February 1, 2017

Two Books a Month - January Edition

That was a New Year's resolution.  Score for January.  Two books got from the library and tossed (I'm too old to read books that don't grab me in the first two chapters).  Two other books got and read fully (as below).  My ratings will be on a 1 to 10 scale.

My fiction selection is the, I dunno know, 13th, 14th or 15 in the Merrily Watkins series of slightly paranormal mysteries.  Rickman's dense prose always gives me a master class in description.  9 of 10.

This one took me three separate renewals to complete.  It was beautiful and spiritually informative.  Not for the spiritually disinclined.  Will read it again and again.  9 of 10

You ask yourself, "Will she ever rate something a 10?"  Well, we'll see.

January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

I know it will not be happy for everyone.  There will be challenges, discovery, disappointment and despair as well as joy and forgiveness.  But that is what every year is, isn't it?

I woke up this morning singing five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes from "Rent."  I knew right away I wasn't singing about last year as there were an extra 1440 minutes last year.  I knew I was thinking about the future.

I walked long and hard in the mild day and ended up finding a shiny penny, heads up.

I have never been sure if omens are real or just the things we use to prop ourselves up but since there is no harm in this omen I will accept it gratefully and try to place everything in perspective as it happens. 

I have chosen a motto for the year. 

It is one I will continually test and wonder if the philosophy of it will stick.

October 22, 2016


Welcome to those who have skidded in from somewhere else today.  Right now on my blog below I am exploring the journey of Matilda Serelia Wiberg from the Aland Islands to the US in the early 20th century.  If you are in for the longer haul you might want to pick up one of my books (see side panel) either in paperback or on Kindle.  Whichever you do on this blustery rainy day here in New Jersey, have a beautiful day.
Kastleholm, Aland Islands

October 12, 2016

The rest of Matilda

So now Matilda is pregnant (and married) and in NYC and it is 1911. Ruth, her only daughter, was born in August of 1911.  Matilda would have only one child.  Perhaps the difficulty of being one of 11 had had an effect on her.  The next year her older sister, Alma, with whom she immigrated, would get pregnant with her daughter Beatrice and unfortunately die in 1912.

Well so much for the glamour of the big city but at least Matilda is away from the islands and married to a good steady provider.  Wait.  She’s living on an island, so not exactly away from the water.  Except for a slight interruption in her life when she lived 50 miles from the sea in Plainfield NJ and raised her daughter, Ruth Walborg Johnson, Matilda never lived far from the sea. 

Swen and Matilda were good providers.  Never one to sit still for long, Matilda worked as a seamstress and it leaves me wondering if she ever took on work in her home while she lived in NYC where home work for the sweatshops was prevalent in her time. 

Here Ruth’s memories of her childhood take over which memories included living in grand houses in Plainfield.  What was she doing there?  Well besides Swen's job as a carpenter (usually for the railroad), Swen and Matilda were insurance caretakers for several well-to-do families living in and around Plainfield, the Malis the DeForests and the Hydes. 

The Hyde Mansion
The Deforest Mansion

Hydewood Hall was a grand house at the base of the Watchung Mountains. Due to insurance regulations, someone had to live in the spectacular mansions when the family and servants were away.  These mansions were the fabric of Plainfield and the wonderful task of baby sitting the mansions fell to the reliable Johnson family.  Swen worked at his job of the CRRNJ or at the flooring trade and Matilda kept house and sewed new drapery and slipcovers for their employers.  Their introverted egghead daughter read.

Ruth wasn’t very forthcoming about her life in these houses except for the vastness of the libraries and one other anecdote.  Every time Route 22 flooded by Terrill Road she said glumly, “Well, what do you expect? It used to be the Mali pond.”

In 1939 Ruth, after graduating from college and working for awhile (more on that in another post), married William Walter Christian Kirchner and settled down to watch the war pass by.  Swen and Matilda moved to Staten Island two blocks from the water where Swen could fish in his spare time and Matilda could take in sewing.
When Swen retired they moved to a bungalow in Stuart Florida where Swen could fish off the piers to his heart’s content and Matilda took in sewing. 
The handsome Swen died at age 73 in 1960 shortly after the above photo (front: Ruth, Tina, Walter and back: Matilda and Swen) and the hearty Matilda lived on until 1983 when she died at age 96, infamous for her heckling phone calls berating her son in law and her granddaughter to do her bidding.  Neither would give in.

Next time.  Matilda, Ruth and Christina.

September 29, 2016

Matilda's Journey and an Edwardian Scandal

A miserable rainy day outside so time to return to Matilda’s journey. 

As we have seen she arrived in Boston in 1906.  According to the Swedish Emigration records she was due to go to Rockford, Illinois.  Now how the heck she wound up working as a maid in NYC in the 1910 census will always be a mystery but there she is, doing what a self-respecting, farm raised Aland girl would be doing. 
(Not really Matilda but close enuf)
Since there was no census between 1906 and 1910 I will never know what path sent her to working for William (a stock broker) and Mary Oliver.  Perhaps the person who sponsored her in Rockford was just a foreign help broker.  I can only speculate. But at any rate, there she was in 1910 working for this couple at a swank NYC address, 71 Central Park West when the census taker knocked on the door.


Suddenly, in February 1911 she was in the marriage license bureau with Swen Olaf Johnson, a handsome Swedish laborer she had met (by family tradition) at the Vasa Orden in NYC.
Vasa Orden, or Vasa Order is a Swedish fraternal organization that aimed to acclimate the vast number of Swedish immigrants to this country and now serves as a repository of Swedish-American culture.  In all likelihood there was a chapter on 22nd St. at the Gustavus Adolphus Swedish Lutheran Church. (Which by coincidence I used to walk by almost every day when I was living in NYC)

So this is where the story gets interesting.  Long ago and far away my husband and I were going through my parents “stuff.”  Being young and unaware of what it meant to keep “stuff” we, of course, didn’t.  But the conversation sticks in my memory. 

Barry: I found a marriage certificate in Swedish from the Gustavus Adolpus Swedish Lutheran Church.  Were Swen and Matilda your grandparents?

Me: Ya.

Barry: Well I don’t read Swedish but I think this says February 1911.

(I scoot over to look and confirm.  Then turn red.)

Barry: Perhaps our elopement wasn’t the only family scandal.

Yepers, he was right.  My mother was born in August of 1911.  Family scandal confirmed to me later by her first cousin, Beatrice.  1911 was Edwardian, after all, not Victorian.