Monday, January 31, 2011

Meet Me on Facebook

On February 1, I'm closing the doors on this blog. All new info about Live Well, family history, etc. will be posted at Live Well Letters on Facebook. See you there!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lutefisk and Lefse, Holiday Anchors

Food ties generations together. As luck would have it, our ties involve lutefisk. (If I resisted joking about lutefisk, I'd be kicked out of the society of third generation Scandinavians who keep the fish, uh, I mean faith.)

Lutefisk season begins in earnest in November. Our church has an annual dinner that, as I now know, is one of a series of options across the Twin Cities. My daughter and I volunteered at this year's fest; she waited tables and I dished up meatballs. 

To my relief, the lutefisk lacked its typical, shall we say, aroma. I'd been kvetching about it beforehand; I had to eat my words.  People in line carefully chose their lutefisk, gave precise instructions regarding melted butter or cream sauce, and merrily added meatballs. In the dining room were fruit soup, lefse, rosettes, and krumkake. One man came back to the kitchen for allspice; another showed surprise that we didn't have rutabagas. My favorite was when a white-haired gentleman leaned in and confided that he had been at another lutefisk dinner the week before. He confirmed that Bethlehem's fish was the best; theirs had been mushy.

The dinner also was a parade of sweaters.  For a knitter, this is a Superbowl of stranded colorwork, embroidered cuffs, and button bands. 

Of course, all this ties right back to Grandma Sigrid, knitter and consumer of lutefisk. In 1913, she wrote "Today is Thanksgiving Day, 27th, and we have been company to brother Knut. We had a lot of good food. It would take too long to name everything, but there was lutefisk and lefse, and that was the best of all, I thought."


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Holiday; Back in the Fall

Time to surrender to summer. Sand and sun. Reading and road trips. Gardening.

I'll return with the harvest moon to share more stories about our elders.

Until then, stay cool.  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

When the World Spins, Get Out Your Wheel

As a little kid, I made a pilgrimage to Sigrid's spinning wheel every July during the family reunion. There it stood in the corner, bits of wool still attached. I'd seen a demonstration of spinning at our elementary school, so I had an idea of how it worked. I was itching to give it a spin, so to speak.

Sigrid was famous for being the spinner in the neighborhood. Although I can't say definitively, it seems like she was one of the few who had sheep and spun yarn. In a letter from May 1899, she asked "Will you send me a pair of wool cards? I have worn mine out."

She was also a  knitter. In 1920, she wrote, "My job is mostly knitting. I gave away ten pairs of mittens for Christmas but many of them were small."

If you work with yarn, you know its magic. After a day of dealing with the dramas of life, it gives you a space to think. You ease into the rhythm and the stitches untangle your thoughts.

Sigrid's wool carders sit in my office. They're very simple, just rough wood and rows of tiny metal teeth. Like the spinning wheel, they hold decades-old wool. When I see them, I imagine Sigrid going through the process, from shearing and cleaning the fleece to knitting the yarn. And I know that she and I are connected by more than one thread.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Long Waits, Slow Connections

Our home computer gets dissed because it's too slow. People want the internet, and they want it NOW. No one wants to wait. Seconds become minutes, minutes become problems.

Sigrid was practiced at waiting. No instant messaging for her. 

In 1892, she began her letter, "Now that at last your long-awaited letter has come, I want to send you my thanks for the letter. I often wondered why Father waited so long before he sent us a letter."

A few months later, "One post day after the other has gone by without a letter from you. It appears to me that I have been written down in your forgotten book at your place. But to freshen your minds, I am sending you a few lines. It could happen that it might interest you." She ends, "I am waiting to hear from you, yes, dear Father, send us a long letter for Christmas."

Sigrid also owns up to her sporadic correspondence. In 1894: "Never before have I had you wait so long for a letter from me and I am really ashamed. I beg for your forgiveness." 

In 1901: "I guess it was too long this time before I answered you when I got your dear letter for which I thank you. It is a joy to receive a letter when all is well on both sides."

In 1904: "It surely is too long between each letter now, but it is your fault because I wrote last. I have often thought of writing, but then it gets postponed again."

Then, like now, life galloped along, making it difficult to stay connected with family.  

If only Sigrid and Lars had been on Facebook!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anna: The Valentine Birthday

In 1879, Sigrid and Tosten's first child, Anna, was born on Valentine's Day.  Anna was known for meticulous housekeeping, beautiful dishes, and the twinkle in her eyes. 

When I was a child, I loved letters. Great Aunt Anna was in her late 80s when we began writing to each other.  I'm not sure what she thought about my attempts, but I remember how exciting it was to walk up the hill to the mailbox and find one of her letters inside, addressed to me!

One summer afternoon when I was about 7, we had a coffee party for Aunt Anna, Aunt Selma, and Almeda. My favorite photo from that day shows what good sports they were:  we're all standing in front of the lilac bushes holding kittens. 

A year or so later, Anna and Almeda moved permanently from their house in Michigan, ND. Mom and I went to see them while they were sorting and packing, and I found  a treasure -- hats! Anna let me put two or three on her head to see which looked best, then said the magic words: I could pick one and take it home!

Anna and Almeda lived at the top of a long flight of stairs at 1021 Broadway in Fargo.  Inside their apartment, it was bright with sunlight and plants.  Every visitor drank coffee from a china cup, ate cookies on plates with a history.  

Twenty-one years old when the 20th century began, Anna faced the disruption and excitement of the decades with humor and grit. 

Happy Birthday Anna!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hope, Blizzards, and Christmas

Christmas blizzards are preordained in North Dakota. Travel plans must include a one- to two-day window on either end to accommodate blocked roads, cancelled flights, whiteouts.

The first winter that we lived in Minnesota, we made the trek north. WINTER STORM WARNING filled the headlines for days. Big Christmas storm will interrupt travel plans. Change your travel plans now. Why are you still thinking of travelling?

My brother, San Diego-raised husband, and I set out. Smooth sailing up I94. Clear roads on I29. Called the parents from a rest area near Harwood (pre-cellphone days). Yep, roads are good. Skies are clear. Are the meatballs in the oven?

Made the turn at Grand Forks. Still clear. Talked about how much parents worry about the weather and how great it was to live in Los Angeles and wear shorts at Christmas.

Then, POW. Complete whiteout. And I mean total. Within seconds.

Ahead we could make out faint red tail lights. OK. Follow them. Inch along. North Dakota-raised brother and I launch into anecdote trail about past blizzards. CA husband insists he can see the road. We insist he can't, because he's from CA. We all agree it's good someone is ahead of us so we can follow them.

Until those lights disappear.

Hours later, we pull into Michigan, ND. Drifts across the streets, snow horizontal against the street lights. Heads down, we run from the car to our aunt and uncle's door. Their first words: "You better call your Mother!"

This Christmas, the storm arrived after we did. Roads across the entire state were closed. Just like they were in 1896, when Knut Nelson wrote, "A few days ago we had a terrible blizzard for four days. It blew and snowed so all that time. Some people tied a string to the corner of the house so they could find their way inside again. Yes, that was the worst snowstorm I've ever seen since I came to America, and I hope I never see it again."

Hope springs eternal.

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Live Well Letters by Kristie Nelson-Neuhaus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.