Dem Swedes in the woodpile

Going through these old photos of my great grandparents makes very conscious of how much loss they went through just to have a family. Their first two sons died 2 days apart, Axel at 3 and two days later George died at age 1, the next child, Ella (Veldma) survived until she was 18. Then came Hattie (Hatta or Harriet), Della (Lilly), my grandfather Carl, William Blaine who died at less than a year, Elsie (Alla), Robert was the last one. So three sons and one daughter died as children and three girls and two sons lived. The ones who survived Hattie made it to 73 and the others were all over 80. Great Grandma died when I was 5 at 95 in 1959.

I’m thinking my mom advocated for us all having Scottish names after growing up with the Swedish ones. All the girl’s names were suspiciously like the names of the Borden cows in the commercials when I was little. The names in parentheses are the first names they were born with and the other name is the American name they went by after they moved to LA. They started out in Minnesota when it was a territory and then Hilda (Halda) moved them all to LA around 1900 because she swore she was not going to live someplace colder than Sweden. I found the citizenship docs for the kids but Minnesota became a state in 1858 so I have no idea why they needed them if they were born here even if Isaac and Hilda weren’t citizens.

It must have hurt to lose 4 children. I can’t find any death certificates that say what they died of but they were living in Duluth at the time so maybe there was an epidemic of some sort in 1890 when the first two boys died. What killed Ella/ Veldma in 1908 at the age of 18?

Hilda is listed as a Smeddotter on her emigration report in the church records in Sweden. (Why church’s had emigration records I have no clue) Smeddotter means blacksmith’s daughter. So I have smiths on the Swedish and Scottish sides, probably where I got the urge to whack metal with large hammers. Funny, how things you like to do can maybe travel along your genes as well as what you look like. Kind of cool.

I know they all spoke Swedish until Hilda made them join the Presbyterian Church because it was the only church that has services in English and she wanted the kids to learn English because now they were in a America. There was one problem with this. When she got very old when I was little she would slip back into Swedish. I can remember my Uncle Don trying to get her to say “Jam and Jelly” and she’d reply “Pass me the yam and yelly” which used to reduce me to giggles.
Hers was the first funeral I ever attended. For some reason I spent most of it with my grandmother in the car. That was fine with me because Grandma could tie a handkerchief into a rabbit and make it hop up and down her arm and she kept Livesavers Chocomints in the handbag. I wish they still made those.

The biggest change after she died was the unanimous refusal to ever serve lutefisk at a holiday meal every again. Everything else Swedish was fine but no lutefisk, ever!

I got so much from them. My love of photography, grandpa gave me my first Brownie camera so I could be like him with his Leicas. Most of the photos I have of us as kids are from him. Dad took slides and so far they resist copying because they are too colour saturated for my scanner.

I got my boobage from my Great Aunts. I’m built like them to my mother’s horror. She would look at me and say, I don’t know where you go those but I look just like her aunts so it wasn’t hard to figure out.

I got my love of milk and pastries at breakfast from them. And some of my baking talent comes from them.

And I got my nose and I think my enormous hands from them. I bet I have bigger hands than Donald Trump, I had to wear men’s gloves when I was a bell ringer. Women’s gloves were way too small. My piano teacher in college loved them. I could reach more than an octave. Dad called them farmer hands. My sister has these long graceful thin fingered hands but even when I was skinny my hands were not but it was great for doing gymnastics because I rarely missed if I could get my hands on the bars. And it tickled my ortho that even when I had horrible tendinitis I had a grip strength of 80lbs in my left uninjured hand. Most women have a grip strength of 30 lbs or less. The right was only 70 lbs injured. And more than a few men that tried to give one of those handshakes they think are going to crush a women’s hand to exert dominance regretted it immediately when all I did was grin and bear down back. LOL! So dem Swedes were good for a few things. I think it’s the blacksmith’s fault,

I remembered to Rabbit, Rabbit!

And I actually remembered this morning.

Origins and history
The exact origin of the superstition is certainly unknown, though it has appeared in print at least as early as 1420 in England, where it is most commonly said to have originated, though some reports place its origins even earlier, into the 1200s. Today it has spread to most of the English-speaking countries of the world, although like all folklore, determining its exact area of distribution is difficult. The superstition is related to the broader belief in the rabbit or hare being a “lucky” animal, as exhibited in the practice of carrying a rabbit’s foot for luck.

Some have also believed it is representing a jumping into the future and moving ahead with life and happiness.

As with most folklore, which is traditionally spread by word of mouth, there are numerous variant versions of the “rabbit, rabbit” superstition, in some cases specific to a certain time period or region. There are hundreds of variants, some of the most common of which include:

The inverse: instead of believing that saying it will bring good luck, believing that not saying it will bring bad luck.
Instead of saying “rabbit, rabbit”, saying just “rabbit”, or “rabbits”. Some also extend it to three rabbits: “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit,” which has some of the earliest written references.

The earliest referenced usage may be to saying “rabbits” three times before going to sleep the last night of the month, and then “hares” three times first thing upon waking, though just two years later, it was three “rabbits” in the morning with no “hares” at all.

Gilda Radner is reported to have said “bunny bunny” upon waking on the first day of every month. Alan Zweibel used her variation as the title of his book recounting their friendship.

Using the night of the new moon (traditionally the first day of the lunar month) instead of the first night of the month.
Another varitation is “bunny bunny hop hop”

Saying “black rabbits” the night before, and “white rabbits” on the morning in question.

Believing that the effect is stronger on one’s month of birth.

Referring to the first day of each month as “Rabbit Day”.

Various ways to counteract forgetting to say it, most commonly saying it backwards (“tibbar, tibbar”) before falling asleep or saying “Moose Moose” upon waking on the second day of the month.

A different but related practice of saying “Happy White Rabbit’s Day” to someone in order to bring good luck.

Making “rabbit, rabbit” be the last words said on the last of the month and the first words said on the first of the month.

One variation involves an element of competition: Saying “rabbit, rabbit” to another person on the first of the month entitles the speaker to the luck of the listener for the duration of the month.

Traditions also extend to saying on the first of each month: “A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month; white rabbit!” White rabbit is declared to be the “no returns” policy on the “pinch and the punch” the receiver felt. Origins of this saying is unknown.

Saying “White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits”.

A more modern variation is to say “rabbit, rabbit” to someone on the first day of the month, and whoever says it first wins. The idea of luck is not involved.

Saying “white rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit” as the first words of the month, before getting out of bed — and the speaker must first reverse position, so that speaker’s head is at the foot of the bed & vice versa.

Harold Nicolson, the politician and diplomat, often said “Rabbits” not only on the first of the month, but as a general talisman in his long-running diary, held at Balliol College, Oxford.

Around 1920 the following belief is common in many parts of Great Britain, with local variants: To secure good luck of some kind, usually a present, one should say ‘Rabbits’ three times just before going to sleep on the last day of the month, and then ‘Hares’ three times on waking the next morning.

Cavendish, Richard – Man, Myth, & Magic Volume 9. BPC Publishing, 1970
Cavendish, Richard – Man, Myth, & Magic Volume 17. BPC Publishing, 1970
Knapp, Mary – One Potato, Two Potato: The Folklore of American Children W. W. Norton & Company, 1978 (ISBN 0-393-09039-6)