Wednesday's child - Grandma's "Most beautiful baby"

This Wednesday I remember my aunt Gerd Sevaldsen.

My maternal grandmother Dagmar was pregnant with Gerd when she and my grandfather Paul married. Knowing how strictly religious she was I dared to question her on her, shall we say, timing? "But I was engaged!", she vehemently protested. With some study I discovered that in earlier times, particularly in rural Norway, among the farming classes, marriage was the religious event. The engagement or "trolovelse" was recorded by the parish priest with generally two witnesses present. It was the binding agreement between man and woman and the woman often joined the man's family at this time. They would later post banns at the church and the religious event, covenant between the couple and God, would take place later at the discretion of the local priest. If the young couple was expecting, as they often were, the marriage ceremony was expected to be performed before the baby's birth. No one thought poorly of this as it was the intention that mattered. Dagmar and Paul were married in Skien, Telemark, Norway on February 2, 1922. Gerd was born May 14 of the same year.

"My most beautiful baby" is how Dagmar referred to Gerd, her firstborn. She had dark hair and brown eyes like Dagmar and a sweet disposition. Paul left for America when Gerd was just 15 months old. He sent money earned in Chicago and soon prepaid tickets for Dagmar and Gerd to join him. Gerd never made it to America. They were scheduled to leave for Kristiana (now Oslo) just a few weeks after the Christmas of 1923. Dagmar hesitated to celebrate Christmas with her family as her youngest brothers had just had the measles. Her mother, who feared she would never again see them again after they left for America, begged her to come believing the boys were no longer contagious. She was wrong. Gerd did get the measles which swiftly turned into pneumonia. Dagmar had to bury her baby in an unmarked paupers grave and board the train for the three hour ride to Kristiania, alone. Paul's sister Magda wrote her brother in Chicago telling him of his daughter's death.

When Dagmar arrived in America Paul never questioned her about their daughter. In fact they never even discussed the child or spoke aloud the name "Gerd" again. Dagmar felt he blamed her for the little girl's death. Dagmar kept this picture of her "most beautiful baby" on her dresser always.

Gerd Sevaldsen - my only maternal aunt
14 May 1922 - 14 Jan 1924

- Ranae

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