We returned to the U.S. permanently in the early 1960s. Though we lived in the mild climate of the San Francisco Bay Area, our family was bedecked in Norwegian hand knits. Most of them were knit by my grandmother.
My mother did her best to ensure a Norwegian home and upbringing though living in the untamed region of California (i.e., the San Francisco Bay Area). If you were transported into our living room, you might think you were in Norway. Hardanger, handstitched or woven hangings and coverings everywhere, various rosemåling objets d′art – you get the drift. Perhaps not surprisingly, she tried to make us children look as if we were transported directly from Norway.
Skiing trips around Lake Tahoe? My mother insisted I use “good” Norwegian skis, cross-country skis that she had been using since the late 1940s. (They belonged in a museum.)
Picture days and other special school days I was sent to school wearing a bunad (the Norwegian national costume), complete with a white apron, high neck white blouse secured by a large silver pin, and a blue vest laced with a black cord through pewter closures. (All I needed was a flock of goats following me to school to complete the picture.)
Over the years, I wore every traditional Norwegian sweater, generally with matching caps, that you could think of. Each was a gift from my beloved grandmother, so of course I didn’t balk wearing them. On any given day, however, I must have looked as though I was going to go cross-country skiing.
To complete this picture, when my hair grew long, my mother generally kept in braids. On special days, however, she pinned the braids across the top of my head. (Yup, I would have given Heidi a run for her money.)
On family outings, my mother made us all wear Norwegian sweaters. I guess it made it easier to keep track of us at museums or the zoo. Here’s a picture of us by Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Each of us is wearing a traditional Norwegian sweater; my sister is wearing a matching wool cap.
Now I spoke both English and Norwegian perfectly well. Nonetheless, once people heard my mother’s tortured English, between that and the sweaters, Americans generally assumed we were recent immigrants who didn’t understand English but that shouting at us, slowly and in English, would help.
I have always felt, however, that knitting brought the two cultures together for me in a beautiful way!