Yesterday morning we visited the old neighborhood and drove past our grandparents’ homestead. Our first house is now a parking lot but grandpa and grandma’s house is still standing.
My grandfather influenced me deeply. Swan was born in Orebro, Sweden in 1880. The next year he, his parents and older brother and sister immigrated to the United States. In Sweden it didn’t matter that the initials for Swan Oswald Bolin might scar him for life. Somehow, he survived.
I thought he was a superhero! He made me a bow and arrow, gave me a pocketknife, taught me to play mumblety-peg, took me fishing, let me watch the Three Stooges, and shared his pickled herring. He even taught me a few bad words when he cut himself making me a slingshot.
He was a master storyteller. Though he only finished the sixth grade, he read widely and loved history. He could recite the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Emperors of Rome, and the Kings and Queens of England, and could tell stories about all of them – some of which were rumored to be true. He loved baseball and wrote delightful poetry.
One of my favorites is – THE ANCIENT MARINER. In it, Grandpa recounted a story of me falling out of the boat at the end of a fishing excursion with him, dad and Paul - circa 10-years old.
Danny was a sailor
He sailed Willamette Slough
He was a sturdy member
Of a brave and gallant crew
Grandpa rode amidship
With Paulie by his side
Warrnie was the captain
And Danny was his guide
When we pulled into dockside
Dan did not stop to think
He reached too far to starboard
And landed in the drink!
We had lunch today with three of our four Bolin cousins. Our grandparents, Swan and Hattie had two sons, Clarence (Ceeb) the older, and Warren the younger. Those two were remarkably different; as different as extrovert and introvert can be. Uncle Ceeb and Aunt Mary Helen had four children and so did Warren and Jean. For those keeping score – that is eight cousins. Cousins are the best relatives! They share half of your gene pool, so they cannot be overly critical. They know enough family background to be sympathetic. And everyone knows enough family secrets to keep everyone else honest. All the shared memories kept everyone wildly entertained. They get better with age! There is great symmetry to the families. They have three girls and one boy we have one girl and three boys. All eight Bolin cousins have ‘A’ for the first name’s first vowel. Ranked in order of birth: Gail, Carol, Nancy, Barb, Jim (James), Dan, David, and Paul. The four girls came first then the four boys. In the 1950s, the three generations and three households lived in houses on adjoining lots. We were next door to our grandparents, and across the alley behind them, lived the cousins. It was not commune living, but not far from it. The cousins eventually moved to Salem and we migrated two blocks away to DePauw Street. Now we are scattered around the world. We don’t see much of each other, but when we do it is a blast. We had lunch with Gail, Carol, and Nancy. And as always, it was a delight! I suspect the Jordan Street memories will be around as long as there is a cousin left to tell stories – the way only they remember them.