February 18th…“TELL ABOUT FAMILY REUNIONS IN YOUR CHILDHOOD.”
Insoluble, the union of family; the bulwark of any successful society. Just as it is from the roots, to the massive trunk of a mighty oak tree, so also a family branches out into generations of “leaves” that provide cooling shade to many that rest within their soft branches of love.
Summer was an ideal time of the year for my mother’s family to return to their roots and enjoy reunions. It was time, once again, to meet with loved ones that would come from far and wide to reconnect in the oneness that brings identity, purpose and joy within each other’s hearts.
Our black, 1950 Buick Roadmaster rolled up to the curb of the lovely park there in the little village of Scarville, Iowa. A rich, green canopy of trees draped a cooling shade over the picnic tables soon to be laden with delicious smelling creations from the various family kitchens.
In northern Iowa, at the turn of the century, a dear man named Ole Scar helped to bring this town to life along the new railroad tracks that were pushing across the prairies. Townsfolk in this new settlement wanted to honor this fellow Norwegian, so they deemed this new plat on the map as SCARville, and thus a town was born.
Also born nearby to this new community, in 1919, was our beloved mother, Clarice. What an appropriate stage for this particular family reunion to take place.
Our mother, Clarice, and her siblings grew up attending the Scarville School in their little hometown. There was delight in her eyes for our mother when a number of our family reunions were held in the town and near the school that she held treasured in her memories of youth.
As we Noorlun kids helped unload food from the car for the picnic time, I could hear the happy clanging of horseshoes in my ears from the numerous games being played from the various horseshoe pits. The game of Horseshoes acted like a magnet for many of the menfolk of our Norwegian clans. My Uncle Bob Sletten, for instance, got so adept at this game that he could usually get “ringers” (U of shoe connected to stake) in 3 out of 4 throws. Manly visiting and reminiscing were the staple as “teams” played each other in the cooling shade of the trees in the park.
My mother shared how someone would ring a bell or wave their arms to call the many families together to a central location in that park. When the clan was together and quiet, one of our Rogness elders would then open a Bible for the reading of the Holy Scriptures. That was often followed by singing of one or more of the classic hymns of our Christian faith. Along with this segment of the family reunion, another of the family elders would have the clan recite the Norwegian Table Prayer.
Here is the translation of what that elder recited in Norwegian…..“Heavenly Father, In Jesus name, To the table we come, To eat and drink according to His Word. To God the honor, To us the gain, So we have food, In Jesus Name, Amen.”
Now, with the food blessed, it was a flurry of happy chatter while scrumptious delicacies began flying onto people’s plates and we all began to fill our tummies to the point of joyous, bulbous balloon-sizing! In order to wash down all this great Norwegian food fare for us kids, there were, seemingly, gallons of Koolaid, milk and ice water. And, for the adults, there were unending gallons of hot, black coffee held in uncountable thermos jugs around the park.
For the remainder of this special day I witnessed family enjoying laughter, stories of the long ago times and naps being taken in the shade as brisk, warm Summer breezes would cool their sweat while young and old napped the afternoon hours away. We can only wonder what gentle dreams our elders enjoyed during those family reunion nap times. One can only surmise that, with the distant sound of children playing, our napping elders could see Norwegian family reunions back in the days of their own youth and those golden times they, too, enjoyed.
Even there, in my days of youth, many of the family elders still had a very heavy Norwegian accent to their English. It was fun for me, as a little boy, to stand at the shoulder of my father, sitting in his lawn chair, and listen to those older folk speak of Norwegian ways in the long ago when THEY were young.
As evening drew near, those family members with farms and dairy herds would round up their brood of children and head home to their farms to milk the cows and feed other livestock. As our family’s Buick Roadmaster lumbered westward towards our farm and home near Kiester, Minnesota, I pondered on how memories so pleasant as these gave me a happy glow to be a Norwegian Farmer’s Son.