I wrote about my great-grandmother and my grandmother, Marie, in the post The Paranormalist’s Family Album: Jack, Marie & Edward, with guns – 1910s. Marie’s story – unlike her mother’s – is well known to our family. She was sent from Norway to American, with her brother Jack, because her mother was dying, to live with siblings from her mother’s previous marriage.
The first half-sister who took in the children was not kind. There are stories of Marie being stripped of the nice things she had with her when she arrived in Minnesota, and of being forced to sell a certain number of apples before she could return home for the evening.
Time passed. Stories of the children’s mistreatment made their way to northern Minnesota, where Edward and another adult half-sister lived. This half-sister went to fetch Jack and Marie while they were still young teens. A few good years followed. Marie learned the womanly arts, like sewing and cooking. She went to the local barn dances. She fell in love with a German boy, John, who had a wild reputation (for his time.) She married him and moved to his homestead. Then things went horribly wrong.
By most accounts, the abuse was harsh and frequent. The marriage yielded three children. Marie’s only son took the brunt of John’s legendary temper, but the girls did not escape unscathed. (One afternoon John speared my mother through the thigh with a pitchfork, because she wasn’t packing the hay wagon tightly enough. She wasn’t yet twelve years old at the time.) Though Marie adored her children, she was not able to protect them. Sometimes she was able to deflect John’s rage from them to herself.
One by one, the children ran away. Eventually, the couple sold the farm and moved to a small house in town. Marie became a licensed practical nurse. She worked with The Sisters, as she liked to say. She settled into a rough peace with an aging John.
Very late in her life, Marie divorced John and came to live with my mother and me. She was in her eighties, I was in my late teens. She didn’t take up much room. She just needed a place to keep a few few delicate things – her nursing pin, her sewing basket, her china cup – she had brought with her, from the little house she had shared with John. It was easy to make her happy. She enjoyed a very small scoop of vanilla ice cream, in a pretty dish, at the end of each day. She died of heart failure before I was graduated from high school.
Just a year later, I became pregnant. When my daughter was born I became a single mother. My family remodeled the basement of my mother’s home into a nice little apartment. My daughter and I lived there for four years.
By the time my girl was a year and a half old, she was frequently talking about her friend, “Tee-tee”. Tee-tee liked to have tea parties. Tee-tee liked soft, pretty things. Tee-tee was very quiet. Before long, the imaginary friend faded from my daughter’s life, but every once in a while she would reminisce about spending time with the little woman, whom she now referred to as Grandma Teacup.
It wasn’t until years later that my daughter first saw a photograph of Marie as an elderly woman.
You already know the end of this story, don’t you?
I’m sorry I don’t have a way to upload a picture of Marie tonight, but I will when my scanner is working again.