November 27th…“PLEASE SHARE WITH US SOME OF THE ADMIRABLE QUALITIES OF YOUR MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER.”
In Russia, in 1894, Nicholas II became the new reigning Czar (king) of that land. But, here in America, that same year, in the State of Iowa, there was born “the queen” of our family tree into the Norwegian family of Ole T. Rogness. Our “queen’s” name? Amanda Margaret Rogness. I am confident that, collectively, our various family members could write an entire book about this grand lady’s life and her manifold blessings to our immediate and even extended family. Nevertheless, I am going to venture an effort to share with you some of my own personal observations of this sweet soul of a grand Norwegian woman.
Using a bit of poetic license, my grandmother’s name means, “a pearl worthy of love”. For you see, Amanda Margaret comes from two sources…..the Latin word “Amanda”, meaning “worthy of love” and, from the Greek language, the name “Margaret”, meaning “a pearl”. In my humble opinion, Grandmother Amanda truly was a shining pearl worthy of love.
With a Winter’s blanket of snow, I can almost hear the sleigh bells on the teams of horses as they gallantly pulled sleds of family and guests towards Lime Creek Lutheran Church located in Winnebago County of northern Iowa on December 24th, 1917. Oh, and to be sure, there likely were a mixture of sturdy Ford Model T cars churning the snowy roads in the entourage that day, too. Amanda Rogness had said, “Yes”, to Clarence Sletten in agreeing to be joined together in the bonds of holy matrimony. To enhance the moment, I ponder that the delicious pine fragrance of the church’s Christmas tree must’ve lent to the holiday festiveness of this marital union. Amanda and Clarence were eventually blessed with four fine children. Firstborn from their union was our cherished mother, Clarice Arlone, then Robert Shirley, then Marcus (Del)maine and then their youngest child, Beverly June. I can easily envision the cooing and giggling of each precious new baby into the Sletten family as they each enjoyed the tenderness of their mother Amanda, our dear Norwegian matriarch.
Special family occasions would bring a happy giggling gaggle of girls, of the Rogness clan, together at the handsome farm home of Esther “Rogness” Bidne. Esther, and her prankster husband, Oscar, were blessed to live on a most elegant farm acreage near Emmons, Iowa. Their handsome two-story home easily housed many a family gathering of our clan over the years. I would venture to say that love and good times were had by all as food, fun and family fellowship would be celebrated in the sun-sheltered shadow of the large shade trees that surrounded their picturesque home.
Without a shadow of a doubt, my mother, Clarice, cherished any time she could find to be with the sweet woman who had given her the gift of life back in 1919. Even when it came to the mundane task of washing the picnic dishes, our Mom took it as a chance to snuggle and chat with the mother she absolutely adored. Clarice admired and sought to emulate her mother, Amanda, with every nuance that her life energy could to afford to give. Because of the muggy Minnesota summer weather, it was quite common for families to take picnics in local parks by a lake, or just the sweet shade of the trees on a family’s home farm. On some picnics, Grandma Amanda, in tandem with our mother and Aunty Beverly, joined in a gleeful fun time of being enticed to have an arm fat wiggling contest. Good-natured, as she was, when we kids asked what that extra fatty skin was under her upper arm, Grandma Amanda would hold out her arm from her body and begin jiggling her arm fat back and forth in a flapping motion. We kids would howl with laughter and roll on the ground as our mother and her sister, Beverly, would join in on the fun, too.
The chill of Fall, in 1965, was already in the air when our family made the journey to Austin, Minnesota to visit our mother’s sister, Beverly, and family. During that Summer, I had experienced a growth spurt and a new phenomenon transpired between myself and my beloved grandmother. For the first time in my young life, I was actually taller than an adult…..and that adult was Grandma Amanda. Wooohooo!!! 😉 Being the darling that she always was, Grandma Amanda used the occasion to bolster my young ego with fun encouragements like, “Ohhh myyy goodness, Elliott, you’re getting so tall!!” I just loved the attention and it placed my maternal matriarch on an even higher pedestal in my valuing of her kind words to me. I may have been inches taller than our petite grandmother now, but, to me, she was a “giant” when it came to her quiet, tender and loving ways she lived her life.
June of 1966 came rolling around and it was time to celebrate Grandma’s 72nd birthday at their quaint cottage there on Abbott Street in Albert Lea, Minnesota. True to her Norwegian heritage, there were various tasty delicacies already waiting for our clan to enjoy on their little kitchen table. Lefse (a Norwegian potato pancake/tortilla) were rolled up on a plate with salted creamery butter nearby to slather on them. You’d first unroll the Lefse to its rounded glory, butter it heavily, then sprinkle the Lefse with a thick coating of sugar (like I would do) then re-rolled them and ate them in a voraciously happy manner. You could see another Norwegian tasty treat on the table in the form of Kringle. These were a type of cookie that were rolled and then formed into the shape of a pretzel. You could butter the underside of the Kringle and eat it that way. Or, some of the family would even spread jam on top of the butter……yum, yum!
As much as all of us would’ve loved to have had our grandmother go on and on in blessing our lives, her earthly life was brought to a close by cancer in the Summer of 1967. From the Book of Psalms Chapter 116 and Verse 15 it says: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” For our most beloved grandmother, she could easily have echoed her own life sentiments from II Timothy Chapter 4 and Verse 7 & 8 …..(7) “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith: (8) Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also who love His appearing” Even with our mother’s devastation and mourning at the loss of her own mother, we all could, and still do find comfort in the Christian faith that was the guidepost of our matriarch Amanda and still is for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.