This week’s theme “closest to your birthday” was a no-brainer for me. I have many fond memories of sharing a birthday cake with my paternal grandfather, Oscar Christenson, who was born 3 days before me on July 8 (albeit 63 years earlier).
Oscar was born in 1911 in Winger, Minnesota to Norwegian farmers Christ and Agnethe (Rindahl) Christenson, the youngest of 3 surviving children. He grew up in a close-knit farming community surrounded by his uncles, aunts and cousins from both sides of the family. It looks like he had many good times with his cousins and prize animals.
He seemed a bit of the bachelor, for he was living on his parent’s farm with his siblings on the 1940 census at age 28. However later that year he did marry Eleanor Johnson, youngest daughter of George and Albertina Johnson, another local Norwegian family, (although that’s not saying a lot, I think everyone in the county was of Norwegian ancestry) There is no record of his WWII enlistment, however it is unlikely that he served, because my uncle was born in 1943, my father in 1945, and my aunt in 1948.
My grandparents grew up speaking Norwegian, but didn’t teach their children the language (the story was so that they could have “private” conversations without the children understanding!). My grandfather Oscar did teach me the Norwegian table prayer, which I had to recite before each meal upon their visits:
I Jesu navn går vi til bords
å spise, drikke på ditt ord.
Deg, Gud til ære, oss til gavn,
Så får vi mat i Jesu navn.
When I had the role of Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, in a school play, he taught me some niceties, such as, “vær så snill” (please), and “mange tak” (many thanks). I felt authentic!
I am pleased to think that I inherited my musical ability from him (neither of my parents have it). At his funeral in 1995, a relative spoke of him playing accordion at the dance halls and other functions – I wish I could have seen that! I hope that he’s looking down with pleasure on the band concerts of his great-grandchildren – perhaps one of them will pick up the accordion! Takk og ha det bra!