Our grandmother was mormor, although we never called her that. We called her grandma. But mormor is Swedish for mother’s mother and that’s what she was, our mother’s mother.
I can see her vividly in my mind. But she died in 1952 when I was only 4 years old and in my memories I can only faintly hear her voice.I wish it were stronger.
Grandma had come from Sweden to America as a teenager and settled in Chicago where she met and married our grandfather, who had immigrated from Norway at about the same time, all before the turn of the 20th century. Today we hardly let teenagers venture to the next town. But our grandparents as teenagers ventured on their own to a new world which at the same time must have seemed strange and magical to them.
As kids we were fortunate to grow up around these immgrants who spoke with Swedish and Norwegian accents, who talked about the “old country” where they were born but loved this “new land” of opportunity. I can hear them in my head, talking half in Swedish, half in English and laughing so loud, always laughing. You have to be an optimist to leave one world and venture to another.
Too few people today have had the opportunity to know their immigrant family, to understand the hardships they went through to get here and how they struggled to survive and how much they loved America.
I think about this grandmother on the Fourth of July because she always said on this date that the summer was nearly over. I don’t think she meant it as “the glass is half empty.” I think she was reminding all of us it was time to do what we had planned with our summer before it all too quickly faded away. She was telling us “the glass is still half full. Don’t let it sit.”
Those Swedes and Norwegians cherished their summers. They were born and grew up in a country of long, cold, dark winters, where the arrival of summer was and is a celebration: Midsommar Dag, a time of dancing around maypoles and dreams of the future. We were in Sweden on Midsommar Dag about 15 years ago. The only place open where we could get dinner on the national holiday was a Chinese Restaurant. The first day of summer should be a holiday, nationwide.
This Fourth of July weekend I talked about with my mother who is in nursing care with dementia. Her eyes lit up when I mentioned her childhood dog Queenie and she remembered getting lost one summer and being found with Queenie at her side for protection. She remembered the summer she left her roller skates on the street one night and how her father picked them up and put them away but didn’t tell her until she confessed what she’d done. She remembered the smell of bread baking every day in the hot kitchen and the aroma of fresh coffee in the pot. At nearly 91 years old she remembers her summers. They’re just yesterday to her now.
Summer actually is about half over on the Fourth of July, so we should all make sure to use the remaining days for something other than work and the rush and rumble of modern life. We like to think about Old Fashioned Fourths. I think in days past people just understood how to enjoy the simple, unimportant things of summer.
Have a cookout, a picknic, a family reunion. Take a child fishing. Listen to the sound of a wooden porch door slamming and watch fireflies sparkle like diamonds in the black of night. Look at the stars and the moon. Lie in the grass and watch the clouds. Go to a lake or an ocean beach. Listen to the sound of a lone boat cutting through the water in the early morning. Listen for a loon. Sit on a porch with friends and talk about nothing important. Listen to frogs. Play fetch with a dog.
Go to the community baseball field and watch the kids. Swat mosquitoes. Get up very early in the morning when the day is still fresh and take a walk. Smell flowers. Hike in the woods. Ride in a convertable. Drink lemonade. Float down a river. Eat sweetcorn and watermelon. Smell the newly mowed grass. Climb a tree. Listen to birds. Eat ice cream cones with the kids and don’t care when it drips on their clothes. Watch a hummingbird do its work. Sit on the porch and watch an evening thunderstorm cool the air and light the sky. Swing on a swingset. Relax.
There are so many unimportant things left to do this summer, and so little time.