They came in 1924. As almost all immigrants, they searched for the better life. They came on the promise that it was here, in Canada, a promise from my Great Grand Uncle, Gunnar Jonsson. He paid their way, their passage, on the S.S. Mont Laurier and then the train fare to Manitoba. The spring thaw had already begun. They would fish for Whitefish and Goldeye on Lake Winnipeg and have a prosperous life.
His name was Jon, the son of Jón Hjartarson. He was my Great Grandfather. Fourteen years younger than my Great Grandmother, Steinunn, who had already lost one husband to fishing. The cold waters of the North Atlantic took him, after just six months of marriage. Their child, born fatherless, lived only a single day. Steinunn remained a grieving widow for ten years. When she finally remarried and gave birth to her only other child, she named him Magnus, after her dead first husband and dead first child.
They did not come alone. Steinunn’s sister and niece accompanied them. And so did Jon and Steinunn’s son, my Grandfather, Magnus, and his wife Kristine and their baby daughter Margret. They were a fine-looking family. Kristine would be my Amma (Grandmother) and Magnus would be my Afi (Grandfather).
She, Amma, was seven years senior to Magnus. I wondered if this spread of years, seven between Kristine and Magnus and fourteen between Steinunn and Jon, had the older women view their younger husbands more as elder children than as a spouse and if they eventually became intolerant.
Magnus fished as well, but soon lost his taste for it and took on other trades. Jon did not love Canada as he loved Iceland and after ten years he returned to his home. Steinunn did not go, nor did any others that emigrated with him. Their life in Canada was not easy, but it had begun.
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