I’ve decided that Ballard is my favorite neighborhood in Seattle. I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a home in this outrageously expensive town, but if I could, that would be the area I’d want to live in. It is rich in Nordic history, which brings me back to my roots.
Apparently I spoke Danish before I spoke English. As a hard-working single woman, my mother had no choice but to leave me with my grandmother during the day, and she spoke to me in her native tongue. Once I was old enough to go to school, I lost this talent, and my grandmother passed away when I was 8 years old. I have no memories of speaking Danish, and that’s a pity. I would love to have that ability today.
I thought of my grandmother quite a bit when I visited the Nordic Heritage Museum last week. It’s housed in the heart of the Ballard neighborhood in a former elementary school, so all the railings and door handles are unusually low, and that brought me back to childhood as well. While there I read the stories of the people who had come to America from that region to make new lives, and I saw a lot of the items they brought with them along the way, which reminded me of some of the things my grandmother brought. There were also crafts that looked familiar to me, and skills that my grandparents possessed. My grandfather was a very experienced seaman (in fact he died at sea during WWII) and he was also a dairy farmer. These are very Danish qualities.
All the faces in the pictures, with their pale skin and ice blue eyes and heavy eyelids could have been relatives of mine. And the Danish room with its plain, simple, severe Lutheran religious display struck a chord, too. A translated excerpt from a Danish children’s book entitled The Flight to America made me smile. It said, “In America the rain tastes like lemonade and you can spit on the floor as you please.”
I was delighted to see that they were having a Nordic Christmas Celebration soon called Yule Fest and it would fall on one of my days off, so I made a point of going back. The place was packed. It was full of craft and food vendors and musicians. I spent more money than I intended, because I couldn’t resist the Danish Æbleskiver (which is a kind of pancake that’s shaped like a tennis ball, topped with jam and powdered sugar), the bratwurst, and the clam chowder. I was also dying to buy the sweaters, the candles, the Danish plates, and the jewelry, but I had to control myself.
As I sat there in the crowded hall eating my delicacies and listening to the music, I looked around at the weathered faces, and listened to them telling stories to their grandchildren about the home country. It made me feel somehow connected. As transient as my life has been, that’s a feeling that I’ve rarely had.
I want to get more in touch with my Danish heritage. I even thought of taking Beginners Danish at the Scandinavian Language Institute that’s housed in the same building, but unfortunately it takes place on a day I have to work. Maybe some day. I quite like the idea of coming full circle. Like an Æbleskiver.
[Image credit: wikipedia.org]