Why a ‘nook’? Nooks are tranquil alcoves; offering peace, serenity, and safety;
cozy and private places of shelter or retreat…
and PERFECT spaces to write from!
Alpha Poem on Imagery
by Colleen Rhodes
Wildflower Journal to the Self Workshop, February 2018
An ancient proverb about death and remembering tells us that you die twice. Once when you take your final breath, and then again, the last time someone says your name. They believed the spirit lives on as long as people keep remembering.
I want to remember my mom so my heart will know she will never be gone. This is my purpose, to write about her, who she was as a person, and document her beautiful life, struggles, and essence.
Margit, also known as Jette Malka in official Jewish records, was a Danish-Jewish woman who immigrated with her husband, Poul, and 10-year-old daughter, Johna, to the United States from Copenhagen, Denmark on July 13, 1948. In the summer of 1956, Margit/my mom, became a United States Citizen at age 40, about one year before I was born. I imagine she wanted the United States to become her new home, secondary to her beloved Denmark, but through the stories and memories of others, I’ve learned she was deeply homesick for her family and probably saddened that her dearest mother died within three years of leaving Denmark. She was never able to return to say good-bye.
Writing about my mom and doing genealogical research has fulfilled a longing to know who she was as a person, not just my mom. I have written letters and short stories focusing on parts of her life I feel are most valued and cherished. Friends and family who intimately knew her are long gone, except for my older brother. I appreciated the memories he shared with me, though sometimes difficult for him to share. Additional information was found through genealogical research and interviewing a couple of my young childhood girlfriends. Lastly, my sister, Johna, 20 years older than I, wrote a memoir, The Red Umbrella, a story of our family’s survival during the Nazi Occupation in Denmark during World War II.
Learning my mom’s story, seeing her photographs, uncovering genealogical discoveries, and reading The Red Umbrella, shows Margit’s beauty, love, and struggles. Sadly, Johna died in 2002 and I missed the opportunity to ask her deeper questions about our mom. May I strive to be as strong, as courageous, and as beautiful as Margit was.
Margit’s New Reality and a Picnic in the Danish Countryside, 1940
A Letter to My Mom
It seems so strange that I’m writing a letter to you, nearly 58 years after you died. It’s my way to validate your life because you didn’t have a chance to tell your story.
On an early spring morning in 1940, gray clouds swirl over the Copenhagen skyline hinting that rain will soon fall, you ride your bicycle through the city center’s market area to gather groceries for your family’s breakfast and evening meal. Johna rides along with you, tucking her little bottom in her seat and propping her feet up so not to tangle with the spokes. Johna is secure hanging out with her mama, happy that she can take in the smells and market vendor noises without worrying about what is going on in the world around her. She gently holds onto your seat with her right hand and uses her shortened left arm, a birth defect, to place pressure on the seat for balance as you roll along the cobblestone streets.
Mom, you, and other shoppers notice German war planes flying above making their way through the skyline. The sun is barely peeking through the clouds that vibrate thunderous roars of war planes. You question, why are these war planes flying over us now?
On the morning of April 9, 1940, Germans came over the southern Danish bordering Germany. Denmark was now under German occupation. It was to be a “peaceful occupation” which meant the Danish government remained in place under the assumption that it cooperated with the Germans. The Danish Jews didn’t have to wear the yellow Star of David and could continue their daily routines and lives as other Danes.
At age 23, you are barely a new mother and newlywed, living in the Nørrebro neighborhood district of Copenhagen, just a 10-minute bicycle ride into the city center. Across the street from your second-floor apartment is the Blågårds Plaza, a public square lined with two rows of large leaved Linden Trees that in the spring have drooping clusters of yellowish-white flowers. This place may have been where you met up with other neighborhood moms, chatting about motherhood, husbands, and other musings about life. Mom, as I write this letter, the plaza now has a community center, library, and several cafes. And, in the plaza center section is a low area where rain collects and freezes in the winter, which makes a great ice-skating rink.
I found a photo of you and dad’s friends and family enjoying a picnic at your mother in-law’s summer cottage in Hareskoven, a short distance north of Copenhagen. You look so happy, sitting on a blanket underneath a shade tree with your friends, surrounded by tall spiky grass, some even in bloom. The guys are lounging half-sitting up and laying down, toasting the photographer (perhaps Poul) with their bottles of beer. You are spotted taking a bite of a what might be a scrumptious pastry or sandwich? Your head turns slightly towards the camera as if you are thinking, see me, “I’m gorgeous, right?” You wear the most adorable dress, covered with a floral design and a thin belt around the waist. Your hair is dark, thick, and curly, and you’ve tucked it behind your dainty right ear.
Even though World War II is looming all around the world and the Germans have occupied Denmark, Danes are still experiencing a cozy Danish lifestyle, that in my present time in 2022 is called Hygge. Mom, Hygge is a big thing! There are books explaining on how Americans can share in this cozy concept. I know, it was normal for you, and I can understand why you might think, “no big deal.” This cozy mood, however, is about to change for you, family, and country. First though, I’m going to take you on a time travel trip, beginning on your fødselsdag (birthday).
Introduction and First Letter
By Linda Miriam Christensen
Celebrate HER Workshop