If you have not read the first part about jumping the pond, please take a moment and click on the link. If you don’t want to, well, then don’t. It doesn’t matter to me, but hey, it’s my blog, so humor me.
Families and cultural styles interest me. If I can open my mind wide enough and look at things from a neutral point of view, it helps me to understand more of the mechanics about why people do what they do. Sometimes there’s a monkey-wrench thrown into the works when someone does something totally unexplainable. My ex-husband’s family seemed rock-solid. The parents took great interest in whatever the children were doing. They seemed supportive and generous. “Family” was stressed as the most important thing. In retrospect, “stressed” took on a new meaning. Stress at sometimes turned to pressure. But the ultimate goal seemed to be what was good for the family. They gradually absorbed me into their unit.
In truth, they had regarded me as less than ideal for joining their family unit. I was from another cultural group. I was from the South, and my family was regarded as common, which I find odd because, although my family was ordinary, we were no less in status in the community than anyone else. Maybe that was the problem. We weren’t ladder-climbers or socialites.
They were from the North, although recently in the grand scale of time. Both my mother- and father-in-law’s families were recently immigrated, recently meaning to me within the last 100 years. And if I stretch my mind open enough, I can see that there were several cultural groups, all from Europe. My father-in-law had been absorbed into my mother-in-law’s family, especially when he enrolled in college after they got married. He would work a full day, get cleaned up, go to his wife’s parents’s home where he would eat a full course meal, then go to night school. He did this for seven years.
My mother-in-law’s parents were devoted to family. Her father was a good provider. He could also be a tyrant. His way was the only way, and his wife was devoted to him. After I married their grandson, I could see how years of being with his grandparents had rubbed off on him. He was devoted to family, yet he could also be a tyrant, and, in order to keep the peace, I learned to make sure he had what he wanted and to stay out of his way. I’m guessing that his grandmother had learned to do the same in her marriage.
The grandmother was from Sweden, the oldest of five children. The older four children had come over “on the boat” from Sweden in 1909, along with their mother, in steerage. The story was that the father of the children was already in America and had been there for two years. The mother of the children had parents still living in Sweden, and her mother had paid for their passage to America so that the family could be reunited. I found that brave. What a concept to think that she paid their way to join the father, knowing that she would most likely never see them again.
When the boat arrived in America, the mother and her four children were not allowed off. That was the custom. If you did not have someone waiting for you, like a sponsor, you were not allowed off, and you would be sent back to where you came from. Every day someone from the crew would call out the names of the people waiting for their sponsor down to the waiting crowd. But when the name was called out, “Jay-der-berg, Jay-der-berg”, no one responded, for the man waiting in the crowd was waiting to hear “Yah-da-bare, Yah-da-bare”. On the last day, the little girl who became my mother-in-law’s mother, was on deck, and saw her father in the crowd, and waved, and got his attention, and the family was reunited. I can see the picture in my mind, like a movie. The happy family was reunited.
On the last day of April, there is custom in Sweden. It’s called Walpurgis Night, and it welcomes the coming of Spring. There are festivities, and bonfires, and partying, and if you are interested in learning more, here’s a link to a Wikipedia site. A man in Sweden commented on the blog on April 29, but I didn’t read it until April 30, the night of the celebration that I’d never heard of that commemorates new beginnings.
The man’s grandfather was Oskar Reinhold Berg, who was the oldest child of the family that came over on the boat in 1909.
Let’s think about that. How could he be the oldest child? How could they leave him behind? Well, he was, and they did.
The mother of the group had a child in 1896, before she married in 1899. The true father is unknown to me, for all I can do is look at the records on www.ancestry.com. But the child was Oskar Reinhold Berg, who did not take the name of the father of the other children, but kept the mother’s maiden name. When it came time for the others to leave, the decision had been made to leave him behind with his mother’s parents, for the grandfather was blind and the grandparents needed help.
Oskar’s grandson told me, via email, of the sadness especially at holiday time, when his grandfather would look through his photograph album at his family in America. Oskar married and had four sons. His grandson has shared some family photos with me. I had never been able to figure out where my daughter got her head shape from. That is, until I saw the photo of Oskar Reinhold Berg.
Sugar uses the word “weep” sometimes. I ask him why he doesn’t just say “cry”. Now I understand the word “weep” a little better, for I weep for the child left behind.