Sweaters and bears


This battered thing is my grandmother’s Norwegian sweater; she bought it in Setesdal in the 1950s (so I was told). It does need a lot of repair, but it was knitted by hand and I think it’s beautiful. This is the traditional Setesdal style, and the Norwegian name for the little white spots translates as “lice,” although I don’t know that for certain, because my Norwegian is limited to the prayer that begins “I Jesu navn gar vi til bords.” It hasn’t been useful up to this point, but I still practice it occasionally in case the island is invaded by Vikings.

I have a memory from early childhood (a disclaimer, if ever there was one) of my grandmother attacking a bear with a frying pan. It was a black bear, not a grizzly; this was northern Minnesota, not Alaska, and she was irritated, not crazy. It was at her cabin, and she had just planted bulbs that had arrived in the mail. A bear stopped by to eat them, and she grabbed the frying pan off the stove and went after it. I was almost too small to see over the windowsill, but I watched the whole thing and, strangely, I don’t remember being frightened at all. I’m so glad I still have her sweater.

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