Friday, March 1, 2013

A life remembered...

 On January 21st 2013, my Mormor, Ane Birthe Elisabeth Carlsen, passed away at the age of 100.  She died in her sleep, in her own home.  It was a peaceful end to a busy life.  I spent a week in her home, south of Copenhagen, Denmark helping my mother with the sorting and packing of a house full of memories.

Spring 2012

Our 2005 Visit and Gus's first time to meet his Olde Mormor

My sister traveled over with my Mother first and spent time on a treasure hunt, emptying drawers and shelves and carrying things down a very steep flight of stairs. She did a huge amount of work sorting clothing to be discarded versus donated. Over 90% of the clothing was gone before I arrived. (We still took 9 bags of clothing and linens to Red Cross on my last day). This picture, taken from the top of the stairs, doesn't begin to show how very steep these stairs are...  There are now stacks and stacks of items to continue sorting.  My uncle came in on a Saturday to pack china and pick up memorabilia from his family.  Countless trips have been taken to the dump as well.

The house was built in 1919. It is quirky with built in cabinets and shelves and a wonderful paneled dining room. My grandparents purchased it in 1949 as a summer home and moved to it year round in 1964.  There are a lot of memories here. In 1987, while touring Europe by Eurail pass after spending a semester in London, I arrived one morning in Copenhagen much earlier than expected. Rather than wake my grandparents, I curled up on a chaise lounge on the back terrace where they found me a few hours later.  I remember the terrace as covered in flowers, though this trip it was snow. Sixty years translates to a lot of stuff.

It was a different era - then a good household was able to serve dinner for 24 using matching china, silver and glassware...  Now - at home, I have 3 different sets of dinnerware.  Sadly, I think my "wedding" china has been used once in 13 years of marriage. We turn first to the pink plates or the stoneware as they are more easily reached and dishwasher safe.  Glassware, forget it - my table is eclectic to say the least. But I digress...

Specialty items galore as well.  Who knew there was such a thing as an oyster plate?  Well, my grandparents had 10 of them... The everyday china has even more specialty pieces. So far we've uncovered a gravy boat, butter holder, toothpick holders, candy dishes of various styles, in addition to the requisite plates, bowls, lunch plates, tea cups, saucers and serving trays. My favorite piece is the fruit ark... As my uncle put it, in 10 years, this will be retro.  Right now though, I think he is wondering what to do with it.

I spent one afternoon tearing up worn sheets to wrap items and organize them for shipping to Florida. The tearing was therapeutic, but dusty.  Speaking of dust, Gus so generously shared a cold with me about a week before I left.  I was doing pretty well on the trip over, but between the lingering cold and the amount of dust we kicked up as we carried things around, I spent more time concentrating on breathing / not coughing the first two days. I did learn that most of the OTC drugs we can get so easily here require prescriptions in Denmark.  Fortunately Mom was with me when we ventured into the pharmacy where we found a children's cough syrup to combine with the meds I brought along with me.  Wow. VILE doesn't begin to describe it. Little to no danger of kids sneaking it. I think I can still taste it.

My memories of the house have always been tied to their artwork.  Several years ago, I asked Mom, if there was one item I could have from the house, it would be the cow painting - and I'm pleased to say that once the estate is settled and the items packed that we will be finding a place to hang this favorite painting.

The castle to the back is not original to the painting. My grandfather had another artist add it later, and it is the castle where they rented a gardener's cottage every summer.  I loved visiting the castle and the cottage when we were young, and watching the cows in the fields nearby.  Thus I am thrilled to be able to keep this memory and to share it with Gus.  We have several other wonderful paintings coming to us as well.  My walls will finally be grown up!

While in Denmark, Mom and I spent time doing fun stuff as well.  On Wednesday we went downtown to enjoy high tea at AC Perch's Tea Room.  For the tea connoisseur, this is crack. The first time Mom introduced me to AC Perch's Thehandel it was to the store below the tea room.  Imagine walking into a small room, lined on two sides with brass apothecary jars.  As you open the door a wave of tea hits you in the face. Intoxicating!  I brought home four different types of tea, nearly 1/2 kilo in all.  My luggage smelled wonderful. 

Thursday we traveled south to Køge to an embroidery shop and chose three kits to enjoy. We then walked over to my favorite quilt shop, or patchwork as it is more commonly called.  Patchwork Butikken is a delightful store. They do carry many fabrics I can find at home so i pass those by. Over the past few years I've found several patterns with very Danish themes and some uniquely Danish fabric (Nisse). Mom brings me fabric and/or patterns after most of her visits too. 

Now, remember my opening picture... the high on Thursday was 1 - Centigrade.  A veritable heatwave.  This southerner bundled up!

Thursday night we spent at Cirque de Soliel - Allegria.  VERY French.  The acrobatics were amazing. We went with two of Mom's friends and ran into more of her highschool friends while waiting in the lobby.

I enjoyed spending time with Mom. It was bittersweet knowing that this was my last visit to the house I've been visiting for over 40 years. I'm not sure when I'll get to return to Copenhagen. There are so many wonderful memories.  I have plans to incorporate these into future quilt projects.

The Beach at Greve. February 2013. Snow atop the white sand.

1 comment:

SandraB said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. The pictures are awesome. I am sorry for your loss.