She always seemed so old, as I saw her through my kid eyes. She didn’t come to visit very often. It seemed like we visited at her house more than she visited here. Her name was Hulda. Her husband was Hans. My great grandparents on my mom’s side.
They lived in Viborg, South Dakota. My place of birth. Their house always smelled like coffee. Always. It’s what they did. And they apparently did it all day long. The house also smelled like moth balls. Weird. Such a strange smell. I wonder what they used them for. I liked their small and cozy little house. Boy did she make us mind our manners. It was always please and thank you and you better not forget it. I wish I could remember her voice. I try and try to go back to her house and play out a scene, trying to hear what she is saying. She let us drink coffee with sugar cubes and she gave us butterscotch hard candy. I thought that was cool. I just can’t quite get her voice yet. It’s so close. I just wish I could get it. I would love to hear it.
An Interesting side note about butterscotch. A few days ago when I was walking back into the office from lunch, and out of nowhere the word “butterscotch” popped into my head. I had no idea why. I wonder now if it was because of Grandma Nelsen. I have been thinking of her quite a bit. Trying to remember the bits and pieces of our kid life with her and visiting her and grandpa at their house in Viborg. It was inviting and warm and cozy. I loved it there.
I remember one time Grandma Nelsen coming to visit us in Pierre. I think she came with Grandma Esther. We were super excited because on Saturday of that weekend, we were going to go to rummage sales. Grandmas and rummage sales were a killer combination.
Grandma Nelsen always wore a dress. The grandma kind of dresses. She seemed kind of heavy set. The grandma kind of heavy set. She gave squishy hugs. The grandma kind of hugs.
It’s funny at that time it was always the last name with the Grandma. Now it’s usually the first name with the Grandma. I wonder when that changed. It was always Grandma Nelsen. When we were younger and would visit Vermillion, we called Granda Esther, Grandma Anglin, and then eventually as we got older, it shifted to Grandma Esther.
Grandma Nelsen died in 1974. She was 78. I can vaguely remember her funeral. I do remember walking from the parking lot to the church. It was so bitterly cold and windy. I wasn’t quite 10 years old. We did it again two years later when grandpa died. He was 80. Same month, January. He missed her. He was such a sweet old man.
On this particular visit we couldn’t wait to go to rummage sales with the grandmas. Sherry and I went with them. Grandma actually reminded me of Vicki Lawrence on Mama’s family. Not the hair, but the way she dressed and the purse she carried. The grandma purse. No over the shoulder strap for these ladies; in the crook of the elbow and nowhere else. That is where purses belonged.
We went to a rummage sale on one of the President streets. Polk it seemed like. Grandmas knew their way around rummage sales. I remember just watching. She would pick up something and move it around in her hands and set it back down. She would go to the next thing and do the same thing. Always looking for the best deal. The best price. The best quality.
I found a coin purse. It was small. The kind that clipped together at the top. It had some type of pattern on it and I thought it was amazing. Why did I feel like I needed a coin purse? I didn’t even have a purse and this tom boy would not be carrying one any time soon. Maybe I thought I could just put this in my pocket and never need a purse. Grandma Nelsen bought it for me.
We had a great day rummaging. She and Grandma Esther bought us small trinkets or books or whatever great deals we thought we couldn’t live without. It was nice to get spoiled by our grandmas. It was a special day. It just felt that way.