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21 Sep 2009

What I Learned From My Grandparents: My Grandparents Came From Sweden...

My grandparents came from Sweden. As both my parents worked full time, I was practically brought up by them. They were Lutheran; she (Hulda) very much so, he (Nils) not so much. But they were still both very Heathen by American standards. Standard fare for bedtime stories was Grimms’ Fairy Tales – Copyright MCMXLV Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. (I still have the book), along with stories about Trolls, Giants, and the Gods. They still spoke Swedish and delighted in teaching me, an only child at the time.

I can very clearly remember a picture in my farmor’s (grandmother in Swedish) bedroom of a naked boy and girl on a beach with a sunrise/sunset in the background. There was also a picture of my grandfather’s (farfar) mother in his room (the kind that always seemed to be looking at you no matter where in the room you were). I was told she died the day I was born…

Of course we had all traditional food at Jul: sylta (jellied pork – sometimes referred to as “head cheese”) inlagd sill (pickled herring), and gröt, (rice porridge with an almond in it for the someone who would get married the coming year). Of course, there was always köttbullar, (Swedish meatballs). One of my most important memories was of when Hulda would bring me outside on Jul eve to offer gröt for the tomten, our land spirits.

By the way, to be clear, this was in the 1950s, just to put things in perspective. Growing up I wanted so much to understand the beliefs of my ancestors, it took me a long time to realize a lot of what I was looking for was right under my nose – the same nose they rubbed with butter on my birthdays to help me grow…

Story by Valbjorn Anderson

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