March 22, 2015
When she was 18 years old, Anna Kristine Nielsen left Denmark for the United States. Alone. In Michigan, this tiny woman met a tall Irish lumberjack named Bernard Finnegan. Together they had seven children. Number six was born when Anna was 38. Number seven came 12 years later, when Anna was 50. (Surprise!) That youngest child would grow up to become my dad’s mom, my grandmother whose name I gave to Sofia.
When she was alone on that ship in the 1880s, Anna befriended a sailor. He gave her a conch shell and taught her how to blow it like a horn. That conch shell has graced the entryway to my parents’ house for as long as I can remember. According to my dad, Anna taught herself English. He can’t remember the exact count, but he believes she spoke about five different languages. Because Bernard was a lumberjack, she spent a great deal of time parenting alone. She was strong and independent.
This is the Anna for whom my daughter is named.