LEAF HOUSE: Days of Remembering by Ruth Engelmann

LEAF HOUSE: Days of Remembering

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Attractive, evocative, clear-sighted reminiscences of growing up Finnish-and-American in remote northwest Wisconsin in the 1920s and '30s. The Morgans (originally Muurari) lived in a house intended as a stable, among outbuildings and sauna on a farm Father had carved out of the wilderness. Father was the sort who lingared at the end of the Fourth of July parade, hoping for just ""one more float""; he might have wished a different life. But Mother was proud of being a pioneer; she loved the land and her home--from which she fed hordes of family, neighbors, and down-and-outs. The decision-maker was Grandmother, whose debt to save a nephew from jail had condemned Father to the farm and a life of grueling toil. Austere, humane, superstitious, Grandmother had come from a seacoast village in Finland; ever-working, she was still able at 85 to split a block of hardwood with one blow. When the six children listened to her, were they Finnish children in America or vice versa? ""The oceans disappeared and the lands merged."" Also part of the family was grumbly, atheistic hired man Hank, who took on the children's pastor-grandfather, an occasional guest, Bible-verse-by-verse. Engelmann savors the wonders of the family's ""long and holy"" Christmases; the hospitable sauna nights; and what Hank called ""The Time of the Great Anger""--when at summer solstice the entire house was emptied, and everything was cleaned and painted. Then Father constructed the Leaf House of maple saplings, a rustling summer home. There were times of fear and sadness too: the trauma of coping, at six, with a harsh and certainly batty teacher; the sour taste of anti-Finnish prejudice; the ""pervasive sadness of the Depression""--tired parents, graying boards and dust; and the death of Grandmother ""on the day of the leaf house."" Closing with the author's entry to the university after servitude as a maid: a vigorous, walking-tall tribute to good, strong, vital people and a vanished way of life.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row