Truth Be Told – Holidazed Edition Pam Arntson: Getting ready for Christmas company

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  Colfax resident Pam Arntson was an early childhood teacher at Colfax Elementary for 38 years.

During the “Truth Be Told — Holidazed Edition” event at the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium December 3, Arntson told the following story about getting ready for Christmas company to come and stay at her home in Colfax.

The Truth Be Told event drew nearly 150 people to the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium.

When asked how many people had Mrs. Arntson as a teacher, a certain number of hands went up in the crowd. When asked how many people knew Pam Arntson, even more hands went up.

Arntson is retired from teaching and still lives in Colfax. She has two sons and four grandchildren.

Steve Russell and Kobi Shaw were hosts for the event, which was sponsored by the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.

All together, four people told stories. In addition to Arntson, Bill Yingst, Missy Prince and Gene Gibson also told stories about Christmas.

“Speaking before adults is a whole new challenge for her, so try to act childish,” Russell said as he introduced Arntson, causing the audience to erupt in laughter.

Pam Arntson said she was pleased about the community event being held in the auditorium.

“It’s kind of like a Hallmark story. I should know, I’ve watched all of them,” she said.

Here is Pam Arntson’s story:

Twas the night before Christmas company arrived, is how my story starts.

You see, it was a tradition in my husband’s family that everyone gathered at Christmas time, and we had this huge meal. It consisted of rommegrot [pronounced ruma-grout], but they didn’t call it that, they called it ‘grout.’ It’s a rice pudding with lots of butter, lots of sugar, lots of cinnamon. Yummy.

When those bowls were cleared away, then the main meal arrived, which consisted of beef roast and pork roast that had to be cooked together. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Couple different kinds of vegetables. Couple different kinds of salads. Rolls. Milk. Really a lot of food.

So when that was finished and those plates were taken away, then only the hearty, true Norwegians stayed for the next course, which was lutefisk and lefse, and new potatoes that had been cooked but not mashed. Believe it or not, that huge meal was the easy part of this huge Christmas gathering.

I also had to find room for 18 to 20 extra people to sleep in my three bedroom ranch house. So I was cleaning out every nook and cranny.

I took games and end tables and all that stuff I didn’t need in each room in the house and set it in the hallway because I needed to carry it down to the storeroom, which, by the way, was where John and I would sleep that night.

So I took one room at a time. I got everything out of that room, and when I got everything out of that room, I went in with a rag and wiped down the cobwebs, washed the windows, cleaned under the beds. You know what you do. And I wiped the telephone off. Hmm-hmm. I wiped the telephone off.

Then it came time to take all of that stuff I had gathered from every room in the house and didn’t’ need in those rooms and carry it down to the storeroom. I went down the steps. I went up the steps. And I always carried more than I really should have carried because I didn’t want to make as many trips.

Halfway down on one of my trips, the doorbell rang.

Well, I don’t know how you people clean, but when I clean, I’m a mess. I’m a real mess. I didn’t expect any company, nor did I want any company. But being the doorbell was ringing, I was going to answer it.

Outside the door was our village police officer, in full uniform. And his squad car was parked in my driveway.

Now those of you who had me in kindergarten know that I taught obeying the rules. Right? I always tried to do it myself and obey the rules.

This police officer looked at me, and I said, “Can I help you?”

“There’s been a 9-1-1 call from this residence,” he said.

I said, “Are you sure? I’m quite sure that no one here made a 9-1-1 call. In fact, I’m the only one who has been here all morning. And I did not make a 9-1-1 call — or — did I?”

So I explained that I had been cleaning and cleaning and wiping the phone down.  

I said, “You don’t suppose when I wiped the phone down, I could have possibly pushed the numbers 9-1-1 on that phone?”

“I don’t know ma’am, but I have to come in. A report’s been made, and I have to check it out and make sure you’re not holding anyone hostage,” he said.

[Hostage?!?!?]

I said, “I’m a kindergarten teacher!”

But I let the officer in, and I was totally embarrassed because I hadn’t finished carrying down the stuff, and it was still in the hallway.

He made his way through the house. He went through each room upstairs. He went down in the basement. He went through each room down in the basement. And he was pretty sure that nothing was amiss.

I could barely look him in the eye.

I thanked him for keeping us safe, and I let him go.

I continued with the carrying down of my stuff. When I got the last load down, I thought, I’m going to make this a little easier for me, so I went into the garage. Remember that I mentioned the lutefisk?

I had bought the lutefisk from my cousin, who had ordered it from a nice, expensive fish store in Minnesota. I had put it in a grocery bag.

I set the grocery bag on the garage floor because I didn’t want that stinky stuff in my house while I was getting ready for company.

I went into the garage, and I went to the place where I had stuck that lutefisk bag, kind of close to the garbage.

[For those of you who do not know what lutefisk is, the word means “lye fish” in Norwegian. There are some people of Norwegian descent who love lutefisk and cannot get enough of it, and there are some who would not touch it if they were about to die of starvation.]

My husband, sweet and kind man that he was, had taken the garbage out that morning before he went to work.

And guess what he threw into the garbage?

The lutefisk.

Now. There are some Arntson people who are very religious about their lutefisk.

There was no more lutefisk at Kyle’s (Market). So we made a quick trip to Eau Claire and found some more lutefisk.

The Arntson gathering went off pretty much without a hitch. Or any other hitches.

But let me tell you, that lutefisk call and the 9-1-1 call are fodder for conversation to this day.