In the 1950's there was a Friday night TV series entitled "I Remember Mama." It was a nostalgic tale of a recently immigrated Norwegian family and their often humorous challenges in dealing with a new culture. Weekly, the mother would offer sage advice to the audience and her family with a charming accent. I loved this TV mother whose accent was that of my paternal grandmother, emigrating from Oslo in her twenties.
Recently, I found myself sorting through childhood photos. Yes, there were pictures of my Irish grandmother who died when I was seven and of my Norwegian grandparents who lived into
their seventies. I remember their smiles and welcoming hugs, playing Norwegian hopscotch on Silverton sidewalks. Yet, it was the pictures of Ida, our adopted grandmother, that held the most cherished memories.
Ida entered our family's lives in October 1955. My younger brother, Kerry, had been born six weeks
early and my mother needed help with this very premature infant and her active three-year-old, JG.
Ida had answered my father's advertisement for a housekeeper. His only instructions were that
"The baby mustn't cry." Nightly, she would walk the colicky baby into the wee morning hours, consoling him so that he would not cry. Years later, she related this story to me and of all the coffee she drank each morning to survive Kerry's infancy.
Though Dad had probably envisioned that Ida would only be with us for a few months, he and
Mom became so fond of Ida that they added living quarters for her. Ida stayed on with us for five years, then moving up the street to care for a family whose mother had terminal cancer. After Ida moved to their home, we would often visit. A warm smile, hug, and often cookies always greeted us.
There are many memories of Ida that are not in the photos. One of my favorites is of popcorn nights.
My parents would reserve a late dinner date. Baby Kerry would be asleep. JG and I would watch
the car lights disappear. Then the fun began. Ida would pop the corn and cook caramel sauce.
A sheet would be placed on the living room floor. There we three would sit in semi-darkness, eating
sticky popcorn with wet rags handy for sticky fingers. This is the only time we ever ate in our living room or had messy food. My mother was a meticulous homemaker! One night we had a taffy pull because I had read about pioneer children doing this. It sounded like so much fun! Ida made the taffy. We pulled and pulled, laughing as it snapped. We had pulled too long.
The years passed and Ida moved on to care for many LO families as she had for ours and our neighbor's.
Yet, she remained a frequent visitor, sharing Christmas and holidays, even vacations as her schedule allowed. Ida was the honored guest at my wedding in 1977 and later Kerry's in 1985. In the photos she is smiling proudly, especially for the young man who never cried at night on her watch. When my first daughter was born in 1982, it was a Caesarean delivery with complications. I still remember that first night home when the taxi pulled up and there was Ida. She was 76 years old and came to help.
Baby #1, Jill, did not cry very much and so Ida returned home after six weeks. Baby #2, Kim, was a different story. She had severe reflux, causing much pain, crying. Ida, age 80, was the only person who could hold her besides myself. Ida became part of our household for almost two years, later returning frequently for visits with "her girls." She delighted in recounts of their activities and was a grandmother guest at many birthday celebrations. The years passed and the photos show the girls at the circus with Ida, pounding away noisily on her two organs, or shyly showing her schoolwork.
In the early 90s Ida moved to Nebraska to be with her son. Sadly, though we would speak on the phone, we were never able to see her again. Yet, always, we, I remember Ida!
Josie Seymour is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center Jottings group.
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