My Bestemor

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That would translate to grandma in English! Josephine Marie Pederson was born in Wisconsin, but her family moved back to Norway when she was nine months old. She lived on a farm near Mo, up in Nordland, right on the Arctic Circle. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 25, eventually married my Grandpa Gustav Jacobson, and had nine children, of which my mom was #8; the first to speak English before Norwegian.

I never met my Grandma, she passed away when my mom was 25. She was born in 1883, and died in 1950. I have pictures of a small woman with a strong jaw and glasses…knitting. Evidently, she read books while she knitted, and didn’t even look up to count stitches. She was very fast; she probably had to be with nine kids to keep in socks and mittens! My mom said she did beautiful handwork, though most of it had been finished before she was married.

When my bachelor uncle died, the aunties emptied the old farmstead and divided up any items that my Grandma had made, and my mom drew the lot for the pile with the hardanger in it. This peice, pictured above, is over 100 years old, and is stunning! Since receiving it from my mother, it has mostly lived in my cedar chest, coming out for special occasions. There is a corner that needs repaired, so I don’t use it often. My hope is to recreate the pattern and make a twin for my sister.

While I never met my Grandma, I did have a spectacular opportunity to experience my Norske heritage as an International 4-H Youth Exchange Representative right after college. During those six months I absorbed as much handwork as I could, learning how to knit, crochet, sew hardanger, craft a bund, and prepare lefse, flatbrod, blotkake and even speak Norwegian–badly.

My Nordland bunad, shown above,  has a linen blouse, a dress made from a heavy, coarse wool, with an apron and shawl made from cotton and linen. The collar and cuffs have white work that mimics the pattern on the skirt. The sewing construction included square cut sleeves with a square godet in the underarm and a pleating technique that is very measured, To gather in fullness at the shoulders and cuffs of the blouse and the waistband of the skirt. My mother helped me by embroidering the leaves on the skirt. Though her arthritic fingers hampered her once fine abilities, it is the only sample I have of her stitching, so I treasure it all the same.

While in Norway, I learned that roots really do run deep…my second cousin picked me out of a crowd of 100 at camp, because I looked like a Jacobson. Even more surprising, my host families thought I’d learned Nowegian at home, because my accent was from Nordland! Crazy stuff!! I will be forever grateful to my host moms who made sure I learned the important cultural things they thought my grandma would have deemed important to pass on. That included baking, which you can enjoy through my host mom Aud’s blog.

Those modern ladies ensured that I would be able to pass on my Grandma Jacobson’s heritage to my daughters. Ironically, my eldest attended St. Olaf College, a small liberal arts school in Minnesota founded by Norwegian farmers who didn’t speak English, and my youngest has a dear friend at her college that is Norwegian! And so it goes…

 

 

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