July 30
I'm a lawyer in my past life, who got the kids through college and decided to try something different and a little more fun. A used book store sounded like a good idea, so that's where I am for now. I just hadn't counted on a recession or E-readers and am a little afraid there's going to be a third act. In the meantime, I have plenty to read and a little time to write. Not a bad way to spend a day.


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JULY 3, 2012 10:15AM

Feeding Chickens With Grandpa

Rate: 17 Flag


Every day during our annual summer vacation, Grandpa and I would fill a bucket with feed and throw it by the handful to the chickens in the wire enclosed pen in the back yard . I'm not sure why he had chickens. He didn't live on a farm and I don't remember us ever collecting eggs. Nor do I remember having fried chicken or any other chicken related entrees for dinner. I remember Grandma's Norwegian pancakes with jam, and I remember the Norwegian fruitcake that she sent every Christmas. 

I even remember sitting at their dining room table in seats that weren't assigned, but were always filled with the same people. I was across from Dad and next to Grandpa. The conversations were mixed with the lilt of  accents that turned my named from "Jeanne" to "Yeanne." 

My grandmother came from Norway by herself, while still in her teens. She made her way to Chicago, married poorly, had my dad, and raised him mainly by herself after her husband fell down a flight of stairs. Too much aquavit, I think, although that part of the story was always hazy. I wonder if it was ever told in letters sent back to the old country, but think not. America was the land of dreams, and that might not have fit.

Grandpa didn't come into the timeline until after Dad was grown. He came from Sweden, was previously married and had a grown son. I don't know the circumstances of his arriving here. I know only that he had a skill; that he was good with his hands; and that it provided him a livelihood.

I don't know how my grandparents met either, but to hear them bicker over the table about the relative advantages of Sweden versus Norway, it wasn't exactly a shared love of country. Unless that country was America, which I suppose it was. They married, moved to Tennessee, and Grandpa raised chickens among the hills and mountains that must have reminded them of Scandinavia.

My grandmother died when I was in fifth grade. Dad was there in the weeks before and toook a long letter with him that he made me write before he left. He told me she asked him to read it over and over. 

Grandpa's son came and got him and took him to live in a room in an old folks' home in Chicago. I'm not sure what happened to Grandma's things. Or Grandpa's. Or the chickens. Other than one ornate vase that Grandma was given by the wealthy Chicago family that she kept house for before she met Grandpa, we don't have anything. The vase sits in my sister's dining room. We've often wondered if it has any monetary value, but have never checked. It has value to us.

We visited Grandpa in Chicago the next summer. What I remember most about that visit is that all the cards and letters my sister and I had sent him were lined up on the top of the dressers in his room. There were no chickens, but there were intricate pieces of dollhouse furniture that he was building. I secretly believed they were being made for me, even though, at eleven, I was a little old for dolls, and even though his son told us they were being sold at a store. 

He died the next year before we could visit again. We were out of town at the time and didn't find out until we came home. He had already been buried by then. I don't know what happened to his things. My cards and letters were probably thrown away. The dollhouse furniture was probably sold.  

He's buried next to my grandmother in a cemetery in a small town where he never lived, but where his two granddaughters grew up. They both feel very much like they carry his bloodline.

One of them wishes she had a few pieces of dollhouse furniture that she still believes was being made for her.

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There is so much in the lives of your grandparents not told. Have you ever thought of researching their early lives and how they met, and writting about it?

This captivated me from first word to the last.
All I have from my grandfather is the license plate from his 1949 black Dodge pickup truck and a rusty horseshoe from the barn... I gave his ancient Barlow pocket knife to my stepson. I have all that I need.
Such a wonderful story. My grandfather was a chicken farmer and as a child, we raised chickens as well. And as I get older, I find myself more and more curious about where I came from.
My love of chickens is well document in previous posts, so I won't gush about them any more....

Needless to say, the title had me hooked.

I wish I had known either of my grandfathers...such a vivid and captivating read, as usual.
I was lucky enough to have a wonderful relationship with myDad's parents. The memories make me smile as, it seems, do yours. Wonderful post.
Memories are filled with dollhouses, bikes, red wagons and grandfathers. Lovely memoir. Yeanne.
Nice story. You have such lovely, detailed memories and your childhood and family life.
Sweet and poignant. I'll bet Grandma was the one who got the eggs. Somebody must have gotten them or your grandparents would have been overrun with chicks in no time. It felt familiar and oddly comforting to see the words "Old Folks Home." That's what we called them, too. Much more human than the clinical names assigned to them these days.
David--I wish there were people around to ask. My sister and I did go to my grandmother's hometown in Norway. It felt oddly like home.

jmac--I'm pretty satisfied with pictures and memories.

postmormon--Start asking the questions now before there's no one around to answer them.

Pensive--I've always wondered if they didn't eat chicken while I was there, knowing how much I liked them.

Rob--I wished mine had lived closer, but the memories that I have bring smiles too.

Ande--Grandma fits in there too. But as jmac often says, "That's a story for another time."

Manhattan--Thank you. I wish I had even more.

Matt--This Old Folks' Home was a big, old, ornate brick building, sitting on top of a hill. Or at least that's how I choose to remember it.
That made me just smile that he had lined up all your cards and leters.
Man, how sweet is that?
That's Lifetime movie sweet.:)
Jeanne, this is poignant.

I love the image of your grandparents arguing Sweden v. Norway at the kitchen table!

I'm with David; would be fascinating. r.
I'm with David; would be fascinating. r.
The transience of life rings true here. We need to live for the moment, and write down our memories for the next generation as we're living them.
This brings back a lot of memories. My sister still makes my grandma's julekake recipe every Christmas. She and I, sadly, are the only ones who
eat it. I have a ship model my grandfather made when he was in his 90's that is a replica of the whaling barks he sailed on in his youth. He remembered where every rope and stay went. It has pride of place on my dresser. R
Linda--Remembering those letters and cards makes me want to start sending more snail mail.
V.--Never a clear winner either.
Jonathan--I'm just not sure there's any place to research.
Lea--I agree. It's in large part why I write.
Gerald--I didn't like the julekaka much as a kid, but it was as much a part of Christmas morning as presents.
Keeper for Veteran PTSD Wrap Discussion?
I agree with Senior Discount Good Gerald A.
He takes chickens into used Book Stores too.
Chickens Feed on dropped cereal rice crispy.

I remembered This. On Easter I give 25 chicks.
My daughter would stay at the chick box all day.
The 55- watt light bulb kept babe chicks warm.

One day She was feeding about twenty baby hens.
Then She accidently stepped on a chick in the yard.
Then the other children began yelling` Stop! Stop!
After all stomping ended there were three dead hen.
It was my daughters first CHICK TRAUMA. She sad.
O do
We be
We had chicken soup.
No step in cow poop.
No be near politico.
They chicken shits.
Thy kill by proxy.
Shame on creeps.
Have happy 4th.
No drop cereal.
a child ask post news
why do folks kill cereal?
they are serial killers
They profit from war.
Go read in bookstores.
No Yodel any pig songs.
mm. a gorgeous read as always.

ah those cards and that dollhouse. i suspect you dream of them
often...?....please do NOT tell me you are one of those
who never remembers their dreams.

Sweden vs. Norway is one i never heard of before, but sure, i can imagine it.

What did the old boy do with those chickens of his?
that is kind of odd..no eggs, nor fried chicken/?

my grandpa died at the same time..early teenhood....
he was from germany, spoke in an indecipherable accent,
was stone deaf, so you had to yell in his ear. a tiny man, 5 ft 3 at most. my dad at 5 .8 towered over him.

i shall never forget the call , telling dad his dad was dead.
he listened, and then intoned in a deep voice, "I see."

It hit me hard, grammper's (as we called him) death.
i loved to linger by his ancient foreign presence; smelling his old man smells, trying to figure out what he was all about.

He raised chickens too . and my dad? he was the chicken killler , twisted their necks, for a fine chicken meal...

grammper, who were you? why did come here in 1909 or so?
So sweet and poignant. Grandparents are like built in bestfriends. This brought back ome great memories.
This is so moving. It's sad the objects (and animals) left behind when someone leaves this earth, and how it's not always taken care of as we might have preferred. I guess that's part of continuing through life, but it's still sad and frustrating. The most important thing, of course, are our memories - thank you for sharing your memories of your grandparents here.
Lovely memories. Have you tried to find more information on ancestry.com or the LDS web sites? You might be surprised at all you can find. The census data before 1940 is available for free and offers lots of clues.
Art--I always wanted Easter chicks. But that PCST might have done me in. Happy 4th. Watch out for the chicks.

James--I always remember my dreams, even the ones I want to forget.

Poppie--Grandparents can usually be counted on for good memories.

Alysa--Keeping their stories is the best. I just wish I had more.

Amy--I have done some research, but dates are about all I come up with.
This was sad and beautiful at once. I tried to comment yesterday but it left me in tears. My grandmother gave away many beautiful and costly things to friends, and to the poor. She just didn't care much about stuff. Last year my mom gave me an album filled with old photos she collected from Egypt and in it were the letters and postcards I'd written my grandmother years ago. I had no idea they were important to her and that she'd saved them for so many years.

Thank you for the reminder. Rated.
Wow, Jeanne Jilly-- this is such a tender story, the guts of which are not even there. It is amazing, the impressions made in childhood, that linger, and grow. My middle brother was Mom's Little Keeper. I always felt lucky to have him for my life to my 60th - he finally opened up, and now I know, pretty much, everything. That the Irish Grampa's "infirmity" was really syphilis, so that's why his grave was off and away from all the rest of us. I dunno. It's kinda cool to know the Truth, but to be honest? The fantasies were more fun. I too long for chickens. The only thing that stops me is havin' to feed the dang clucky things when the snow is deep. Eggs rule. This story is such a thing - a real nugget. (Reminds me of Isak Dinesen, too - Karen Blixen - the marriage scene from Out Of Africa.) Ja.