Today marks the fourth day I have been able to sit on the porch in January. Those of you residing in the sunny, warm parts of our nation won’t appreciate the novelty of this. Up in the northern climes January is usually frigid and snow-covered. Sitting on the porch on a normal January day usually involves taking off snow-covered boots and coats. But not this year. Sure, there’s still snow on the ground but not much.
It’s been warmer than usual and the sun has been out more often. And a clear sky, with sun streaming through the porch windows, warms up the porch by noon. Today, the temperature on the porch was 70 degrees Farenheit. I even took a picture.
Today, with the temp where it was, I spent a good three hours on the porch reading the newspaper, eating dinner, and simply doing nothing. And, as I soaked in the sunbeam, I closed my eyes and listened to the drip of melting snow. In winter there is nothing more Heavenly than that.
Genealogy is like visiting a favorite relative. You never really know what you’ll learn.
While trailing a particular branch back to Alsace last night I got bored with the limited number of leaves to turn over so on a whim I jumped across a few family branches and landed with the Norwegians. It was there I decided to take a swing at my grandfather’s brother, Olaf.
The Norske side of our clan is a tad dysfunctional and Olaf certainly follows in his own grandfather’s footsteps….(if one only knew where those footsteps led.) Here is what I know, and what I’ve learned about Olaf.
Olaf interests me because no one seems to know anything about him. He annoys me for the same reason. Somewhere along the line he “disappeared”. No one ever talked about him as I was growing up so there has always been limited information. All we have is one photograph. He’s 15-16 years old and stands near a chair dressed in his best suit. It’s a confirmation photo. It’s a black and white photo that shows he has dark hair and probably blue eyes. He looks incredibly uncomfortable.
A tidbit I discovered about Olaf from local census records and city directories is this: he worked as a baker (alongside his father and brother, my grandpa). Years ago, when I was looking something up at the county clerk’s office, I made an incredible discovery. Olaf had gotten married. his wife’s name was Marietta. They had three children: 2 girls and a boy. One of the girls died by the age of two. The son died before the age of 20. The surviving child died in 1980 at the age of 66. Marietta and her children are all buried in a nearby cemetery. But where is Olaf? There is no death record. There is no obituary. No divorce record. Where did he go?
I followed the trail of the surviving child. What I discovered was this: she married and had children who married. The surnames of these progeny are names of classmates of mine. Were these classmates relatives? To this day I am not 100% certain, but I have a hunch about one of them.
Back to last night. I’m on the LDS genealogy site and type in Olaf’s name. Two records pop up: a WWII draft registration card and a death record. I can view the draft card. Birthdate matched Olaf. He admitted his birthplace. Bingo! Found him! In 1942 he was in Amarillo, Texas. And guess what? He’s married to a woman named Lydia. Remember, above I wrote there was no divorce record from the first wife (who died in 1954). It’s at this point that I start cursing the s.o.b. Did he abandon his family? From the information I found he had split prior to his son’s death. This is where my previous statement about Olaf being like his own grandfather, and the dysfunction of the Norskes come into play. Olaf’s grandfather abandoned his family too.
I view the death record. Olaf died in Amarillo in 1951. He died on the day of the month in which I would be born ten years later.
No, it’s not the name of a car. It’s the exasperated cry of finding a gray hair higher on my head than has ever been found before. (Sounds like a deleted line from the opening of Star Trek. “Where no gray hair has gone before”.)
Most of the gray hairs have been hovering around the ears. That’s annoying enough, especially since they’ve been increasing in number. Now they’ve sent out this scout to seek a new locale. But this scout, that has planted its flag on the top of my head, is too much. It sticks there, taunting me. “Yes,” it says. “You are getting older.”
No! How can this be? I’m the baby of the family. We don’t get older! No! No! No! **stomps foot and glares**
*sigh* Okay, we age, we just don’t grow up. (Peter Pan take me to Neverland.)
Have I mentioned the bifocals?
A flash of black caught my eye. A border collie! Mostly black but for the white of his belly. He bounded through the snow with a stick as long as his body clenched between his teeth. He turned then lay in the snow, waiting. But for what? A few moments later he was up on his feet, his tail wagging. He adjusted the stick, turned again, and bounded through the snow. He looked over his shoulder, with what looked like a grin. His joy became apparent. His master came into view.
In the next yard the dog did the same as before. Down in the snow, stick between teeth. A dog full of glee, playing keep away from his master.
One should never eat the remains of a 3 Musketeers Bar after it has been open for three weeks.
Last month a coworker had given me a large 3 Musketeers Bar for my birthday and I tucked it away in my desk drawer in case of an emergency. Had it been a plain simple Hershey’s chocolate bar I’d have scarfed it down in a minute. But 3MBs are not my favorite candy so tucked away it went. Three weeks ago the “emergency” happened. A deep craving for chocolate and the candy bowl in the department was empty. Empty. A quick search through the desk drawer found the unwrapped 3MB amid sticky notes and paperclips. Desperation calls for desperate measures. I unwrapped the bar and took a few bites. It was enough to satisfy the craving. With most of the candy bar remaining I wrapped it back up, rubberbanded it together and tucked it back in the drawer for the next emergency.
Forward three weeks. Another chocolate craving. The candy bowl still empty. “Ah,” thinks I, “there’s the left over 3 Musketeers Bar.” Unwrap…bite…chew…urgh. The edges have the stale “crispness” of a malted milk ball. The “fluffy center” is a chewy toughness. It begs the question: are malted milk balls made from the month old remains of 3 Musketeers Bars?
There is something blissful about sitting on the porch on a Sunday in January. As I wrote yesterday, the sun is streaming through the windows and heating a usually cold-in-winter porch to a warm fall-like day. The perk today (and yesterday) is that it’s a football playoff season. That means that all the men in the neighborhood have their butts firmly planted in their cushy chairs in front of their televisions playing couch potato coach to the players and refs on the screen. There are no lawns being mown (grass doesn’t grow after Nov 1st up here), no leaves to be blown (that was done in Nov too. btw: I prefer rakes, their quieter), no snow blowers belching (no snow yet this winter), and the motorcycles, well, they could still be ridden this year but go back to where the men’s butts are firmly planted right now. If there’s a sunny day in January the porch is the place to be.
There is nothing better than a warm porch in the upper midwest in January. It is currently 68 degrees on my porch and I am basking in a pool of sunlight. During normal winters, when there’s a few feet worth of snow on the ground and the Alberta Clippers are racing across the plains, the porch is as cold as outside. Frosty breaths hang in the air. Clomps of snow remain on the floor. Not this year. The shovel is perched alongside the door awaiting the first real snowfall. Today, a clear blue sky and a bright sun. I guess the shovel will have to wait.
This is a new and terrifying experiment for me. Blogging. Sharing words and art with the virtual world. Will my random ramblings be of interest to anyone but me? Will people find my blog? If they do, will they revisit? My goal with this blog is to share my stories, thoughts and artwork. And with that sharing, my hope is that a spark of creativity will relight the flame that waned so many years ago.