One Christmas holiday in New Hartford, when Gail and Bill were home from college, Bill suggested they go for a drive in the family’s black Ford V-8. He put his jacket on upside-down and backwards, so that his head and face were covered, and told Gail to give him directions while he drove “blind”. It was only after they returned home (much later) that Gail realized Bill had really not been able to see at all! The entire time, she had thought he was just pretending to need her directions.
Diane also remembered that Solveig had a jade plant in the house, called a “rubber plant”, which she would say was the source of chewing gum. After picking a leaf and setting it in a frying pan, she would shoo the children out of the kitchen. A little later, with much ceremony, she would appear with a stick of gum on a cookie sheet that she had “made “ from the leaf. Jeanne added they she also gave the children four choices for lunch whenever they visited: Peanut butter and jelly, jelly and peanut butter, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, or marshmallow fluff and peanut butter.
After the Haakonsen family arrived in America, Hans decided that only English would be spoken in their home in order to facilitate the children’s mastery of that language. Consequently, Solveig (who was a toddler when they immigrated) did not understand much Norwegian. Hans had some favorite Norwegian expletives that he would use on occasion, and although the girls could repeat them they had no idea what the words actually meant. Years later, when Solveig was hosting a very chi-chi tea for the League of Women Voters in her home in Sherril, she dropped a dish and let fly one of her father’s pet phrases. Much to her chagrin, a guest spoke Norwegian and informed her that she had just made a very graphic and derogatory comment about female anatomy!
Gail remembered that Solveig would often exclaim “Ish-a-MAY-a”, especially when she discovered dog-doo indoors. Bill had a rubber dog-doo gag that he would plant strategically, and it never failed to fool her—until one day, after spying a familiar deposit under a table, she assumed it was rubber and reached for it with her bare hand. It was real! Ish-a MAY-a! Scott added that Bill’s love of gags inspired him (Scott) to send away for a mail-order packet of tiny explosive charges to hide in cigarettes. The next time that Bill was home on vacation, scott hid some in Bill’s unfiltered Camels. He didn’t know which end Bill would light, so he had to put a charge in both ends. It was a great success.
When she (J) was very young, she remembers watching “Bedstemor” (Solveig) making breakfast on vacation at the cabin in Bristol. After breakfast, and sometimes still in their pajamas, they would go looking for wild berries. Johannah remembers being so short that she had difficulty seeing over the tops of the meadow grasses, and sometimes losing sight of Bedstemor who was a very aggressive berry-picker. Somehow, her bowl was always empty though!
When Grampy visited, he would make Norwegian pancakes for them. She remembered standing at his elbow and listening as he explained how to tell when it was time to flip each one: tiny bubbles across the middle and a little bit dry around the edges. Gail remembered Solveig calling up the stairs to the sleeping family “I’ll make the batter if someone will fry!” and she would tap-dance in the kitchen for them sometimes.
Bedstemor, who always loved going for long walks, needed to be accompanied after she developed dementia. He remembered one walk in particular, during which she repeatedly affirmed that she wanted to walk farther. They ended up quite far from home, and by the time they returned she was so worn out she slept the rest of the morning! Grampy, on the other hand, was not an enthusiastic walker in his last years. Joel remembered one time when Grampy expressed a willingness to go for a walk that got them only as far as the front door. Scott remembered that when Ray was a young man, he had been a strong hiker and had an ambition to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail.
When on vacation at the Bristol cabin, Grampy introduced him to fishing. He loved riding on Grampy’s shoulders down to the pond, rubbing his little hands over the stubble on Grampy’s cheeks. Grampy always liked to let his whiskers grow while he was on vacation.
One morning, she woke up to wonderful news: the Abbotts had arrived in the middle of the night and were going to stay with them! They had fled their home with nothing but the car and the clothes on their backs, a result of John’s habit of getting over his head in debt. The two families lived in Sherrill for several years, did a lot of things together, and got to be very close.
John T. Abbott was a man who enjoyed elegance and sophistication, but he also made frequent use of his middle finger. Doug remembered he had a good sense of humor and they used to joke around a lot. His love of technology and gadgets was legendary.
Alma, who believed that grandparents should be respected and related to with formality, unbent a bit as she (J) grew up. She remembered Alma teaching her how to knit, and how amused Alma was when she discovered that Jeanne’s first mitten had been knitted entirely inside out! Alma was always knitting or crocheting something, and never used a pattern. She made pajamas or socks for her grandchildren for Christmas gifts, and Bill was embarrassed that his shirt buttoned the same side as a girl’s. Her gifts were always wrapped very neatly, and she never used tape. Bill got a pair of socks one year that had a smoking pipe knitted into the side; the smoke was done with angora wool.
The Abbotts were always a vacation destination. It was wonderful because they were almost always in a different place than the last visit and there was always a lot going on. Jeanne and Diane remembered going cruising at night in Manchester during the summer, and taping their phone number over the license plate in case any guys wanted to call them.
Alma had a crabapple tree in her yard, which she and a friend decided to pick one day. They tried to eat the crabapples, which were very woody!
When Scott was about 9 years old, she and Gail took him up to the top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine. She was wearing an old pair of work boots, and one of them hurt all the way. Finally after they were nearly back down she pulled the offending boot off and found a tack through the sole! It was on that hike that she dropped her father’s new miniature camera in a stream. She remembered that Solveig was disconcerted by her reticence, and even shared with Elizabeth that she was afraid Diane had a horrible time when they took her anywhere because she never said a word the whole time.
On Ray and Solveig’s honeymoon, they hiked to the Lake of the Clouds, only to discover that the lodgings were separate men’s and women’s bunkhouses! They had a great time anyway, and even went skinnydipping in the lake, although it was September. Upon their return home, Ray’s draft summons was waiting in the mailbox, and off he had to go, leaving Solveig expectant with Bill.
The first time she met the Haakonsen family was at a thanksgiving get-together in Maine. She remembered watching Alma make krumkagen with a special iron on the stove. Each one was rolled up while it was still warm, and then it would hold its shape after cooling.