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 Esther's Memories


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Memories of Mother

By Esther Christiansen Burt
April 1997

Esther Christiansen Burt

Esther Christiansen Burt

Father died when I was two and one half years old. I was the baby girl at that time so mother and I were always very close. I do not remember my father. I have been told he was very loving and fun to be around. He loved music and dancing. I am certain that his influence has been felt by me as I love music and dancing also.

My grandmother Bestemor lived with us as I was growing up. She only spoke the Norwegian language. In order to communicate with her I had to learn Norwegian. I am grateful for this knowledge as it has helped me many times during my life, especially when I had the opportunity to visit relatives in Norway. I loved Bestemor and enjoyed the times she visited in our home.

Mother was a great planner and organizer. She was both mother and father to me as I was growing up. She was never idle. She knitted, crocheted, and sewed beautifully. She made most of my clothes. I remember when I was a child wearing panni waists and bloomers made from empty flour sacks. Everyone had to help with expenses in one way or another. Wally sold bakery goods. Simon wanted a bicycle so he sold Liberty Magazines. I was always recruited to help it seems.

Mother sold apple pies to Bishop Casper Fetzer’s wife. One evening I went with Mother to deliver pies to Mrs. Fetzer. As we approached her home, Mrs. Fetzer and her sister were standing on the street corner as though they were waiting for the electric street car to pick them up. A street car approached and stopped to let the two women board. When Mother saw it coming she had me run ahead to ask them where we should put the pies. I ran in front of the street car when it stopped. The women did not get on board so the motorman started the street car moving. I was just in front of the trolley when it started to move. It had a cowcatcher on front that I jumped onto and tried to work my way to one side so I could jump clear. Mother screamed so loud that the motorman stopped the car enabling me to get off. I am very happy that Mother was able to scream loud enough to get the attention of the motorman. I am certain that the action taken by Mother saved my life. I was surprised that Mother could be heard as she never screamed or yelled at home.

Mother had to be frugal, and she spent her money wisely. One day a girl friend and I made some fudge. Mother came home while we were cooking and asked what we had used to make the fudge. Jokingly, I told her six eggs! She replied “Sax aggs, are you goofy girls?” All of us had a good laugh when I told her it was a joke.

I remember many times coming home from school to smell the wonderful aroma of freshly baked homemade bread and a pot of kjott suppa (vegetable beef soup) cooking on the stove. Sometimes it would be fish soup or stew of some kind. Even on her sparse income, we always had good nourishing meals. Her homemade bread was enjoyed by everyone.

When we went to school we always packed a lunch. One day as I was eating a sandwich of boiled beef tongue and goat cheese, a teacher heard me complain about it. She saw what I was eating and asked if she could buy the sandwich from me. She enjoyed the sandwich so much that she asked if my mother would sell her some of this wonderful bread. Whenever Mother baked, she would send a fresh loaf of bread with me to sell to the teacher.

I wanted to take piano lessons so she made a deal with a neighbor Mrs. Clayton to give me lessons. As payment for the the lessons she baked bread and sewed quilts in exchange for them.

Mother made stacks of flat brød, which she usually always had on hand and willingly shared with others. My children remember the lefse she always made for our Christmas parties. I would help her “gneck” the lefse and bake it, but I never rolled it out. I never realized how hard it was to make flat brød and lefse until I had to start rolling the dough out myself after Mother passed away. I have never made the effort to bake lefse by myself as it is a lot of hard work.

Mother always carried out the traditions of a Scandinavian Christmas. In November or about the first part of December, she bought dried cod fish from Norway. This fish had to be softened and prepared prior to cooking, and it took about three weeks to complete the process. It was first placed in a crock to soak in lye water, then a period of fresh water, then a period of salt water, and then a final soaking in fresh water. During the fresh water treatment, the water was changed each day. When it was finally finished it was a beautiful white and soft fish ready for cooking, and Mother called it Lutefisk. This fish was always cooked on Christmas Eve and became a family tradition.

When we were kids Christmas was the most exciting time of the year. Santa always came to our house on Christmas Eve. Mother would buy the Christmas tree on that day, and we would decorate it. After the traditional dinner of lute fisk, Mother turned off all the lights in the house except for the Christmas tree, and we would all hide behind the furniture in hopes that Santa would show up. It never failed, Santa Claus would first peek through the front window to see who was about. Not seeing anyone, he would carefully enter through the front door and leave gifts under the tree for the everyone in the family. After he left we would come out of hiding and open our presents. We were the envy of the neighborhood as we always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, and we were lucky enough to see Santa. We could stay up that night as long as we wanted. We never took down the tree until after Simon’s and my birthdays. Christmas time is among the fondest memories of my childhood and of Mother. I have carried on this tradition with my own family whenever possible.

Mother enjoyed skiing and would take every opportunity to go along with family members. I shall never forget the first trip I took with Mother to Park City. The Park Mining Company kept the road open to the Silver King Mine during the winter. The service station attendant at the mouth of Thaynes Canyon would drive us to the mine and then return to the station. We then attached seal skins to the bottom of our skis, and we spent the rest of the day climbing up to the summit of Thaynes Canyon. It began to snow very heavily as we approached the summit, and I wondered how we would ever find our way down the canyon for five miles to the service station. Mother volunteered to go first and break the trail. She had a method to her thinking as she knew that the deep snow would retard her speed going down. If she got going too fast, she would use her hickory ski pole as a brake to slow her down. The more the trail was packed down by skiers, the faster you went. It was a very harrowing experience for me as this was my first trip. I was not too certain that I would ever make it back to the service station. Mother had no fear or problem skiing down. It was an unforgettable experience for me.

Mother had many night jobs while we were young. I now understand why many times she took Simon and me along with her to work. She taught us how to work, but she knew where we were if we were with her, and she had no need to worry about us.

Mother had a unique sense of humor and the ability to laugh at herself. When Mother returned from her mission to Nauvoo, we took a job cleaning the offices of Christiansen Brothers. As we worked along we made great plans about how we were going to use the money we earned. We would plan trips to Norway, and then figure out how long it would take to earn our passage. We laughed a lot as we planned, and we had a lot of fun working together.

Fishing was Mother’s joy. Harold and Helen took Mother and me along to Island Park several times fishing. She was a champion fisherman with the biggest and the first fish to be caught each day. She was a great sport and fun to be with.

I loved Mother and I am grateful to her for accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for her desire to come to America. She lived Christ’s teachings and principles always. Her Christ-like example of love and caring for others has helped me throughout my life.

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