My grandma Emma was a bona fide giver.
She and my grandpa lived in Fertile, a tiny burg in Northern Minnesota that had a post office, a Woolworth’s store that smelled of dust and time, a couple of churches, and a pool hall. She was a full-blooded Norwegian, and I never once saw her wear a pair of slacks, ever utter a curse word, or even raise her voice. “Uff,” was as close as she ever got to letting a few expletives fly.
After moving off “the farm,” my grandparents settled in a two-bedroom, clapboard house “in town” (a few miles away). The kitchen was in the basement of the house, and I remember thinking, even in my kid brain, that that was rather odd. But in that tiny kitchen, down that squeaky, turned staircase with those old laminate stairs and ridiculously low ceiling, was where my grandma turned from a regular grandma into a giving grandma.
In that kitchen, with the one egress window and some very old appliances, she made cookies, bars, and rosettes, and she gave them all away. And she made lefse. Every Christmas from as far back as I can remember to the time my grandma passed, she sent lefse to all of her kids and grandkids, who were then living all around the Midwest.
Now here’s where you should probably know that my grandma had seven kids and 34 grandkids – that’s a whole lot of lefse. And you should probably also know that my grandma had probably the worst cases of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis known to man.
But that wouldn’t stop her from giving. She’d spend hours and hours peeling, boiling, mashing the pounds and pounds of potatoes she needed for the dozens and dozens of lefse, and she’d do all of it while being bent over like a blade of grass burdened with too much water. She’d roll out the dough, drop those circles of goodness onto the hot grill, and flip them with her lefse turning stick – and all with hands that hadn’t been straight for 40 years.
And even though we lived 300 miles away, every Christmas when all seven of us kids gathered around that old shirt box that was filled with cellophane-wrapped lefse, we knew it came with a smile…and from a bona fide giver.
--Stay tuned for our December issue’s Giving Back Guide, which will feature 10 organizations/opportunities to volunteer within the community.