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.


  1. Hi Cindy, Just stopping by from Geneabloggers (and the MIITY team) to say hello. I read your interview and so many of your thoughts hit home with me, in particular the advice not to need or expect thanks for the work we do as family historians. Fortunately, I do get thanked now and then, but if I NEEDED to be thanked, I'd be disappointed a lot. I'm glad to have found your blog.

  2. Hi Cindy, I came across your blog from Geneabloggers too. I started blogging for the same reasons as you. I kept finding so many cool things that I just wanted to share about my ancestors. I look forward to reading about your family.