Christmas 1905.
A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER! Holiday´s meaning deepened by girls´ timely generosity. By Ida Nord  
 It is 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. 
There is 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 broth. 
The family 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 dessert. The 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 house. 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. 
Weeks have 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 conspiracy. 
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! 
About to 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. 
“Hey…. are 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. 
“Are you 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.” 
Ruth looked 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 like that!” 
Sarah shook 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?” 
Yes, they could see, thank God! 
Etta looked 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. 
“But, I 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 to toe. 
Etta and Ruth waited until Sarah left the stor at a gallop with her purchase of Swedish chimes clutched in her arms, then went inside.
“Well, Miss 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 their mother. 
“Wait, Mr. 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 weak smile. 
“Hmmmm, let 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.” 
As they left the store, the girls fairly danced with happiness. The snow had stopped, and everything was white and beautiful.
 “Look, Ruth….” Etta shouted, pointing shyward. A single solitary star lit the heavens, more brilliant than any they had ever seen. ________________

 The Writer 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.
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