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

MY MAIDEN VOYAGE

This is a preview to the chapter MY MAIDEN VOYAGE from the book Fly Away Home by Maggie Myklebust.
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I was the first-born grandchild on both sides of the family, but I wasn’t alone for very long. Two years after I was born my sister, Mary Lou, came along and was named after both my parents. Three years after that, my brother Hans was born. My father’s sister, Betty, had four girls, the oldest being Mary Lou’s age. The Norwegian word for grandmother is bestemor, bestefar for grandfather. Some Norwegians call their grandmother mormor meaning mother’s mother or farmor meaning father’s mother. For grandfather it would be morfar, mother’s father and farfar for father’s father. All you really need to know is mor-mother, far- father and then just switch it around. Gerd was my farmor and she was my cousin’s mormor. This may work in Norway but in America it was way too confusing. In the end, everyone called Gerd Mormor and Arthur Farfar. It wasn’t right, but who cares, we lived in America.

In 1968, thirteen years after Gerd, Arthur and Jakobine came to America they decided to move back to Norway. The years in America had been kind and they managed to save a nice little nest egg for themselves. Things were changing in Norway, Arthur was homesick and Gerd wanted to go back and show everyone how well they’d done. They still owned a small piece of property adjacent to the old farm on Eigerøy, where they built a beautiful new house with all the modern conveniences. They sent two large containers by boat from New York and everything from the furniture to the Christmas ornaments was made in America. They even brought over an American car, a Ford Falcon, and if that wasn’t enough, they brought an Irish Setter dog named Big Red.

Being surrounded by all her American treasures wasn’t enough to make Gerd happy in Norway. It was at this time her big plan was hatched. Gerd took one of Betty’s girls to live in Norway with her for a year. Two of Betty’s other daughters, along with my sister and I, went the following summer. That’s how I lost my trip to Williamsburg.

The flight was delayed making it well past midnight before our plane finally took off. We were four girls traveling alone and, at eleven years old, I was the oldest. This was my maiden voyage, my first time on an airplane and watching as the lights of New York disappeared in the night, I felt no fear, only excitement. I remember arriving in Norway and thinking everything looked small. The roads were so narrow we had to stop and let the cars going in the other direction pass by. We drove all the way home from the airport without ever seeing a traffic light.

In Brick Town everything was spread out and people would drive here and there, for this and that. There was a constant blur of activity everywhere. Norway was the complete opposite, I never saw any traffic or crowds, just small towns with quaint little shops located in quiet, pedestrian only areas. Egersund reminded me of a miniature town I’d once seen on a train board. The island only had a few small food stores, which were nothing compared to the miles of aisles in the supermarkets back home. A bridge was built in 1951, linking the island of Eigerøy to the mainland and this made life much easier for the islanders.

New Jersey was as flat as a pancake with hardly a pebble to kick. Norway had large rugged mountains, where it looked as if the rock had been blasted in some places, leaving pieces of all sizes scattered everywhere. Then there was the weather. We were used to warm, sunny summers and here it was cold. Mormor said it was a nice summer, it was cool and windy but not much rain, which was always a plus in Norway. We didn’t let the weather bother us and played outside everyday. The neighboring children would come to the door and say, “Skal jeg vær med deg?” ‘Shall I be with you?’ We’d run off and play, communicating in a makeshift language of English, Norwegian and a lot of hand signs. We went fishing with Farfar and our favorite thing was catching crabs down by the boathouse.
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