Thursday, February 12, 2009

Leif Ericson & Books for a Grandchild I Will Never Have

My mother's ancestry is Norwegian, and I grew up with a keen appreciation of Norwegian heritage and the saga of Leif Ericson and the discovery of America. In those days, when we were taught in school that Columbus discovered America (with, of course, no regard at all for the many peoples who already lived here and got here from elsewhere!), my friends would not believe me when I insisted that Leif Ericson was the discoverer. Now that is accepted as fact.

Leif was named after that intrepid Norwegian explorer, and the name fit him well. He would have made a fine Viking, a fine ship's captain, a fine explorer, had he been born in another time and place.

When I was a children's librarian, I purchased three books which had a "Leif" as the main character. Two were about Leif Ericson. Leif was already over 18 when I got these picture books and wouldn't have had much interest in them. I bought them for the children I hoped he would have someday. Since most books go out of print so quickly, I couldn't wait until he actually had children, and I didn't doubt that he someday would. I thought it would be both satisfying and fun to read the stories about Leif's namesake to his children and teach them about that part of their heritage.

At that time, I thought that "Leif the Lucky" fit my son. He was tall, slim, handsome smart, funny. He seemed to have so much going for him, to BE lucky, but somehow, the luck did not hold.

The third book, "Master Maid" would have been appropriate in another way. It is a retelling of a Norwegian folk tale in which a prince is able to trick a giant by listening to "Master Maid," who is able to give him the secret advice he needs. In this retelling, Leif has to learn to trust her advice the hard way and finally resolves to marry her and listen to her advice the rest of his life. Leif really needed that, needed a level-headed woman with good life skills and advice. I wish he had found the soulmate he wanted and that she had been a "Master Maid."

In his twenties Leif said he didn't want children. I wondered if he would ever change his mind. I think what did change it was his love for and romance with the young woman who had a daughter. I think he loved her daughter as his own and when he lost them both it was a terrible blow. One evening when he was here for dinner in the fall of 2007, about six months before he died, he made a very wistful comment that he used to think he didn't want children, but now he knew he just didn't find the right woman to have them with. He seemed to think he never would have any, and I could see it made him sad. He got along so well with kids, and really enjoyed his nieces. I'm sorry he never had that chance, to be a father. Maybe it would have given him some purpose in life, someone who needed and depended upon him. Maybe it would have changed him.

But those speculations are useless now.

He would have had beautiful, intelligent children and we would have loved them.

Now, what am I to do with these books, intended for them? The books that tell the saga of the great explorer for whom Leif was named, the book about the "master maid" that Leif needed in his own life. Who will I read them to?

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