BY SARAH NIGBOR
Happy Birthday Grandma!
This column is dedicated to my grand- mother, Thelma Lundgren, who celebrated her 96th birthday on Nov. 16! Happy Birthday, Grandma!
My grandma was born at home near Martell. The house is no longer there, but Grandma showed us where it was located, south of the Red Barn. She and her family eventually moved to a farm off County Road I just west of Spring Valley, where she lived until she married my grandpa. My great-uncle Irvin and great-aunt Betty lived at that farm until his death. Aunt Betty is also 96 years young and lives in Elmwood now.
I love to listen to Grandma’s stories about being a farm wife, her high school days and her school memories. Neither she nor her brother spoke English until they went to school (at the Kay School on Highway 29). They spoke Norwegian at home with their parents, and my grandma taught me a few words when I was young. Great-Uncle Irvin and his wife spoke Norwegian in their home, and every Thanksgiving they’d recite the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian.
My grandma graduated from Spring Valley High School, the building that was just demolished. She remembers it as being a very grand building with beautiful fixtures. She tells about working in a local café after graduation, which wasn’t her cup of tea. She was relieved to leave that position. She also worked in the feed mill office as a bookkeeper in Spring Valley, which she said she liked better.
At a dance in Spring Valley, she met my grandpa in 1946. They were married at Gilman Lutheran Church on a snowy (yes, snowy) May 27, 1947. In her wedding photo, she holds a bouquet of stunning, deep red roses. Her love of roses has carried on to this day and we always give her deep red roses for special occasions.
She and my grandpa settled on his family farm near what is now Nugget Lake (it didn’t exist yet then). There they worked hard on their 160 acres and raised three children. The days fairly flew by, filled with the many tasks associated with running a farm. She not only took care of the house and cooking, but helped bale hay, drove tractor, butchered chickens, milked cows, raised a garden. You get the picture.
In 1975, my grandparents sold the farm and moved to their little piece of paradise east of River Falls, which is where I grew up with them. Grandma worked at Smead’s and Grandpa took a job as a custodian at UWRiver Falls. My mom and I lived with for many years and Grandma became my second mother, especially when my mom was at work.
She picked me up from school, took me to church group and choir, made sure I did my homework and practiced piano, and taught me how to keep a clean house. While I did not appreciate dusting the furniture every Saturday morning back then, or doing the dishes every night after supper, or cleaning my room, I appreciate those skills now. I have three favorite memories of my grandma. On Saturday, she used to bake homemade bread and it would smell heavenly. Still warm from the oven, I’d get a piece slathered in butter and homemade strawberry jam. It was so good! It almost made dusting the furniture with an old rag worth it.
Another favorite memory is hearing her laugh when Great-Aunt Lorraine would visit. My grandparents and Lorraine would play cards for hours, and the stories flew fast and furious. When grandma would laugh, it would start off silently, like she couldn’t get enough air, then turn into a high-pitched almost crooning. She would clap her hands together and catch her breath. Tears would leak out. Those were the best moments.
I also love the memory of a fateful piano lesson she took me to. My piano teacher had a naughty dog named Cuddles and a mischievous cat named Penny. My grandma was not an indoor pet person to begin with, and I think they knew it. I was at the piano and Grandma was in an armchair when the cat and dog started chasing each other around. With the dog yipping at her feet, the cat sprung from the floor and landed on my grandma’s head. I will never forget the look on her face.
Grandma, I hope you enjoyed our walk down memory lane. Happy Birthday!