In Swedish, we have separate words for maternal grandmother (mormor—literally: mothermother) and paternal grandmother (farmor—literally fathermother). And then there was trollmor (Minta, my troll mother—not many humans have one of those).

My mother Lisbet’s mother, my mormor (whom we all called Mommi), was named Olga. My father Kjell’s mother was named Irene.

At first (early, early days), Olga was a large, benign presence to me. A huge, loving presence. Irene was large, too, but (from my limited, hugging-the-ground view) she seemed more efficient than benign, and a little scary to be honest. I think the right word might be strict, but that can be scary for one contemplating the wisdom of learning how to walk.

Olga dressed for winter year around. She would wear at least a couple of ankle-length skirts or dresses over long, dark-gray or black wool stockings. Add a blouse or shirt or two under a cardigan or two, all in many (often clashing, gypsy-like) colors. Gray, calf-length boots made from coarse wool warmed her feet while many-colored headscarves (though only one at a time as I recall) would cover her long, white, often braided hair. She wore glasses even when she wasn’t reading, and she wet the very edges of her lips a lot with a quick tongue. I never thought about her teeth. I’m sure she had some.

Irene, as far as I remember, dressed more conventionally—less gypsy blood in that side of the family. Though no less warmly. This was a cold country and central heating was as yet almost unheard of. Perhaps in the cities.

Trollmor Minta didn’t dress at all. She was covered head to toe with thick, inch-long, brown fir (black in places) which seemed to keep her comfortable no matter what the season or weather. Also, she could use her tufted tail to fan away mosquitoes. Neither Olga nor Irene could do that.

Olga was a fanatically devout Christian.

Irene was a devout Christian.

Minta believed in ghosts and (sometimes) angels (troll-angels).

Olga called me her Angel Child. And she meant it. Lisbet sometimes called me her Angel Child, but she was only mocking Olga (I think). Kjell never called me his Angel Child, but he would smile (knowingly, like) when Lisbet did so. Some sort of private joke that I never caught on to.

Irene called me Ulf.

Minta called me Wolf.


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