Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Piece of My Family History

"It has to be done today! He is coming home next week, I might as well do it right now before I return home." she told herself. The young woman stepped out of the maternity ward at the hospital in Lund on a warm summer morning on the first day of September 1930.

Her name was Nelly. She was a small woman, fit with sturdy legs, clear blue eyes and a determined look on her face. She was dressed in a light summer dress and had a small hat on her light blond hair, as every decent married woman had in those days when they went outside. On one arm she carried her newborn child and in the other hand she held the small suitcase with essentials that had been packed for the trip to the hospital a week earlier.

Nelly walked the short distance from the hospital area to the town center in a steady pace. It was a market day at Saint Martins Square and there were many people about. The square was filled with market stalls where the farmers from the surrounding countryside were selling off their goods.

She found a place to leave her suitcase and then she looked around to see whom she could approach with her offer.
Onlookers could see her approach young women or young couples, one after the other, speak to them shortly and see them shake their heads and back away from her with eyes filled with pity, disgust or unbelief at her unusual request. Nelly did this for several hours until she met a couple that did not instinctively shun her. 

The couple listened quietly as Nelly told them that her husband, who was a sea captain, was coming home in the immediate future after more than a year at sea. She had had an extramarital affair during his absence and had given birth to a son only seven days earlier. Nelly told them that she could not keep the child, because her husband would never accept a bastard son. The couple, who were in their late thirties, looked at each other. Tage and Ragnhild had been married for several years and had tried - unsuccessfully - to get children. Finally Tage nodded and smiled at his wife and they both turned to Nelly and told her that they would accepted her offer and would take the boy into their care. 

The infant boy and his birth certificate (where Nelly's husband the sea captain was noted as father) were passed to the couple. They made their goodbyes and parted ways.

My father would not meet his birth mother again until in 1948, when he was eighteen. He was sent to Nelly by the military when he was going to start his military service to require information on which of four alternatives his correct surname was. They supplied him with the address of his mother and told him not to return until he had the answer. 

My father took my mother along to the meeting with Nelly, At this time Nelly had divorced the sea captain and had shortly afterwards remarried the man with whom she had strayed in her marriage. Nelly and her new husband by then had five more children together. Both of them, my paternal grandparents, told my father that his true surname should be (McMillan) after Nelly's new husband.

I have pieced together the information above from our family mythology and the Swedish population records.

My first life family never really had a close relationship with my paternal grandparents although we would meet them occasionally, with very long intervals. There was no affection wasted on us by my grand mother, although my grandfather was a kind and caring man who tried - unsuccessfully - to make up for her lacking social skills.

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