My mother’s parents, Hiram and Josie Femrite, visited Norway only once together. This was in 1955. They saw several areas of the country, but the place where they spent the most time was in the town of Saebo where Josie’s Tryggeseth family has farmed for a couple hundred years. The ancestral farm is called “Tryset,” and it’s just a short distance up the valley from Saebo. Josie’s first cousin, Andreas Tryggeseth, was their host and escorted them up and down the valley visiting family and friends, and he even took them up into the mountains to where the family had a hut that they used in the summer when they grazed their cows.
Sometime after Hiram and Josie returned home from their extended visit, they received a package from cousin Andreas and inside was a gorgeous oil painting of a 19th century photograph of Tryset. I don’t remember exactly when, but at some transitional moment in my grandfather’s life (probably when he moved to Arizona in 1968 and took up residence in a “double-wide” mobile home with no wall space large enough to properly exhibit a painting of that size) he gave the painting to my mother and it claimed a very prominent place in our house above the couch in the living room. At the time my siblings and I had no idea where in Norway the farm was, but we were awestruck by the backdrop of hills and mountains, some of which were shaded in purple.
When my mother died in 1999, I inherited the painting of Tryset and hung it on the wall above the couch in our living room.
Fast forward to the summer of 2003: my daughter Kari and I went on a holiday together in Norway to celebrate her high school graduation. I was determined to visit both my Bergeson and Tryggeseth relatives and introduce Kari to them. I had previously been to Norway and spent time with all of the Bergeson kin, but I had never been to the Tryggeseth farm in Saebo and was very excited about that aspect of our journey.
I knew that cousin Andreas’ son Ivar lived on the farm and I had written ahead of time to tell him we were coming so we’d be sure someone would be home. When we got to Tryset and went inside the house, I nearly fainted at the very first thing I saw just inside the door. It was the same painting that I had on my living room wall, the painting that I’d become intimately familiar with over the previous 35 years. I was speechless.
The ensuing conversation answered some of the many questions circling around in my head. Turns out that cousin Andreas had commissioned two paintings of the family farm in 1955, one for himself and one for his American cousin, my grandmother, Josie. I’m pretty sure that my mother didn’t know there were two paintings and I’m guessing that Hiram didn’t know that either since my mother never visited Tryset and my grandfather never returned to Norway after 1955.
When I recovered my composure, Ivar expressed his profound satisfaction that Kari and I were in his home. “No one from America has been to visit us since Hiram and Josie were here in 1955.” I was truly humbled by his gracious welcome and the enormous sense of place that I felt at the time. I had finally completed the pilgrimage to my mother’s ancestral roots.
L to R: Ivar Tryggeseth, Ole Tryggeseth and daughter, Kari Bergeson, Bjorg Tryggeseth