My name is Elizabeth Jane Fordahl, though most people call me Liz.
(Sooner or later I’m going to have to file some kind of affidavit about that. )
When I was just little, my family called me “Little Bit,” I guess because it sounds like Elizabeth. It doesn’t get much cuter than that.
I’m named after my grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Small, then Swenson, finally McCormick. She went by Betty Jane. She probably signed Betty Jane, not Elizabeth. She probably had to file an affidavit of identity a few times.
My grandma was a rancher’s wife and she was married twice. Her first husband, Bill, drowned in the Missouri River, leaving behind his wife and four children. Grandma Betty remarried, Gene, and raised a family of seven, my mother being the baby of that big family. Blended families were far less common back then I think it is safe to say. I never knew that my aunties were “half-aunts” or anything like that. Although, in retrospect, it is quite obvious that the family genes are not all the same, in the way that my aunts look. I have uncles, too. One, dear Monte, the entire family’s love, who passed away early into his life. He is survived by three beautiful children who now have their own adult families. The fact that my mother was the baby of the family makes my siblings and I the babies of the grandchildren for the most part. My little brother is the youngest on both sides. He’s twenty-one.
My mother and Uncle Monte used to make salsa together. She used to harvest chokecherries and squeeze out all of that tart juice by hand through cheesecloth to make syrups and jellies. We make lefse about once a year. My mother always baked fresh sourdough bread when we were growing up. We always wanted store-bought bread instead. She has always collected antiques. She has long since repurposed an old foot pedal sewing machine as an end table, she owns a harpsichord, and there are little tins of Albert’s tobacco and other things sitting around somewhere. We took piano lessons and ballet, jazz, and tap.
My mom plays piano and guitar and is a devout John Prine fan. Yes, devout.
She went to graphic design school before computers did everything and she painted giant signs in our basement for extra cash when we were kids. She made us rhubarb slushies back then, too. Don’t worry. I’ll get all these recipes up here…someday.
My dad also grew up on a ranch. I always say that my mom’s family were cowboys and my dad’s family were farmers. My mom’s family Catholic, my dad’s Lutheran. My mom’s family threw wild branding parties; my dad’s family attended pot lucks in church basements.
My dad’s mother, Henrietta, is one of those women who is bordering on sainthood. That’s how I see her. She always has a way of explaining things like, “That’s just the way God made her,” or “Well, that’s completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of.” Everything just so, just the way it is, simple. Always serves dessert. Always has lemonade. Had a bin in her house that would maybe be filled with potatoes and onions at your grandma’s house, but was always filled with candy at hers. She is originally from Wisconsin and my grandpa from North Dakota. They courted each other with a letter-writing correspondence and I know she has them all saved somewhere.
My dad is a product of the lonely prairie. He grew up forty miles out from the nearest town and he always said we kids were lucky to have paved roads to ride our bikes on. We lived on that ranch for a short time, when I was in the fourth grade. We were the first on the bus, and the last off. I think we got on the bus before 6:00 a.m.. Often when we visited there, my cousin and sister and I would play dress-up and take “old-fashioned pictures.” No smiles. The place just had that kind of feel to it. That homestead feel. (My favorite book when I was little was “The Courage of Sarah Noble” by Alice Dalgliesh. It’s a book about a girl who helps her settler father out in the wilderness while her mother and siblings stay back home.)
So my dad is typically Lutheran, Scandinavian, and from the prairie in many ways. In other words, a somewhat instrospective, very hard-working, deep-thinking, stand-up man, who grew up on the world’s prettiest sunsets.
I have a sister, a wisp of a woman, and a brother, a smart, funny, and philosophical young guy. My boyfriend is a Detroit Tigers fan who works to represent people, like my family, who own land in our state as we face great changes here in North Dakota. The most handsome possible dog in the world belongs to me. I’ll tell you more later.