My mother’s heritage is Swedish. My father’s was Danish. When my parents announced their engagement in 1942, their respective families said “you are marrying a Swede?” “A Dane?” “You are no longer my son.” “My daughter.” It was bad. When I was born, my mother’s parents refused to see me for several weeks (“that little Dane“). Then my mother’s father came to see me and I guess I put on a show because everything got a little better.
I have always had a slight inward “harrumph” when people spell my name wrong. “PetersOn” is a Swedish spelling. “PetersEn” is the Danish spelling. And all too often I see scrawled on cards from people we know well – “PetersOn.” Mercy – my father’s family would have a hissy fit. So do I. Inwardly. . . .
Today, most people look upon Swedes and Danes (and – save me – Norwegians) as all the same. But they are different culturally. Trust me. There is an old story about a dozen Swedes, a dozen Danes and a dozen Norwegians who all suddenly find themselves grouped together in a room. In a half hour, the Danes are off having a party. The Norwegians are off skiing. And the Swedes are still standing around waiting to be introduced. That’s probably not a bad characterization. Me? I’m probably the quintessential half and half. Let’s have a party. . . . after we’re introduced. . . . .