Monday, November 30, 2009

Family Secret

Emma Amundsen was born in 1896. She married a young man named Fritz Erickson, and they left their homeland of Finland to start a new life in Ketchikan, Alaska, where Emma gave birth to their daughter, Dorothy Jane.

Emma is my great-grandmother. I never gave her existence a thought, as I never heard her name mentioned and cannot recall a single story involving her presence; I suppose I presumed she died at childbirth or in my grandmother's youth. You can imagine my shock to discover that Emma had been living in Alaska throughout most of my childhood. And you can understand my sadness to learn that she was buried in an unmarked grave. When my mom found out, she climbed into her car, drove to the Palmer cemetery, and paid for a plaque engraved with Emma's name and dates to be set above her resting place.

So many questions . . . did Emma and my great-grandfather divorce? I do not know. Did she run away? I do not know. Was she institutionalized due to poor health or mental illness? I do not know. Did she ever hear that her only daughter gave birth to seven children, or learn that those seven grandchildren of hers produced at least 16 great-grandchildren, or dream that those great-children would go on to have more than 15 great-great-grandchildren? That even though she was no longer included in the family, Emma Amundsen Erickson held a place in her own legacy that could never be erased?

I do not know.

Dinner last night: turkey tetrazzini

1 comment:

Janet said...

Yep - lots of mysteries....