Blonde. Blue eyes. Fair skin. It doesn’t take an extensive examination of my family genealogy to guess what might make up my heritage—largely Scandinavian, more specifically, Swedish roots. My mother’s side is entirely, completely, 100% Swede—in fact, it was my grandfather’s nickname throughout his life. While I appreciated having these roots, and enjoyed some of the customs that came along with them (St. Lucia’s Day and the early morning delivery of rolls around our house…), I didn’t fully understand exactly what they meant. In recent years, though, has the true meaning of what all that entailed come to light.
Journals that belonged to my own mother’s grandfather came into my family’s lap. My mom took up the heavy task of translating them, in their entirety, from Swedish to English. I doubt I am alone in occasionally struggling to read the overly-flourished cursive on an old birthday card from grandma—try a lengthy journal in another language. His story was similar to many that immigrated to America; however, when illustrated solely by the words from inside a person’s head, it becomes that much more vivid. An eighteen-year-old, eager to avoid conscription, speaking no English, boards a ship, only to arrive three weeks later in the rain, at 2 am, with no one to meet him. While it might initially appear sad in ways, to him, it was hope—it was joy. He worked hard, he found education, he found love, he found family, he found a life. Correction, he built a life.
Tucked in the diary of Nils Anton Pearson were a handful of mementoes which symbolized times, ideals, and values that he treasured, and carried with him throughout his life. Two of these depict his “American story”—a small, tattered flag, and an Uncle Sam gum wrapper, given to him by the woman that would later become his wife. From him, I received “Emma” (his sister’s name). From him, I received ebelskivers (I maintain my mom makes the best). From him, I received the opportunity of a future—one of blessing, one of joy, one of hope.
- Read more American Stories.
- Share YOUR American Story and we’ll publish it on the PNB Blog.
- Come see American Stories at PNB, June 3-12