Is there something about childless women that makes them more likely to be caught up in the past? Or is it that those of us with children are so obsessed with the future that we forget we were formed by what happened before us?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that both Anna and Gustaf’s childless sisters wrote family histories. I’ve already introduced you, both in the novel, and on this website, to Anna’s sister, Eva Tilderquist, who wrote the Tilderquist family history in 1952. Gustava’s Unworn Wedding Dress But Gustaf’s younger sister, Emma Anderson Pusard, also wrote a family history, hers in 1923.
While Eva’s story was straightforward and mostly unemotional, Emma’s overruns with tears. There was a lot to cry about in her family—her mother’s early death, her father’s arduous life afterwards, the difficult times when they first came to America, the deaths of two of her younger brothers shortly after immigration, illness, poverty, and dislocation.
Although in some ways she took these tragedies stoically, her voice, even after translation from Swedish, comes across in her writing with great emotion. Because of that, I found it easy to place her incidentally in the novel, in a letter to Gustaf and at their wedding.
Emma was born in Sweden in 1859. In 1869, she immigrated with her father and three of her brothers to Iowa. After her father died, she moved to Tacoma to be near her brother Gustaf and worked as a housekeeper. She married Eric Pusard when she was about 40 and moved to Douglas, Oregon, with him. Sometime after 1920, Eric died, and sometime after that, Emma came to live with my grandparents Charles and Angelika Olson, on their Fir Island farm until she died in 1934.
Although she could speak and write English, she mostly refused to, for reasons she explains in the story. This story about her father, Johann Magnus Anderson, was originally written in Swedish. It was translated by my great uncle and aunt, Sven and Mildred Lekberg. For some reason, I did not find it among my grandmother’s things, and I would never have been aware of it if a second cousin, Mary Hoagland Peterson, hadn’t sent me a copy. Because I find the story compelling but long, I’m posting it here in stages, with light editing for clarity.
My grandfather, Anders Peterson, died three months before my father was born. He had married my grandmother when he was already an old man with several children from his first marriage, so my father had no full brothers and sisters. He had many half brothers and sisters who were very much older than he was and didn’t have much use for their stepmother or her son. They were well off, but my father and grandmother had often suffered need and had to eat bark bread. My grandmother supported herself with knitting, and even my father had to learn to knit. He became so skillful that although he was only eight years old, he could knit a long stocking in a day.
(to be continued. . .)