Fly Away Home
A memoir about the ups and downs in life and the back and forth travels of a multicultural family.

JERSEY GIRL

This is a preview to the chapter JERSEY GIRL from the book Fly Away Home by Maggie Myklebust.
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In the spring of 1955, Mary Hibbs was only sixteen years old, when one day her younger brother, John, brought a friend home telling them his name was Trygve, but everyone just called him Ted for short. He explained how Ted and his family had just moved over from Norway. After the family finished bombarding Ted with questions about Norway, Mary jokingly asked if he had any older brothers. He said he did. His brother’s name was Ludvig, he too was sixteen, only he didn’t go to school, didn’t speak any English and worked down on the docks, mending fishing nets all day. Mary smiled and thought, he sounds like a bore.

Once the clouds parted, better days were ahead for Gerd and her family as they settled into their new home in Manasquan, New Jersey. What drew them to the area was the commercial fishing industry, where a large number of the fishing vessels were owned and operated by Norwegians. Arthur and Ludvig worked on the boats, Gerd and Jakobine took cleaning jobs and the two younger children went to school. America was everything Gerd expected it to be. She was living her dream; their house had central heating, indoor plumbing, a washing machine and a refrigerator. They even had a car! These were things she could only dream of having on Eigerøy.

The biggest problem was learning English. My uncle Ted always told the story of how once, after he had stayed home from school sick with a headache, Gerd sent a note to school which read, “Ted is a headache”. I used to think this was funny until I learned first hand how hard it is to learn a new language.

It was almost two years after arriving in America that Ludvig met Mary through mutual acquaintances. Mary was a Senior in high school and as she tells it, “Fell head over heels, for his cute Norwegian accent.” There’s not much to tell about their courtship, except that it was short. A few weeks after they met, Mary dropped out of school and they got married. Ten months later on 5 April 1958, they became parents for the first time and three more would later follow. The baby was a screamer, the new mother had no patience and they had no idea what they were doing. Thankfully, both grandmothers lived close by.

Margaret Elizabeth Myklebust. That’s what they named me. Could they have chosen a longer name? The nicknames weren’t much better, Gaga, Maggie Baggie and Wheat-head, because my hair was so white. Then there’s my father’s Norwegian favorite, Budeie, ‘milkmaid’ and believe me I’m more the type to be shopping for genuine leather, than milking it. I wasn’t very big before my mother discovered my greatest amusement was a wet washcloth. I could toddle around the house for hours washing the furniture. Who would have guessed that my early fascination with cleaning would turn into a lifelong obsession? I simply cannot tolerate clutter. When things are out of place or in a state of disarray, so am I. Cleaning is my way of dealing with stress and as much as I understand that vacuuming won’t fix the world’s problems, I do it anyway. My mother is much more relaxed when it comes to housekeeping and I’m sure life would be a lot easier if I’d only inherited this trait.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. It played out during one very intense week, in October 1962. Americans waited anxiously as President Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev worked on settling the conflict of Soviet missiles being placed in Cuba. The following year America was devastated again, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I was five and had just started kindergarten. I didn’t understand it, but I do remember everyone gathered around our old black and white television, crying as they watched the flag-draped casket on its way to Arlington Cemetery for burial. This was also the year we moved to Brick Town and my parents bought the house on Midstreams Road, where they still live today.
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"Maggie Myklebust's book, Fly Away Home, reads like a fairy tale. There are no giants or pirates or six handed..."

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