Well it's time to happily reveal another painting in the Common Ground series - "Prairie Rosemaling", a 12x12 coffee-colour of my late Grandmother. There is a specific memory that I'd like to pair with the painting... let me take you back to the 90's for a moment.
"We opened our playhouse door, and there she was standing outside with a basketful of doilies, teacups... assorted trinkets. The dim wooden room was soon decorated with Scandinavian featured knick-knacks. My favourite was a blue wooden spoon that hung on the wall; it was hand-painted with bright rosemaling details.
Being busy little girls, I’m sure we never truly appreciated the moment as it went by. As I remember it now, I like to imagine Grandma taking the time and picking out each little piece she was going to surprise us with. Looking at small ornaments like these are like peeking in the window of a 1927 Norwegian girl’s dreams.
It wasn’t until sometime in my teens that I even realized that my Grandma had an accent (as pointed out by one of my friends). Somehow her world, almost 4,000 miles away - was our world too."
I also wrote the following tribute to her on the day after her passing. I find it so fascinating and really - so vital to our country; the way people from different backgrounds can come together and bring the best of their culture to the table.
In my corner kitchen cupboard there sits a medium sized, plastic, and jadeite green heartache.
For most of its days, the Tupperware piece has been known as something far less pointed… it’s a bowl. Today it is more. Much more.
My Grandma passed away yesterday morning.
The sting from those words is an unfamiliar feeling for me. At almost 32 years old I have been amazingly blessed to still have all four of my Grandparents living. I have tried to offer comforting words for many of my friends who are experiencing this kind of loss, but until now, I haven’t really faced it. She was always a phone call or a car-trip away. I’ve been able to see my children storing up their own memories of my grandparents… I am truly grateful.
Hours are passing and my mind is racing, there is so much to take in. My heart is grieving for my sweet Grandpa; who has just held his bride’s face in his hands, for the last time. For my dad, and his sisters - who are utterly heart-broken but have to courageously walk forward… when it feels like time should stand still. I hear an old song in the background of my mind… “The family chain has now been broken. The missing links are safe I know. I pray we’ll all be joined together in that city built of gold”. I’m pacing around trying to round up memories, as though they need to be gathered before they flee away and I can’t recover them. I need to make supper for the kids, so I robotically start setting the table. And then I open my cupboard.
And there she is.
There is a sudden flood of memories. They didn’t come because I was expecting them… they didn’t come from a carefully preserved keepsake, or even a photograph. No, these memories have manifested perfectly through an unassuming little green basin.
Anyone who knew my Grandma Inga would know that in her house, baking happened. So much BAKING. HAPPENED. Grandma was a master in the kitchen. Her recipes always seemed straight forward; simple ingredients, meat-and-potatoes kind of cooking… but nobody could do it like she could. I’m confident that all of my cousins can attest to eating way more pancakes than normally acceptable, because you’d never tasted anything so glorious in your entire life. Grandma bravely travelled to Canada from her home in Norway when she was a young woman – and brought delicious Norwegian recipes with her. She was proud of her heritage and would always flash a smile when we kids would try to correctly say “tussen takk” for the krumkake, or the hardanger lefse… a few of the staples that were steadily available upon visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.To this day I can’t wrap my head around how Grandma always had baking. She would pre-bake all the time, and then neatly store containers in her deep-freeze. But how it never ran out – as a mother trying to provide baking now myself, I can’t understand how she kept up. Not only did she treat you whenever you stopped by, she always kept a pristinely clean house, even in the dust of the farm. Obviously Grandma worked extremely hard, and endured circumstances far more difficult than I have even come close to experiencing. Surely there were times when she didn’t have something that she wanted to serve… but I have no memories of that. I hear “I love you”, loud and clear through the re-purposed ice-cream and margarine containers full of boiled-raisin cookies, that she noted ‘the kids like’.
I smile to think of how many times I sat in Grandma’s kitchen; at a small wooden table set with plates of cookies, numerous jars of homemade jams, full glasses of whole milk. I remember seeing this pale little green bowl in the background, set-aside on the cupboard, sometimes with a lid in the fridge… an easy-grab accessory that was part of our beloved ‘pancakes-for-supper’ kind of days.
I am struggling as I write the words “was”… and, “did”… knowing that those days are behind me. I so much want them to say “do”… and, “does”… and, “now”.
I took ownership of this little bowl as Grandma and Grandpa were cleaning up the trailer that they lived in for many summers on the farm. All of these things were set out so that we could take them and make use of them if we wanted… I happened to see it at the last minute once when I was leaving and grabbed it… I confess I didn’t think a lot about it at the time. It is just a bowl. But today you might understand why it’s not just a bowl.
It has faint scratch marks on the inside… from spoons, whisks, mixers. I hold it in my hands and allow myself to feel her care and her quirks, her love and her determination.
My hands can carve along the marks in the bowl, just as her hands did. I know it’s a small thing… but to me, my hands are holding a reflection of what’s in my heart. The marks left behind are the most precious part. They are not a “thing” that can be bought or sold, and now Grandma won’t be adding any more of them with her hands. But I’ll be adding them with mine.
I will always remember you and love you, Grandma. I look forward to the memories of you that are going to catch me off guard and make me cry. I saw you baking when it didn't make sense to me. When you were so tired and weak, in so much pain. You tried to keep your freezer ready with treats… it was your thing. On the day you left us I found myself baking raisin cookies that evening. It didn't make sense to be doing that. Sometimes I couldn't see what I was doing for the tears filling my eyes. Pouring the ingredients into my little green companion made me feel like I have a treasure that you would have liked for me to have. Thank you for showing your love the way you knew how.