, says when they met each other, it was “love at first sight.” (Yes, they were cousins, but at that time, it was not that unusual or unseemly for cousins to marry. And all four of their children were completely normal. No albinos or anything like that.) Grandma said that the moment she walked into their house, she felt like she had come home.
They were married in 1904 and my mom, Rachel Marguerite, their youngest, was born in 1918. Mom never learned to speak Swedish as her folks never spoke it in their home, although traces of it are in our family dialect. Mom always said “Ja” for yes, tho she wouldn’t have considered it speaking Swedish. She learned to count to 10 and I remember very clearly, she and Grandma both said “oj, oj, oj” (pronounced ‘oy’) instead of the more American “uh oh,” whenever they were disgusted or dismayed with something (usually something naughty I was saying or doing). I still say, “Ja” for yes, usually without thinking about it and didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out to me.
I never knew Grandpa, except through pictures and stories as he died a few years before I was born. They farmed a couple miles north of Lyons, in the Jefferson neighborhood, and raised two daughters and two sons and then retired to a home in town.
Grandma was a very devoted Christian and said Grandpa was, too. She had her share of troubles, including a couple of nervous breakdowns, which put her in a hospital. In 1926 they took a road trip with Grandpa’s brother, Sherman, driving in a Model T to California and back. It took them six weeks.
She was one of the founders of the Jefferson Ladies’ Aid, a neighborhood group of women who met monthly for I don’t know how long – probably a century or more before they ran out of women. I like to think of them the as original MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The group was a source of friendship and moral support for all the homemakers in the neighborhood. One of the ladies, Bertha Pearson once shared this memory about the Jefferson Ladies’ Aid: Shortly after Bertha’s son, Duane, was born, she got herself ready and probably baked a batch of brownies or cookies to contribute to the lunch and set out with the horse and buggy to attend a meeting at Grandma’s. Grandma met her at the door, with a very surprised look on her face and said, “Bertha, where is the baby?!” It was only then Bertha realized she had left Duane at home, so she drove home in a panic and found him sleeping peacefully right where she had left him.
My mom was a member of the Jefferson Ladies’ Aid when she was raising her family and I remember going to meetings with her and Grandma when I was a little girl. The names of the families some back to me through a fog of time and distance: Krogers, Pearsons, Johnsons, Inager and LOTS of Andersons. The smell of coffee, minced ham sandwiches and chocolate cake can take me right back to a Jefferson neighborhood kitchen. They usually had a Bible Study or a devotional reading, probably a homemaking lesson of some kind and then they sang, my mom played piano for them. I still have some of the songbooks they used.
In her late years, Grandma suffered from ulcerated varicose veins in her legs. She was undergoing an amputation in 1962 and died on the operating table. It broke my mother’s heart because Grandma had asked her to “please don’t let them take my legs.” But the decision was left to Mom (her surviving siblings lived in Colorado and California at the time) and I know she felt it would be for the best. And anyway, it was only Grandma’s body that died – her spirit lives on with her Saviour.
Well, I see that this posting has gone completely out of control, so I’ll stop here and TRY to get on to the next generation next time.

1 comment:

LaDawn said...

Another round of great stories! I just cannot believe the hardships of those days. They were so brave and loved so strong. Keep them coming!

Oh, and look for a post all about IKEA coming soon to a blog near you!