Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...Job 38:22

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I am Ekte Norsk

I slept most of the way back from The Cities yesterday. We had gone to Minneapolis Friday and came back yesterday, Saturday. I wrote some about our trip on Sounds of Hope. Like no other place in the country, other than my beloved Lapskaus Blvd. Brooklyn, the upper Midwest is Norwegian.

On the way to The Cities, we drove through the quaint town of St. Peter's. In the middle of the north side of Main Street, was a shop with all the flags of Scandinavia. We've seen this shop before and have commented that we should stop some time. On the way back, exhaustion had over taken me. I could barely keep my eyes open. I wanted to go to IKEA for my Scandinavian "fix." I didn't even ask because of this extreme physical and emotional fatigue.

To my surprise, as we drove through St. Peter's my husband stopped in front of Swedish Kontur. The store with the flags. I actually protested going in, saying all they have is fancy stuff we can't afford. I was right. Nevertheless I left with a bag and a hand written receipt. I found a treasure I could afford.

Before I found my treasure, my eyes feasted on a beautiful set of Porsgrund Farmer's Rose.

We never had any Farmer's Rose in my house. We were too poor for that. Our good dishes had come with my parents first television set as a premium. I thought they were beautiful. I treasure the few pieces of it that remain. My mother was given a tea set when she married my father. The cups are paper thin. I don't remember her ever using them. They graced her make-shift china cabinet and I dusted them regularly. A few of them remain as well.

Farmer's Rose has always captivated me. In the recesses of my memory, I see stately Norwegian women in apartments better than ours, serving ekte gjetost and other Norwegian delicacies on these beautiful dishes.

Like my mother, I can't afford Farmer's Rose. I've poured over ebay ads for a few pieces. They are there, but I can't afford them. My brother knew of my love for Farmer's Rose. He has served me on his Farmer's Rose dishes. I own two mugs because of his graciousness. I don't think I've ever put anything in them. I cherish them. I have brought them here to South Dakota in hopes of preserving them from carelessness.

I longed to purchase Farmer's Rose yesterday. Perhaps my protest for shopping was that I knew I would leave disappointed. They were beautiful. The sight of them can take my breath away.

My husband scanned the Norwegian sweaters gulping at the prices. I think he should have one when he goes to Sons of Norway meetings with me. Lots of Pakistani Norwegians in Norway wear them, why not?

As we wandered to the back of the store I spotted my treasure. It was a tiny cup. It was not Norwegian, it was Swedish. On both sides it said Rida, Rida, Ranka. A flood of memories came over me. My dad already white haired and in his 50's when I was a little girl. He'd sit in his green recliner like all men of the 50's reading the newspaper or watching Lawrence Welk on Saturday.

It seemed like it was often that he would call his "lilla venn" to come sit on his lap. Sometimes I would sit on his foot and he would give me a horsey ride. He would say in what I thought was Norwegian, Rida, Rida, Ranka. I can hear the meter of the poem, but I don't recall the words.

I've looked to find the words in Norwegian. When I try to imagine the sounds of the words I have found in Norwegian, they don't match his rhythm.  I have found some but I rather think he said it to me in Swedish. The Swedish words seem to match.

Rida, rida ranka,
hästen heter Blanka.

Liten riddare så rar
ännu inga sporrar har.
När han dem har vunnit,
barndomsro försvunnit.

As I stumble at these words, the meter reminds me more of my dad's version. My dad's father was from Sweden. Something I didn't know growing up. Maybe my dad learned this from his dad. I don't know. I never knew any of my grandparents. In the pictures my dad had on his bureau, they always looked stern. A first cousin who knew them changed that view when he said: it was always a great day when we went to Bestefar and Bestemor's house. I wish I knew them. I wish my dad had told me more stories about them.

I've returned to another land of the Norwegians. Perhaps these stern looking people I see are like my grandparents. Perhaps someday I will say it was a great day when I got to visit and live with Norwegians from upper Midwest. Perhaps these distant aloof people are like my dad. He could be like that, often seeming to be in a world of his own. Like him, underneath the aloof exterior, there maybe someone who loves to play with a child on their foot reciting Rida Rida Ranka.

Truth be told, I am like him as well. I can appear very distant. I hold much inside myself. I am Norwegian too.


  1. I know Rida Rida Ranka...but not the words beyond those. As I read it they echoed in my memory, perhaps a shadow from my Swedish grandmother.

    I've always liked Farmer's Rose, though I've never known it by that name. It has a sort of simplicity and elegance.

    But mostly I love your stories. You are gifted in this craft, and when warmth and joy stimulate your telling, it's an amazing thing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Joyce,

    Thanks for sharing. My grandmother was 100% Norwegian and I remember her fondly showing me her Farmer's Rose dishes with great pride. They are extraordinarily beautiful and unique in that they have been in production for such a long period of time (often with the dates of their production on the back). I hope Porsgrund Porcelain weathers their bankruptcy and is able to continue production of this beautiful set of dishes.

    My grandmother sadly passed away in 2008 and the dish set passed to my father who, being more fond of his English Johnson Brother's Friendly Village set, gave them to me. I treasure them and even added to them when I was at Hadeland Glassverk in Jevnaker, Norway this past spring. To say expensive is an understatement, but the enjoyment of having them around made it impossible to resist buying more.

    The goat cheese is so delicious, I ate it each morning for breakfast while I was in Norway for a month. Wish it was more widely available over here in the US.

    It is great to hear other people treasure their heritage. Thanks again for sharing.



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