60 Years Ago Today

Sunday, 31 August 1952:

I came to quite early and realized that I had fallen asleep without putting my hair up and today is Sunday and I get to meet all my relatives. I hurriedly put it up. My Uncle and Aunt were stirring. In fact they were having coffee and cakes. I jumped in the tub and just got dressed when my Aunt brought a big breakfast to me on a beautiful silver tray with hot chocolate, open-faced sandwiches and cakes of various kinds.

I showed them some more of my pictures and we tried to exchange a few ideas. I was never quite sure they understood and I guess they felt the same way. They would go jabbering along in Swedish until my puzzled expression stopped them. It was really quite hilarious. One would say something to me in Swedish and when they saw I did not understand, another would say it over again until all three had told me in Swedish. I could usually catch one or two more words each time by this method, but my cousin would finally end up by using my dictionary. I noticed that neither Uncle Albin or Aunt Carolina would resort to it but always left Stig to this method.

I had just gone into the kitchen to see if I could help with the breakfast dishes when there came a knock on the door. My cousin Bertil had arrived. From what I had gathered it seemed he was going to take us out to where my father had lived before he came to America. They took me to the window to show me the car which apparently he owned and they were all very proud of. It was the small European car. Everyone in Sweden like other European countries ride bicycles and the number of cars is considerably less than in America.

Very soon after Bertil arrived we were ushered into the dining room. Gee, I thought we had had breakfast. It was easier to eat than argue in Swedish so we had a smorgasbord – sardines, another kind of little fish served in cans, cheese, ham sliced and cold meats plus milk and coffee. I had milk. There was also about three different kinds of bread and several kinds of cakes. After this slight repeat it seems we were ready to go. When we got downstairs and went to climb in the car, Uncle Albin and Stig had disappeared. But being so well equipped to understand the answers I got when I asked questions, I held my peace.

We circled around Lund and saw some of its most interesting spots. I took a picture of the University and we went by the Cathedral and then a park and then through an apartment section. We stopped in front of large apartment and went up a couple of flights and arrived at Bertil’s door. Inside in the kitchen sat Agda with little Bertil. The baby was having its dinner. Bertil showed me some pictures of the baby and its Momie and Daddy and gave me some to take home. Agda bundled the baby and put him in a little wooden box with handles on the ends.

Agda and Aunt Caroline held the box on the back seat and Bertil and I rode in front. On the way to Kungsbult, he had shown a map to me of where we were going. We stopped at a big castle and I took Bertil’s picture in front of it. Then through more beautiful Swedish countryside.

Finally we pulled into a lane. There were the remains of a house where my father had lived and a white barn-like building behind. I took pictures of the remains. A new home had been built to the left of it farther down the street. There were a whole crowd of people on the lawn. Guess who? Well, I spotted Uncle Bertil and Stig. I couldn’t figure out how they beat us there. But there they were. I proceeded to meet all the others.

My Uncle John looks very much like my Daddy. I haven’t seen Aunt Anna yet. We went inside and then I realized that almost everyone I had met outside were men. All the women were inside and you can’t guess what they were doing? Fixing more food! Aunt Anna seemed quite different from Aunt Carolina. After several repetitions I got everyone sorted out according to families. Olle’s wife Elsa turned out to be quite an extrovert and she proceeded to dramatize things for me when I didn’t understand. Aunt Anna’s daughter whom I had heard spoke English was very reluctant to use much of it. So conversation that I could understand was rather slow.

I showed them all my books which they took turns studying and sometimes I acted like I understood something just to keep the conversation from being stymied entirely. I fouled up when I tried to use Swedish words and mispronounced them and they tried to use English words and mispronounced them. However, there wasn’t much time to worry about things I wanted to say and couldn’t before we started eating again. The table was all set when we came in. I don’t recall looking at my watch but I guess it must have been around noon. Cause we ate.

My pictures of the family got going around the table somehow and I had to figure out how old everyone is and tell them. Which I tried to do in Swedish. All this happened after the first course which consisted of a kind of salad or something of onions and fish cut up in some kind of oil. There were various cold meats and cheeses. One kind Hertha had made. Also we had several kinds of bread, sardines and some other kinds of fish and coffee and punch and milk (for me) which Stig and Elsa joined me in. They sat on either side of me and I think they did it just so I wouldn’t feel like a non-conformist among coffee drinkers because everyone else had coffee.

Everything was delicious except the conversation which was confused. When we finished this I thought we were all through except for the dessert but this was only the beginning. Then came the main course. Fried chicken, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, salad, plus cakes and more. I was already so stuffed I could hardly eat another bite and then after really reaching the maximum they brought in a great huge cake that Hertha made covered with an inch thick with whipped cream, prunes and apricots on top of that. The cream was so thick it was dripping over the sides. This was placed before me with a big server. First piece to Elsa, then Stig. Then deciding it would be easier to pass it around, I served myself.

After dinner we looked at pictures. Most of the men played some kind of Swedish poker for a while. I saw a picture of myself when I was really little and at successive stages in the family album. Plus pictures of all my relatives and their friends. Then for a walk down the lane. They said some friends my father had probably played with when little lived next door. I took pictures of Majbritt and her boyfriend who I thought was her husband and Elsa and Aunt Anna and Carolina who all went for the walk with us.

When we returned to the house guess what? Time to eat again. This time we had more to drink and cakes. Took group pictures in the rain. Then another session of cards and pretty soon part of the group left with Bertil. I asked Hertha to show me around upstairs. I saw a spinning wheel and Rolfe’s room.

Then we had some more to eat. I had punch and more cakes. Rolfe got out his accordion and played for us. The 3rd or 4th number was On Top of Old Smokey. It was about this time I didn’t have quite so good control of myself. Cause tears started coming to my eyes for some dumb reason. I still don’t know why! I guess it could have been caused by several things. Maybe seeing my uncle who looked so much like my Daddy. Or maybe feeling so frustrated at not being able to say all the things I wanted to and ask all the questions I wanted to ask. Because there were so many things to say and so little could be said or maybe because they had all been so good to me. At any rate it got worse instead of better and by the time we left, my cousin Hertha gave me a bouquet of flowers just as we went to the car. I was quite thankful for something to hide my face in.

We returned by a different route than we had come, through Eslov, back to Aunt Carolina’s. I said goodbye to Bertil and Agda. Majbritt and her boyfriend were waiting in front of Aunt Carolina’s. I gave my bouquet to Aunt Carolina and Stig came down and we were off to Aunt Anna’s. We walked across a big dry dock and then down some stairs. We made a couple of turns one way or another and we arrived at Aunt Anna’s.

We went upstairs and through a cloak hallway and into a medium sized dining room. It was very similar to Aunt Carolina’s. We just barely sat down and Aunt Anna brought a big basket of fruit of all kinds. And then delicious punch of fruit juices and something like ginger ale. I started counting up. This would be the 6th time I had eaten in this one day. Between Majbritt and her boyfriend and our dictionaries we were able to exchange ideas quite freely much more so than at any previous time during my visit with my relatives. Aunt Anna had a family album and Majbritt had one, too. So we had a gay time looking at pictures. They got out a big atlas to see where all the places were where they had gone on vacation. Little brother came home from movie. It was some wild west deal from what I gathered. Aunt Anna kept urging me to eat more so I tied to explain that in America we only eat three times a day but this day I had eaten 6 times.

The time passed so swiftly and it was soon very late. Majbritt and Aunt Anna promised to come in the morning so that maybe we could get some good pictures. Then Majbritt and her fiance walked home with Stig and me. But we took a little jaunt across Lund before going in. We saw the big church with the clock tower and the nurses home and part of the university dormitories and the fire station where Majbritt’s boyfriend works. And the big park across from the apartment house. It was such a beautiful night after being such a miserable rainy day. It almost made up for it. By the end of the day I had collected many snapshots so in case pictures are no good I’ll have something.

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