A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER! Holiday´s meaning deepened by girls´
timely generosity. By Ida Nord
Christmas Eve, 1905. Through theopen door 13-year old Ruth Nord and her
younger sister, Etta, hear happy sounds from downstairs. Mama is
humming “Silent Night” in her native tongue. She insist on the children
speaking English, yet frequently she and Papa have quit discussions in Swedish.
the bustle of busy hands in the kitchen. Mother is putting the final touches on
the evening meal, after days of preparation. It will be a traditional Swedish
Christmas feast. The large
God Yul candle has already been placed in the center of the kitchen table. When
the candle is lit, it is time for the family to gather for the blessing. Like thin
butterfly wings, shadows from the flickering candle dance across the white
linen tablecloth. Following the blessing, the first course-dopi grutta- will be
served, thick slices of Swedish rye bread dipped in a tantalizing beef-pork
will then move into the dining room for a formal dinner of creamed lutefisk on
boiled potatoes and Christmas sausage, followed by a luscious lingonberry
children´s fidgiting interrupts the preoccupation with this spread of good
food, so Mama, Papa, the boys-Walter, Dewey and little Royter – and the girls
move into the parlor.There, in a
corner of the room is a large spruce tree, taken from the hillside behind the
children have happily trimmed it themselves. There are real candles in holders
clamped to each branch, walnuts painted silver and gold and long strings of
popcorn draped all around. Crepe-paper bells, star-cut cookies and hard candies
dangle temptingly from its branches. At the top
of the tree and most beautiful of all the decorations is the sparkling gold
star mother carefully packed and brought across the ocean from her hom in
Orebro, Närke, Sweden.
been spent making gifts, sharing secrets and preparing surprises, all in
preparation for the Yule holiday. But before the presents are opened, the
children hear the story of the Christ Child and gifts of gold, frankicense and
myrrh. As if
thinking in unison this late afternoon, both girls quickly bundle into warm
coats, boots and mittens and bound downstairs and out the front door in loving
This year they would give mama the loveliest gift in the world! For weeks
they made daily trips to Mr. Wright´s General Store just to make sure it was
still I the window. Finally, toghether they managed to save the necessary 25
pennies for the lovely little china dish, its exquisite handle above fluted
edges making a delicate basket for dainty pink, handpainted rosebuds on the
shiny surface. Mother will be delighted! they whispered. Why, it will be a gift
of spring flowers in the winter! The falling
snow has turned the hillside into a fairyland of whiteness.The girls
skip along lightly, leaving small thin footprints I the feathery softness
covering the boardwalk between their home on Iron Mountain´s East “A” street
and Mr. Wright´s store.Sure
enough! The girls exchange excited smiles. The dish is still in the window!
enter the store, Ruth caught sight of a slight movement in the shadows at the
corner of the building. Dropping Etta´s hand, she stepped toward the shadow. “Hi….
Merry Christmas!” Out of the
corner, thin and ragged, came a little bit of a girl, much younger than Etta.
She couldn´t have been a day over eight! Her coat was threadbare, and the
woolen scarf around her head did not conceal the tear-streaked face. Her hands
were red and mittenless, one fist tightly closed.
you crying?” Etta blurted, feeling the sharp jab of Ruth´s elbow in her ribs. “I´m Ruth,
and this is my sister Etta. Are you going in the store?” The child
hesitated, shook her head. Her voice was little more than a throaty wisper.
“Sarah… my name is Sarah” and she turned to walk away. “Wait….”
ruth called and reached for the clenched fist. As she tugged, the hand opened
and five pennies fell into the snow. The girls scrambled to retrieve the coins.
going to Mr. Wright´s?” Etta asked. Sarah
looked lovingly at the window and pointed to a set of Swedish angel chimes,
complete with four candles, just like the ones clipped to the branches of the
Christmas tree at home. “I wanted
them for Mama” she said quietly, her small shoulders trembling in the thin
coat. She looked at the five coins in her cold little palm. “But I need
five more pennies.”
at her blue-mittened hand that contained the precious 25 cents, then looked
thoughtfully at Etta, who in turn looked at the shiny dish in the window and
gulped. She wouldn´t! Ruth wouldn´t give away the money for the little dish! Quickly she
said, “They are nice all right…but…well, Mr. Wright has lots and lots of pretty
things for a nickel….. look at that shiny silver thimble. Bet your mama would
her head slowly. “My Ma wouldn´t like it…..I mean she would like it if she
could see it….but she´s blind, you know. Those chimes …”her voice trailed
softly in the cold air. “You put the candles in the little holders under the
four angels,don´tcha see?…and the heat makes ´em turn, and whilst they go
´round they make the most beautiful sound in the whole world. My Ma couldn´t
see the angles but she could hear ´em chime…don´tcha see?”
could see, thank God!
at Ruth and nodded. They would still have 20 cents left to buy a present for
Mama. Sara stared
in amazement as Ruth counted out five pennies and handed them to her.
can´t…”she exclaimed, at the same time reaching for the coins. “Go
ahead….”Etta urged. “It´s our Chrismas present to you.” The dirty
little face smiled such happiness and beauty that it warmed the girls from head
Ruth waited until Sarah left the stor at a gallop with her purchase of Swedish
chimes clutched in her arms, then went inside.
Etta and Missy Ruth. I just bet I know why you´re here.” Mr. Wright´s blue eyes
twinkled as he started for the little china dish.Mr. Wright,
you see, was the one person who knew the surprise the girls had planned for
Wright…Ruth said softly. “We only managed to save 20 cents.” “Ya,…” Etta
added,”…we want something nice for 20 cents.”She looked
sadly at the delicate little rosebud basket in Mr. Wright´s hand and managed a
me see.” Mr. Wright rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Tell you what girls….,”he
said, “it is almost closing time anyway, and the store won´t be open tomorrow
because it´s Christmas. Chance are I might not be able to sell this dish after
Christmas, so I was thinking maybe I would put it on sale the day after.”“Looks like
you two are my last customers for the day….” he hesitated, then smiled broadly.
“I guess I could let you have it for 20 cents today.”
left the store, the girls fairly danced with happiness. The snow had stopped,
and everything was white and beautiful.
Ruth….” Etta shouted, pointing shyward. A single solitary star lit the heavens,
more brilliant than any they had ever seen. ________________
Comments: Etta, daugher of Gust and Mathilda Nord, Swedish pioneer settlers in
Iron Mountain, is the only living family member and still residers in the
family home. Ruth Nord Blomgren died Dec. 2, 1977. Local traditions,
deeply rooted, have been transplanted all over the world. The Swedish Christmas
Eve dinner is a tradition we will continue to keep alive in our own home. The
smallsugar-cube basket, presented to me by Etta Nord last year, will always be
as precious and meaningful as it must have been for two little girls that
special Christmas long ago. (This
article was in a news-paper back in the 1970´s)
Gustaf and Mathilda Nord
Etta and Ruth Nord
The little China dish.