This was inspired by another blogger, Fran Haley, who wrote a beautiful poem about her two grandmothers and how they shaped her.  As I read it, I was struck by how few times I had seen my paternal grandmother (what with that pesky ocean between us), but how, nonetheless, I felt her presence throughout my life.  Every Christmas Farmor (literally father’s mother in Swedish)  sent Sweden to us in a package:  a dagboken for my father (a mini calendar/almanac that was like my father’s smartphone and mini-diary for 45 years),  a tube of kaviar paste, a jar of lingonberries, assorted straw ornaments for our tree, and other items that now elude me.

First meeting: There’s a photo of me as a newborn, surrounded by the women who would shape my life: my mom, her mother, her mother’s mother, my sister, my aunt, my dad (looking a bit uncomfortable as the only other male) and his mother, who I knew as Farmor.  I do not remember that moment.


Second Meeting: At age five, I visited Sweden for the first time and met my farmor Jane for the first time that I can actually remember. We rode the elevator with the accordion door up to her apartment, the apartment where my father had grown up. She served us Swedish pancakes with lingonberries.  

Third Meeting: At age ten, I returned to Sweden in December.   We rode the elevator with the accordion door and stayed in Farmor’s apartment. We were there for my farfar’s big award. They lived apart.  I took off my shoes, pretending her long hallway to the kitchen was a hockey rink.  We celebrated Santa Lucia and Christmas, the Swedish way, with a Jul Tomte bearing the gifts.  She served us Swedish pancakes with lingonberries.

Fourth Meeting: At age 25, I took my bride to Sweden in June.  We rode the elevator with the accordion door up to farmor’s apartment.   We struggled to keep up as she led us to market through the streets of Stockholm.  “She should meet my mom. They’d be the two speedy Janes,” my wife remarked. Farmor served us sherry in the evening, cow’s tongue and drag peas at lunch, and for dessert, Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. 

Fifth Meeting: At age 83, my farmor visited us in our first house.  She took the steep steps up to our front door. She met her fellow Jane. She brought Swedish “cigars”  for our crazy dog to chew.  And for us, Swedish pancake mix and lingonberries.

Last Meeting: At age 40, I brought my family of four to Sweden in June.  We squeezed onto the bench and rode the elevator with the accordion door.  For the first and only time, Farmor Jane, now 95,  met the great granddaughter who shared her name.  We looked at old photos and took a new picture on her balcony. She handed me a present for our crazy and now-very-old dog, more “cigars.”  And for the last time, she made us Swedish pancakes with lingonberries.

Last week Nancy ordered dried Lingonberries from a mail order place called the Great Northwest. They were bitter and sweet.

7 thoughts on “Farmor

  1. Bitter and sweet.
    What a perfect ending- and overall structure. I liked the rhythm and repetition. The accordion door and pancakes made it feel playful. But in between, the significance of these moments came through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your story, the circle of life, left me sad and yet happy for the power of memories to be strong even with the ocean making the distance great. The mention of pancakes and lingonberries that string through your story seems to make it continue…into a future that looks different but is still impacted by your farmor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful trip down memory lane – meeting the women that shaped you. The photographs wonderful. I can just imagine you and Nancy working to keep up in the streets of Stockholm. I am left most curious about lingonberries. And yes, three words, bitter and sweet, perfect ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How magnificently you thread images – recurring motifs – throughout this narrative that anchors you to Farmor. From sending you “Sweden in a package” at Christmas to the last meal of pancakes and ligonberries, her love and influence were there, constant. Like the ligonberry itself, evergreen. What a delicious slice of your heritage. I savored it. Those photos are wonderful -I’m struck by your father’s youth, as well your mention of the “now-very-old dog” who was also the recipient of Farmor’s gifts. I am so glad you wrote this. Beautiful homage. I feel like Farmor would marvel at it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The mention of Swedish foods and gifts and Christmas ornaments is so connected to my own grandmother and mother that I felt, for a moment, that I was living inside your slice. Lingonberries and Swedish pancakes are one of our favorite family treats! We love lingon with Swedish meatballs too! Have you been to the Scandinavian store in Norwalk? They carry so many of the items you mention here. And regarding the writing – the repetition (same food and elevator) over time as you and your family grow and change – so effective!

    Liked by 1 person

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