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Give Me Big Hats…

August 24, 2010

As a kid I was obsessed with hats. And not the normal hats that kids wear, I wanted big hats, gawdy hats—the kind with netting and artificial flowers, possibly some feathers or rhinestones if you have them. The bigger, the better, and I wanted to wear them in public.

My Grandma June has a big Portis hat box that is filled with old, fancy hats. She kept it on the top shelf of her hallway closet and if I asked nicely she would get it down and let me spend hours parading around in the big, colorful hats that once belonged to my Great Grandma Geneva. It wasn’t unusual that on Saturdays I would make the two-block trek to her house to pick out a big hat to wear around on Sunday.  In fact, at age five I told Santa I wanted a puppy, when he asked what I wanted if I couldn’t have a puppy I simply replied “Well then, I’d have a big hat to wear to church.”

After my Grandma’s recent fall (during which she broke her hip and scapula, ouch), we had to sort through her things in order to downsize her belongings and prepare her for a stay at the Harmony Nursing home while she gets some much needed TLC and physical therapy. My Grandma has done an amazing job sorting through all of her belongings and carefully labeling everything she owns. Whose it was, where it came from, and who should receive it.

Lucky for me, I now have plenty of big hats to wear whenever I want.

Although the hats were  highest on my list of things I hoped I would receive, they weren’t the only fabulous thing I was going to inherit. While beginning the initial sorting and packing of my Grandma’s things my Dad and I came across two small boxes stowed away on the top shelf of a back closet. We were like a couple of kids on Christmas morning, sorting through these two boxes of priceless family history, having no idea what we might find. One of the first things I discovered was this interesting little duo…

The book is a Norwegian bible that belonged to my Great-Great-Grandma Maria, which I thought was an unbelievable find until I pulled out the delicate knitted gloves and read the note that was packed along with them:

“These gloves were made by my Grandmother Siri Maria and given to her husband, Lrond Gjerdingen for their wedding in 1844 in Bang, Valdres, Norway (which doesn’t exist, I think she meant Bagn, Valdres, Norway). Given to me from Norway in 1949.” – Geneva Lindelien Rein. Geneva was my Great-Grandmother, which means these gloves were carefully knitted by the love-struck hands of my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, Siri.

The two boxes contained plenty more treasures—– my Great Grandmother’s confirmation pin, obituaries for different family members and several hand-written family histories. But, all the goodies weren’t hidden in boxes up in the back closet, many of the things we considered “family heirlooms” had already been labeled, sorted and stored by my Grandma. One of my favorite new possessions  are my Grandparent’s wedding bands….

And I think the best part about it is knowing that the love of sparklies runs in my veins—eventually my Grandma demanded an upgrade and got some rocks…

One last amazing family heirloom rounded out my new collection of treasures, a wedding pin worn by my Great-Great-Grandma Maria at her wedding in 1885…

I’ve spent the past few weeks amazed that some of these things survived. Passed down generation to generation until they finally ended up in my Twin Cities apartment, over 4,000 miles away from Norway. One thing I’ve realized is that I come from a long line of amateur historians—preserving our family’s past so that it can be shared with future generations. Having a biologist for a father I have heard him proclaim (on multiple occasions) “I don’t understand how you don’t love science!” Well, at least now I think I have a verifiable excuse for why I love history.

Stay tuned to the blog and follow along as I struggle to find safe, affordable and creative ways to store and display my new treasures, and learn about the restoration and preservation of old family photo albums. Sound thrilling? I thought so.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2010 14:25

    Really, really lovely gifts! The story of the gloves is amazing! So cool that your grandmother took such care in organizing and preserving her treasures :-)

  2. Laura permalink
    August 24, 2010 17:28

    That is all amazing. I am the treasurer of all family history in my family and pick my grandparents brains every time i see them for every little detail of their childhood, courtship, marriage and lives. What special things to have passed down to you.

  3. January 12, 2011 19:28

    Sorry that I am so late in finding this post (clicked here from the hats post :) because this is wonderful!
    It seems that as I age I become more and more fascinated with my own family history and heirlooms.
    I think it’s fabulous that you’ve discovered an appreciation at such a young age AND that your family preserved some incredible items.


  1. Hats off… « Life's a Journal

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