Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Roots ~ The Family Kind

Theme ~ Swedish Rhapsody

Looking back on my life, there are days that are so special, so memorable, I smile every time I think of them. In Sweden in 2001, I experienced an unforgettable day where I met an old couple I will never forget and found the place where my great-grandparents lived. It was especially touching because my mother and I had often sat at our kitchen table and talked about her dad and her grandparents, who came from a village in south-western Sweden, called Mardaklev. I never knew my maternal grandparents and my mother never knew her dad's parents. She wanted to visit this place where her ancestors lived, but she never did. And now I was about to.
My cousin, Arne, lives in a small town in western Sweden and in 2001 I visited him there. Since it was April, the cranes had gathered for their annual visit to Hornberga lake, right around the corner from where my cousin lives, so we went there and watched as thousands of cranes gathered, danced, and flew overhead. Another unforgettable experience. 


Impossible to get pictures of the cranes with the camera I had at the time.  No snow when I visited, this is a postcard.
The next day we set out for Mardaklev, a small village in the province of Halland. Another cousin of ours had found out about an old couple there, who probably would know something about our great-grandparents. After couple of hours drive, we arrived in Mardaklev and stopped at the pretty wooden church, took some pictures, and walked around the graveyard where our great-grandparents are buried. 




 My great-grandparents' grave.
Then we asked for directions and found the couple's house. A pretty yellow house with a cat sleeping on the porch bench.

The river was on the other side of the house, down a hill.
Now imagine this: It is Sunday, around noon. My cousin and I, dressed in jeans and casual clothes, go up to this yellow house, knock on the door, and tell the very old lady who opens who we are and that we are looking for our roots.

Ivar and Gunhild treating us to coffee and cake
Once she understood who we were, sort of, she invited us in. She told us that she and her husband had just finished listening to the Sunday service on the radio, being too old to go to church. But they were dressed for church, their home was immaculate, there were flowers in vases, candles on the table and family pictures on the wall. 
Their names were Ivar and Gunhild Carlsson, both in their 90s. Coffee, cakes, and home-baked cookies soon appeared on the table. Ivar became very excited once he figured out who we were and told us that we were even remotely related to him. Ivar had a church/county registry that he pulled out from his bookcase and showed us our common ancestor and a lot of family history. 


It also turns out that they both knew our great-grandparents and had stories to tell about them. Apparently our great-grandparents were a hard working couple with nine children who were very well liked in the community. Our great- grandfather, Bengt Kallberg, was a master at making things grow and earned a medal from the Patriotic Society and many accolades for his gardens. I could have stayed all day, but after exchanging addresses, we set our for the deep forest to try to find our great-grandparents' place. Gunhild kept in touch with me until she died of cancer a few years later. Ivar went into assisted living then and probably passed on soon after. 


By the Kallebacken sign.
We drove into the forest on a dirt road, surrounded by fur trees that smelled like Christmas. And for me this whole day was a very Christmasy day. After a while we came to a pretty good-sized clearing and there was a sign, Kallebacken. Their place, the place my mother so had wanted to visit.



A small cottage stood at the far end of the field.


                                     


All that remained of the main house, were some foundation walls. 


The place was so peaceful, the air smelled of fur trees, April birds, dizzy with spring fever, sang in the bushes. I thought of my mom and was glad we had found this place she and I talked about so often at our kitchen table.








16 comments:

  1. so great that you found that couple and they spent precious time with you.

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  2. I remain fascinated with meeting your family & touring Sweden!

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  3. Oh Inger this is amazing and I can tell you this was a gift for you from God, way too many things worked out perfectly with the couple living in the grandparents home you were brought there. My grandmother was born in 1852 and I never met her as she was gone before I was born. I came late in an old family.

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  4. What a beautiful couple and heartfelt journey. I couldn't have written this without tears streaming down my face.

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  5. Oh Inger...that was so sweet of that couple. I can just see them inviting you into their home serving you coffee cake and just spending hours looking through old memorabilia. That is truly lovely!I loved all you photos and the stories of your roots!

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  6. They look much younger. I would have guessed they were in their seventies, not their nineties. What an amazing and touching memoir story.

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  7. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful couple!
    I would love to see those cranes.

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  8. Kitchen tables are always the best conversation spots. This was a sweet journey home.

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  9. Isn't that amazing? How great that you gathered more information about your roots! Love that little red cottage.

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  10. Wow! Inger, what an adventure.. and when you write about it I feel like I was there with you. These pictures are great as well...
    That must have been so exciting to sit and talk with this wonderful couple who knew of your great-grandparents. it brings them back... for you to love and enjoy for a time.
    You have enjoyed so many adventures in your life. Thanks for sharing. I have so much enjoyed this post!!

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  11. Inger, you know I love ROOTS!...:)JP

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  12. Thank you for your wonderful and caring comments. I feel like I have known you guys for years. This was a day I will never forget, that's for sure.

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  13. What a lovely story and a lovely couple you met there. So good to find out about your ancestors .

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  14. Oh Inger, what an amazing story. How wonderful that the people living in the house had stories to tell too.

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  15. Halloj! LIgger lite efter i kommentarer efter vår helg på Åland. Måste varit kul besök hos de gamla...har du inte varit här sedan dess?

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  16. Hi Inger .. what lovely memories - and I'm so pleased you were able to chat to this elderly couple, who were able to give you some tangible information on your family ...

    Beautiful photos too .. cheers Hilary

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Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger

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