Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year--Our Mother Goose Tradition

My grandmother, Edith LoRene Thompson Harward had a New Year's Mother Goose tradition which she passed on to her family. Grandma kept this tradition alive by having each member of the family put one shoe on the inside of her front door on New Year's Eve. On New Year's morning, participants found their shoe filled with candy, a small game, money or some other small gift given by the illusive Mother Goose.

For many years I assumed this tradition came from Grandma's Danish family not remembering she was also part Scottish.

Over the many past decades homes in south central Utah have been visited on New Year's eve by Mother Goose. The early stories of the area, many of whom came from immigrants of the British Isles particularly Scotland, were brought to the United States with them--including those of the new year customs.

Our family's Mother Goose custom shares a few similarities to the Scottish holiday of Hogmanay celebrated on December 31. The "shoe by the door" tradition was also celebrated by the Greek Orthodox religion, and a St. Nick's Day is celebrated in the Netherlands and Germany with gifts being placed in children's shoes. 

Here in the United States some people of other nationalities have taken on this custom as the children saw their neighbor's children visited by Mother Goose.

Mother Goose is described as a bearer of good cheer who leaves a small gift and edibles for the children while they slept. In older times, children received bananas and oranges which were special treats for the time as well as a simple gift. These were often hidden around the home in dressers, etc. The gifts were also put into Christmas stockings, favorite bowls or shoes. Some families even spread feathers around their doors to make it seem to the children as though she had really visited their home.

My children have continued this Mother Goose tradition, and it is still interesting to learn about it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time for Entertainment

July 2013
During the summer of 2013 my husband and I were preparing for our annual family camp out. This included our children and their spouses and our 10 grand children. At this same time, I was heavily involved in writing a book about my mother's family who had lived high in the mountains of Sevier County, Utah the tiny, secluded town of Burrville.

My great grandparents Parley and Hattie Anderson had a large family of 10 children with the majority of them being very musically inclined. From my research I learned that in the early 1900s families often gathered together most evenings to read, sing and tell stories. 

Just like many others, after dinner, my Anderson family grouped around their piano and sang accompanied not only by the piano but by violin and guitar. Even much later the family loaded a piano on the back of a trailer and transported it to family reunions.

The Anderson children cir. 1968
Front: Dean, Dee
Back: Vera, Madge, Leda, Lavell, Veoma, Rae
Note the piano in back

This gave me the idea to share the Anderson's story with my children and grandchildren during our camp out. I made enough musical instruments for each child and gave them the opportunity to march around the campfire playing their makeshift instruments. I hope this experience helped the Anderson family become more real to them.

After this experience, I continued to look for times when my ancestors made their own entertainment whether in their families or their communities.

I noted my paternal grandfather Kendrick Harward was active in his high school drama department and played several characters in different productions.

Kendrick Harward on far left
North Sevier High School, Salina, Utah 1930

My maternal grandmother, Vera Anderson Anderson was active musically while in school. She wrote in her autobiography, "In the eighth grade I started to sing with Larell Helquist a guy in Koosharem who was a year older than I.  At one time we were planning a dance benefit for the school. We were going to get out of school to make a lot of pies to be sold at the benefit. One teacher wouldn’t let us out to make the pies so we left anyway and got kicked out of school. I was scared to tell my parents and when I did my dad was angry with me. At that same time, I was in the school play The Indian Love Call. They got another girl to take my place in the play, but Larell wouldn’t sing without me, so they had to put me and the rest of the girls back in school."

My father played in a dance band while in high school in the 1950s. Later in his life, he gathered those of us in the family who could play instruments and we played some fun old songs.

                                     Gaylord Harward bottom left, 1954                                 Gaylord Harward in middle playing tenor saxophone, 1999                                                                                                                                       

In years gone by, homemade entertainment seemed to help keep the families of my ancestors close and connected. I suspect today we could learn much from former generations from the ways they found to entertain themselves. I plan to continue their traditions.

Friday, December 5, 2014

When It Used to Snow

Our recent warm December weather here in Utah has reminded me about interviews I have done with some older people. When they spoke of the winters of their childhoods, most said, ". . . that was back in the day when it used to snow." I sometimes wonder about the days when it used to snow.

My mother, Pauline Anderson Harward, grew up in Koosharem, Utah, near Fish Lake and 6,914 feet above sea level. I know the Fish Lake area can get lots of snow some years and almost none in others. But I am unsure if the area receives as much snow now as in the 1950s, 1940s or earlier.

My mom spoke of the Koosharem winters when she was growing up and said, "During the winter months in Koosharem, we were often snowed in. At night Dad would lay on the floor and want us to tickle him and comb his hair. Mother would lie on the couch and listen to him tell us stories. We could hear the wind blowing outside, but it was cozy in there with our family." These few short sentences present a wonderful scene for my mind.

In the winter months, my grandma often made what was called Million Dollar Fudge. She usually shared some with the family and put the rest in her freezer. On cold winter nights Grandpa often said to one of his children, "Go get the fudge out of the freezer."

When I was a child, we all ate Grandma's good homemade candy, and I am sure most of Grandpa's granddaughters spent a lot of time tickling his arms and combing his hair. He even allowed us to put pink and green rollers in his hair just so we would comb it. 

I remember the smell of the Brylcreem in his hair, and I did not like the feel of it on my fingers, but Grandpa liked the attention so I continued.

Even if it doesn't snow today as it used to, maybe every family should keep some fudge in the freezer. And if Grandpa still has hair, put in a few curlers along with a good arm tickling. Family's today might be all the better for it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Evening in Koosharem, Utah

Anderson home in Koosharem, Utah

A short time before my maternal grandmother Vera Anderson Anderson Poole died, my mother sat down with her and tried to reminisce. Grandma was in an advanced stage of dementia and had suffered blindness for almost 20 years.

Vera Anderson Anderson Poole

At that point of her life, time meant nothing to Grandma. Her mind was unclear about many things and her thoughts always seemed jumbled. The way she heard life around her was never as it really was. But on this day with my mother, she spoke very vividly of what she thought she had actually experienced--going home to Koosharem, Utah where she had lived for many years. 

As Grandma reminisced, her thoughts seemed so clear that Mom could not help but be transported back in time with her. Of course, Grandma's memories were really only as a dream, but my mother was so touched that she went home and wrote down what Grandma had related to her. 

Back of the house my mother and grandmother lived in Koosharem, Utah

My mother wrote, "Mom said she went home to Koosharem. She parked down the back lane so no one would see her. It was just getting dusk. She went to the back of the house--to the porch and walked in.

'It felt so good to be home again,' she said. She went into her bedroom, opened the side door and sat down on the vanity stool.

As evening was coming on, she could hear the robins and birds preparing for the night. The turkeys in the field were quieting down, and then she could feel the cool breeze and smell of the reservoir a ways off.

She said she climbed into bed and stayed there for three days. No one bothered her, and she rested and was at peace."  Mom asked her, "What did you eat?" Grandma said,  "I had brought a little with me."

After returning to her home, my mother looked at old photos of her home and wrote, "So as I've looked at the house, I can envision this happening. I can remember her there and recall the way she could always make things homey and the love and care she gave to each of us. I am so grateful she is my Mom."

My grandma has been gone for about 12 years now. Since she was blind for so many years, I greatly cherish how she envisioned her former home and the way she explained the smells and sounds coming from her out-of-doors. I suppose now she really is home.

Thank you Grandma for sharing!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Long Line of Finnish Vicars

Nagu church in Nagu, Finland
built in the 13th century

Sometimes as I look at the faces and life histories of my ancestors, I wonder if I am anything like them. Do my physical features resemble them in any way? I question whether any had similar thoughts, strong feelings or desires as I do.

My great grandfather, Parley Anderson was born in Ephraim, Utah in 1876. He was the son of Andrew Ole Anderson and Johanna Henrietta Stormfeldt both of whom were born in Sweden. Parley's early life was heavily influenced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While he was probably a very good man, Parley did not seem to have a need for religion in his life. 

Looking at him as an outsider, I think Parley's forebears were different from him. His mother Johanna's ancestral line began with the births of her parents both in Sweden and continued back a few more generations there. Johanna's great grandfather, Axel Fredrick Salonius was born in Abo, Turku-Pori, Finland and his ancestry extended in Finland for many generations. 

In Sweden, Axel chose to work as a captain of small fishing vessels. Axel's father Erich Gustafsson Salonius was a tax assesor in Turku-Pori, Finland. But from Erich on back many generations, this paternal line chose to be vicars and priests in the Lutheran church of Finland. 

Erich's father Gustaf Ericksson Salonius was ordained as a priest of the Turku diocese on May 26, 1693. At that time, Finland was part of the Swedish empire and was at war with Russia and Poland. In 1713 Gustaf and other priests fled to Sweden after Russia won the war and took control of Finland. Gustaf was able to return to Finland and his ministry in 1722 and served as a priest until his death in 1737. I could go back further on the Salonius line but won't at this writing.

Martin Luther

Axel's mother, Hedvig Magdalena Wittfooth, is a direct descendant of Martin Luther, the sixteenth-century German religious leader who had been a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. He later became the founder of Protestantism and began the Reformation by posting his Ninety-five Theses, which attacked the Catholic church for allowing the sale of indulgences.

I am amazed at the courage and faith of so many in my family line, and while my physical body may not resemble those of my Finnish or German ancestors, I too need religion in my life. I have faith in my Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ and this gives me the hope that after the last chapter of my earthly book is closed, I can meet all of the wonderful people who are the reason I live today.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Our Dust

I am so lucky during this phase of my life to be to able to spend time looking at the lives of my ancestors and gathering information about them. 

Earlier in my life I was really busy with my five children, a job, some church obligations, my husband and his job and church responsibilities--the list could go on. 

Each and every day there were always those tedious chores at home which had to be accomplished like vacuuming, dusting and sweeping. Often as I worked at these mundane chores, I would daydream I was vacuuming up the the happenings of the previous day. Then of course I put the dust in the garbage can. Now I wonder if I should have saved some of that dust so that it could be a part of my family's history. 

That dust could be an essay assignment given to a student to write about a grandma. A school custodian once gave one of these she found in the trash to my mother. It was an essay written by my daughter about her grandma--my mother, then tossed away after she had received her grade.

The dust could also be a note written by a great grandmother at the birth of a new great grand child.

Dust may also include a pocket knife given by a grandpa to his grandson as he enrolled in the Cub Scouts. Or even a picture taken of family members at a special event such as a graduation, birthday, reunion or holiday.

I have recollections of vases and cups holding dandelions so thoughtfully given by my five year old daughter. I was happy at the time to throw away that dust, but maybe I should have recorded something in my journal about the look on my daughter's face as she presented the yellow flowers to me.

Today I search for the dust so-to-speak preserved from the lives of my ancestors. Luckily some family members thought it might be valuable to a future generation.

In my repentant state, I try to teach my children and grandchildren about the importance of their own families and those who have gone before them. Sometimes dust is just dust, but then again it might not be. It could be a puzzle piece some in our posterity will need to complete the family puzzle.

Look carefully at your dust before you throw it away!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Emma's EarthlyTreasure

For some, antique objects collected and loved are a real value, especially those which hold provenance. Once in a while I wonder what earthy things my ancestors would have considered a treasure

My family has a few items which belonged to my mother's paternal grandmother Emma Martinsen Anderson. Those items include a beautiful, ornate mirror, a claw-footed table, one of her nicer hair pins, two pieces of costume jewelry, a fancy, store-bought, blue dress [which would have been much too small for her to wear in her later years] and a few family photos--some taken in 1937 just a year before her death.

I believe if Emma could answer my question about what her treasure might be, she would preface her answer by explaining her life. No doubt she would remind me that her parents and older siblings joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Norway and traveled a great distance by sea and land to live among the LDS saints in Utah.

She might express to me her sadness and fear as both her parents died within a few weeks of each other when she was only 11 years old. She probably would try to help me understand the weight of responsibility she had for her 5 year old brother when her older siblings went out to find work to support the family.

I hope she would express happiness at her marriage to my great grandfather Andrew Anderson. I assume her heart grew a little bigger when she gave birth two years later to their first child, a daughter. What loneliness she must have felt just six weeks after the birth as she bid goodbye to Andrew as he left to serve a mission for the LDS Church and was gone for over two years.

She probably would have told of how anxious she was when she learned Andrew had contracted typhoid fever on his mission and might die. I picture her with pure joy when the Lord sent Andrew home safely to her. I would expect to see despair when just 11 months later her newborn son died. 

I suppose she would express to me the security she felt when Andrew's business became quite profitable, and they were able to move into a big, beautiful home. She likely would have been delighted to tell me about the births of three more sons and another daughter.

Emma might not have been able to express the grief she felt when her oldest daughter passed away at the young age of 15. She herself likely wondered why she could no longer go to back into her beautiful home because of the death. Her eyes might reflect the look of uncertainty she saw on her husband and children as they left their home to help her escape her grief only to camp in the out-of-doors under a bowery.

Grandma Emma might remind me that after this, she was never well, and life was very difficult for her in the years leading to her death.

So what would Grandma have saved as a treasure--something she valued highly? Probably not the blue dress. Likely she would not have said it was her costume jewelry. Pictures are nice but never take the place of the people they portray.

I think if I were to guess, Grandma would say the beautiful mirror was her treasure. Emma might explain to me how the mirror reflected her life including her daily choices and actions both good and bad. The mirror also displayed her emotions, her happiness and sorrow, as well as the faces of those she loved so much. The mirror reflected her, and I hope she knew her life was a treasure.

Today as I look into my great grandmother's mirror, I can't see Grandma or any of the events of her life. I only see my own reflection and my life is a treasure--I think she might remind me of that too.