My memories of Grandma Christiansen are very warm and happy. She was such a positive person and has been a source of inspiration to me many times in my life. I still think of her and all that she endured with such spirit and courage, never losing her sense of humor, and always able to see some sunshine in the gloomiest of situations.
I remember as a small child staying with her overnight and sleeping in the same bed with her. She would tell me stories of her girlhood in Norway. She told how she went to a boarding school during the winter, because it was too far and too difficult to return home each day. She would also tell me stories of how in the winter when people died they could not bury them until spring and would keep them in a storage shed. I had a somewhat morbid curiosity about death and so I would encourage her to tell me more details. Long after she would go asleep, I would lie there in the dark, unable to go to sleep because I was too frightened, thinking about all those bodies just lying around all winter. She knew I was concerned about dying and she would often joke with me that when she died she would come back and tell me all about it so that I wouldn't have to worry anymore. I've been waiting for her visit quite a few years now, but have not received one. Knowing Grandma, she's probably been too busy. She was always a hard worker.
I treasure the many times when she came to visit and she and my mother would get to laughing. She was a lady who really knew how to laugh until the tears would stream down her face. The two of them would sit at the table and kind of sway in a circle as the laughter pealed forth. I don't think I have heard my mother laugh like that since Grandma passed away. We children would look in wonder and try to figure out just what was so funny.
When Grandma had her unhappy separation from O. B. Turner, she came to live with us in that little house on Atkin Ave. We only had two bedrooms and so she slept in our bedroom with Carolyn, my younger sister, and the rest of us slept outdoors all summer on this big feather bed in the backyard, covered with a canvas, in case of rain. We loved it and were so happy Grandma was there and we could sleep under the stars every single night. Even though she must have been extremely unhappy, she managed to present a happy face for us kids. I recall one extremely hot day, we girls were taking a shower bath in the sprinklers in the back yard. Pretty soon, grandma appeared, with her slacks rolled up past her knees and joined us in the sprinklers. We all had a great time playing in the water and getting completely soaked. It's a great memory.
Grandma liked to use the new slang expressions, however she never seemed to get them quite right. For instance she once referred to something as a, "real ding hammer," instead of a "hum dinger.11 We all had a good laugh over that, but ever after, we all used "ding hammer.,, I recall visiting grandma at I & M furniture where she was demonstrating "DESTEX rug cleaner. She was really great and convincing. People really would stand around and listen to her. We had DESTEX around the house for years. We were convinced it was the greatest product ever for rug cleaning.
When my daughter, Stephanie was born in September of 1962, Grandma was so excited to come down to bring the sweater she had made for her. She had called my mother the day after I came home from the hospital to drive her down to our home on Highland Drive. She was concerned because this was a sweater set that she had crocheted rather knit in the usual Norwegian style and she was worried that I might be disappointed. She had managed to knit a sweater for each of the great grandchildren. I assured her that I loved it. It would be the last sweater Grandma would make for a great grandchild. My two younger daughters wore that little white sweater and it is still a treasured item in my cedar chest. I am currently waiting for one of my daughters to have a baby girl so I can pass it on to them.
If Grandma had one element of pride, it probably was in her knitting ability. Her speed and her fine workmanship were truly remarkable. She spent many a day at our house knitting with my mother, who also shared her love of knitting. They were both so excited when they learned how to knit on the circle needles and produce those great Norwegian patterns without any seams. The number of sweaters that she produced in one year was mind boggling. She could actually knit one sweater within a week when she really put her mind to it. We all thought that perhaps she was working too hard on her projects. However, I am sure that many of those sweaters are still being worn and enjoyed by a large number of friends and family.
I loved Grandma and her jolly ways. She was fun to be with. She and Arthur Lawrence lived downstairs while they were awaiting their duplex to be finished. She often came upstairs to visit. She also loved the sunflower seeds that my dad always had on hand in the kitchen. She would munch happily away and I could hear her teeth click. For no particular reason she would start to sing a song and she would take you by the hands and start to dance with you around the room. Being with her could always cheer you up.
Grandma’s other passion, beside knitting, was fishing. She loved everything about it. Most summers we always had at least one fishing trip to Yellowstone Park and we always took Grandma. Fishing was really in her Norwegian blood. She loved getting up at the crack of dawn and heading down to the lake; she even seemed to enjoy baiting her hook and spitting on it for luck. I can still see her casting out her line to wait for that first big one to bite. She never seemed to mind the cold or worry about rough water. Catching fish was worth any danger or discomfort. The only thing equal in importance to catching fish was eating fish. She would eat it every day of the trip and never seemed to tire of it. If we didn't finish all the fish prepared for dinner, she would eat it cold for breakfast. I have a particularly fond memory fishing with her on Fishing Bridge on the opening day of the season and actually pulling in a fish. She really got excited because the rest of the year you could never catch anything from the Bridge. Now of course it is closed to fishing permanently, but we still have the great memories.
Though the years have passed, I still think of her often. When I get discouraged I remember her courage and dignity in the face of hardship and trials. I remember her laughter and I smile.
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