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.