I want to write about Norway.
It’s in the news, a rare event. And for something tragic, even more rare in this happiest of countries. I wasn’t surprised that Norway was listed as the happiest country earlier this year. I had one of the happiest weeks of my life there in 2008.
In 1906 my grandfather was born in a small town on the western coast of Norway called Ervik. Everyone in the town is named Ervik. He came to the U.S. in the 1930s and his name was changed to Ervick. I used to be Kelcey Ervick. Growing up I was told that my name came from the town where my grandfather was from (true!) and that “Ervick” meant “duck” (false!). In fact, “vik” means inlet or cove, and with all the towns on the edge of water in Norway, this explains why there are so many whose names end with “vik.” (Including this person.) I was really, really hoping “vik” had something to do with viking. Apparently it doesn’t. [Update, with thanks to Joe Chaney: there’s hope! (for viking etymology)]
Pop-Pop spoke English in a gentle, accented way. But there was one thing he always said to us in Norwegian, and one thing he expected us to say: Jeg elsker deg. I love you.
Pop-Pop died in 1992, and we finally made it to Ervik, Norway in 2008. My dad and step-mom, my uncle and aunt, my sister, and two of my brothers. Pop-Pop was one of the only ones who left for the U.S., so all of his nieces and nephews were still there, and they are the ones that found us on the Internet and invited us for the reunion that happens every three years: Tilbake til røttene. Back to the roots. It took place three years ago this very weekend, and it’s taking place again right now.
We went back to roots we hardly knew we had, and our lives and family grew and grew and grew. The village was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen, with mountains, farmland, a river, a lake, a beach on the North Sea, and yes, the midnight sun. (See pics.) But more amazing were the people, the family members who raised crisp new Norwegian flags and welcomed us like royalty. And beyond that were the stories of this place, where in 1943 a passenger ship (SS Sanct Svithun) was bombed and the villagers (my relatives!) rushed to save as many lives as they could; where the Nazis set up one of their camps on the Atlantic Front and left behind ruins of their dining hall and caves (see pics); where we learned things about Pop-Pop that none of us had known: he was engaged when he left for the U.S. (where he met and married my Danish grandmother); his fiancee (we saw her picture) never married; and, this affected my father and uncle the most: he had been at the battle of Normandy. There was a whole section on it in a book.
There’s much more to say, but for now, here’s a mini photo-essay (very mini) to say a bit more that I can’t say. I love Norway and its people, and hold them even closer on this weekend of tragedy and of happy anniversary.