Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First of all, I want to make this clear: I am the proud son of a native Norwegian. Even though my Dad moved to the United States when he was only four years old, he did not leave his love of the old country behind. And he passed that affinity for his heritage on to me, my brother and my sister. We, in turn, have done so with his five grandkids, collectively.

Over the years I have learned that Norwegians are fundamentally a nice, polite people. Hard working. Amiable. And decidedly grim. Grim? Yeah, I know. It seems so incongruous, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

Allow me to explain.

One must keep in mind that Norwegians are by and large descendants of The Vikings. Not exactly a light and breezy bunch. When you can trace your lineage directly back to a group of marauding, pillaging barbarians who’d just as soon lop your head off with a battle ax as look at ya, your demeanor may tend to be a tad on the grim side, too.

And think about it. Just how joyful could you possibly be if you subsisted to a significant degree on a diet of lutefisk and pickled herring? Oh, but the Norske balance it all out with a fistful of lard-based tasteless bread product labeled lefsa (after all, it could hardly have been called "right"sa). “Grim” has got to be the highest level a human being can achieve on the happiness spectrum when you know the meal is bound to include such fundamentally foul food.

Lefse on a griddle.
Lefse on the griddle.

And the Norwegians frown upon any manner of self-aggrandizement or braggadocio. They are truly a humble lot. Such an inherently repressive attitude naturally leads to a rather grim state of being. It really just can’t be helped.

Which brings me now to a story my Dad tells of his childhood growing up on a farm in northwest Washington state. Seems my late grandfather and my father were collecting hay for the cattle with a pitchfork one day. Now my grandpa was a great guy, and I loved him dearly. But he wasn’t exactly “Mr. Warm & Fuzzy” by any means. He was strictly old school from the old country. That country, of course, being Norway. On this particular occasion, Grandpa was evidently in a bit of a hurry, and in his haste he inadvertently (or so my Dad believes) stuck a pitchfork prong directly into my Dad’s leg, resulting in excruciating pain and bloodshed on behalf of my father. Rather than reacting in horror and rushing to his son’s aid, my Grandpa barked at my Dad to steer clear so he could finish his work. Boy, if anything will instill an attitude of absolute grimness in you, being stabbed by a razor sharp farm implement and then directed to get your butt the hell out of the way would have to be near the top of the list.

And not that a grim outlook on life is necessarily always bad. It is certainly consistent. It keeps one forever guessing as to whether someone stands in approval or disdain of you. It dispenses with perfunctory pleasantries. I mean why waste your breath asking a Norwegian, ”How’s it goin’?”, when you know the answer full well already; “Grim, you idiot. Just like yesterday. And tomorrow, too, for that matter. Now leave me alone so I can be miserable in peace, will ya?”

Yes, those of us of Norwegian flesh and blood are a grim lot. We don’t deny it. We don’t hide it. And we are not ashamed of it, either. In fact, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go to work on my scowl. I’ve only been able to muster a bit of a frown here lately. And for a Norwegian, that’s just not gonna cut it.

Norway really is a way cool place. Check it out for yourself...