As we got out of the car the snow was falling so heavily that it was flying into my eyes. With my head down I could have my eyes open, but had no idea where I was going in the white haze of snow. Goose laughed and grabbed my hand to guide me to the door of his Aunt Diane’s trailer house. Once we got near the door I could hear the loud voices and laughter inside. We were as unexpected as two Frosty the Snowmen coming in from the yard. Immediately the laughter resumed, “Oh it’s Goose! And his girrrlfrieend.” There was a round of teasing in that tone. (I couldn’t help but smile since I was the girrrrlfrieeend, lol) Goose is blushing! Well, isn’t that interesting?! Of course the Aunts noticed it right away…. and of course they razzed him for it. Goose was still returning to his regular coloring when one of the Aunts remarked, “Well does she have a name?” So I jumped right into the mix! “Well, she does, I’m Jeannie” I shook a flour covered hand or two.
Lefse making is already in progress. Big Tupperware bowls are filled with peeled and cooked potatoes that have been cooled to room temperature and lined up along the counter. On the kitchen table there are stacks of Lefse and a dish of butter and one of sugar. Along one wall was the stove with two lefse irons set up and cooking away as we finished the introductions. Everyone is covered in some proportion with flour. Aunt Diane commented, “Didn’t he warn you? We’re quite a lively bunch.” (Every single comment is followed by a chorus of uproarious laughter.) Goose had indeed warned me and even said I should let him know if it gets to be too much. So far.. so good. With all of this jovial atmosphere I had already forgotten that treacherous snowy drive we’d just finished. Here in the snow storm, in this very trailer house, I was about to find a group of the funniest, most welcoming women I’ve ever met. There should have been a sign posted above the door that reads… ‘Wonderful Memories Made Here.’
But first, the inquisition… It began with not the usual questions.. “Have you ever made Lefse before?” Right here with this first question… I thought I was sunk. I could feel the hot spotlight creeping over my head. All eyes were on me. I was afraid to answer and I could feel sweat beading up on my forehead. I didn’t want to be eliminated for lack of lefse experience. I’m not even Norweigen. I can’t even spell it. The room fell silent except for that cat clock on the wall ticking. You know the one, with the tail that acts as a pendulum as it sways back and forth.
(I felt like I was on the “You Want to be a Millionaire” game show. And I wanted to use one of my lifelines. It’s never good when you use a lifeline on the first question.) But Goose, he was there to protect me. He answered for me. “No she hasn’t.” Goose was eloquent, wasn’t he? Two of the aunts sitting at the table raised their eyebrows and shared a knowing glance between them. (Oh God! I’m doomed.) But I was surprisingly met with”Well stick your hands in that bowl and start squishing everything up. Just keep adding flour til it feels right.” I knew what she meant, but I’d never felt lefse dough before. I began mixing and then I deferred to Aunt Diane’s expertise… “Will you feel this and tell me if it’s right yet?”
Fortunately my move to defer to experience turned the tide. The next questions of the inquisition were much simpler so I had lifelines in reserve for later, just in case. Aunt Diane continued, “Where do you live, what work do you do, do you have children?” I do much better in essay questions.
But from the information they’d gotten so far, they couldn’t figure out how in the world Goose and I could know each other. I looked at Aunt Diane waiting for the next question, among other things, she had been the appointed interviewer. She must be well versed in these things. To my surprise, she turned away as the Aunt on the Left asked, “so how did you two meet?” Goose began to flush almost immediately. I wondered if he didn’t want them to know we’d met online. It’s not like I’m the dancer or anything. I walked over toward Goose and gave his flour-covered tummy a loving little pat. Even though he’d taken over cooking the lefse on the flat round lefse iron, he was wearing flour too. Looking him square in the eye, I replied, “We met through an internet dating site.” Clearly, that was a response the Aunts hadn’t expected. The questions were flying now!
Bowl after bowl of potatoes were mashed and flour was added til the dough was ‘just right’. I hardly noticed from one bowl to the next. The conversations, the stories and the laughter camouflaged any work involved. My favorite stories were of the things Goose had done before I’d met him. Every now and then I’d add a quip or two of my own past. That’s when the Aunt on the Right at the table mentioned Goose’s deceased wife and how she was there making lefse. Awkward silence creeped through the kitchen… they couldn’t figure out where to go from here. I smiled and looked at Goose, then I said.. “I feel like I’ve met her.. when I’m cooking in her kitchen it feels like she’s there with me.” With flour covered hands, I walked over to Goose, looked him deeply in the eyes and brushed his cheek with my fingers. I gave him a little kiss. The Aunt on the Left replied, “Awwww, she’s gonna fit right in here.” Then she pulled a warm piece of lefse off the pile. She buttered it, sprinkled it with sugar and rolled it up. Then with a warm smile, she handed it to me, “You’d better try a piece of this, you’ve made nearly 80 of em.”
With a little smile, I reached out my hand and met hers reaching back toward me with a piece of warm lefse. As I bit into that buttery sweet warmth, I felt like I was home. I didn’t realize that I’d been standing there with my hands in a bowl of floury potatoes for nearly six hours. The stories and the laughter and the lefse filled an emptiness inside of me. I could have stood there squishing ingredients in that bowl all night long.
“It isn’t what people do for you that makes you remember them. It’s how they make you feel.” On this snowy December afternoon, these amazing women made me feel like I belonged. They made me feel loved. I will never forget them.