Featured Writer: Fern Viking

Fern Viking, a 2011 Free Minds graduate, joined our fall writing workshop to continue honing her creative writing skills and to meet other developing writers. “As with my Free Minds experience,” she says, “I have felt a sense of community with my classmates, a meeting of like-minded individuals who are very different from each other except for the love of writing and being creative.” Fern’s story “My Great Norwegian Adventure” is reproduced below:

My Great Norwegian Adventure

by Fern Viking

When I was almost 5 years old and my sister Mari-Lene just a toddler, my dad was laid off from work, so he and my mom decided to have a “creative holiday.” My father, a gifted artist always experimenting with unusual techniques, was at that time working on black canvas with oil crayons. He worked backwards i.e. using the black background as shade and shadows and the colors as highlights. The result was astounding.

We started our trip in Sandefjord, where my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived. There the men strategized our travel routes while the women cooked and saw to us little ones. My aunt Marilynn was only two years older than me, so we became running buddies. She taught  me Norwegian (through osmosis), how to negotiate the outhouse and how to have fun despite the eagle eyes of my Mamma and Mormer (Swedish/Norwegian terminology for mom and grandma). Aunt Anne-Marie was a beautiful, glamorous teen resembling Sophia Loren. She was way too busy with her friends to bother with all us little tykes. Uncle Lars and Jonny were equally aloof, except when they felt like teasing us or tossing us in the air.

Morfar Rangvald Fredrickssen  was a loving, upbeat man. He thrived on doting on us and telling wild stories of his whaling adventures. He was very proud that his sons, my steponkels As-Bjorn and Kjell, were following in his footsteps. Whaling was still legal in Norwegian waters then. They were all strong, capable, rugged sailors. But make no mistake, Grandmom Gustava Johanna Elvira Maria ruled her roost, and when the men were home they happily deferred to her. We all did!

The cozy, warm kitchen was “social central” where people drank coffee and rolled cigarettes, cooked meals, socialized, talked and argued and even bathed the children in the large clothes washing tub. After a few days of this hearty family reunion in my grandmom’s busy household, we were ready to set out on our adventure.

During this trip I felt as though I was related to half of Norway. It seemed everywhere we went there was an aunt, uncle or cousin of my mothers willing to board & feed us & send us on our way. We also camped & stayed in several hotels. In one town mom’s cousin, who worked at a carnival, was able to get us in free. It was my & my little sis’ first experience of a fabulous day of rides, popcorn & cotton candy.

Throughout this time, my father, Rune, found time and space to work on commissioned art. He had a slew of finished pieces that sold well, but some clients wanted specific motifs and my dad was able to produce. He was awesome!

My mom Marie was pretty awesome herself during this trip. Aside from traveling with two small children aged 5 and 2 1/2, she was also pregnant, a fact that became more obvious as time went by. This was also the cause of the “turnip incident.” We were in the car driving through the countryside to our next destination, when Mom spotted the turnip field and developed an intense craving. What could a good hubby do but pull over, climb the barbed wire fence and steal a few turnips for his pregnant wife?

Unfortunately, the farmer and owner of the field happened by at the most incriminating moment, finding Dad with an armload of turnips trying to negotiate the barbed wire fence again. A heated exchange ensued, but after the farmer was introduced to Mom and could see her condition for himself, he let my dad slide.

When we made our way north toward Bergen we often pulled over at the mountain road reststops just to take in the incredible view over fjord and ocean. Once I remember seeing a whale pod frolicking in a quaint little fjord. It may have been one of their chosen spots, returned to year after year and handed down from mother to calf. I was too young to understand the controversy surrounding whale hunting even then. Now I just feel fortunate to have witnessed these majestic animals at play.

Another animal sighting sticks out in my memory. My family, along with a few fellow travelers, camped on the shores at a picturesque lake. Early the next morning we were awakened by one of our neighbors telling us to pack up and leave as quickly as possible. Why? Well, there were large bear tracks all around the camps and tents in the light dusting of snow that had fallen during the night. I’ve never seen people break down tents and load up gear so fast! The whole camp was gone in 15 minutes or less!

All in all it was a great “creative holiday.” Dad sold many paintings, our family bonded and baby sis Shirley was growing and thriving in Mom’s belly. I’ll always remember that trip as our Great Norwegian Adventure.

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