Finally a family

July 27, 2003

Lolita Harper

The worn photos were always beautiful but along with color, they

lacked a personal connection.

Nancy Reaves could always look at the faces of her distant

Norwegian relatives but she could not recognize the life behind their

solemn stares. She couldn't place where the barn stood in relation to

the river. She didn't know the people or places that helped mold who


she is.

"All these pictures were up on a wall since I was a young girl and

I never knew who they were," Reaves said.

In two weeks that will all change. Reaves will meet her Norwegian

family for the first time Aug. 8.

The Santa Ana Heights resident is cramming to learn Norwegian and

is anxious to try her grandfather's favorite rice pudding dish. She

giddily bounces in her seat when talking about boarding a plane. And

excitedly points to a picture of the farm she will be staying on.

"It's all coming together for me after all these years," she said.


Reaves inherited the family photos when her grandfather passed

away. Her grandparents were the only relatives she knew. They helped

raise her and picked up the pieces when life would come tumbling


Reaves and her sister, Jane, knew when they were younger as the

Nes sisters encountered, cruelty and mistreatment no child or adult

should be subjected to. Reaves is very open with her past, as she

moved on, and said she encountered mental, verbal, violent and sexual


She tells her story without tears or shame. She tells her story of

surviving the demons that haunted her alcoholic mother, who would

whirl in and out of her life, always bringing a new forms of pain and

sorrow. Each time her mother would come in and swoop the girls up and

take them away, the grandparents would frantically search for them

and brace for the calm of the storm. When the mom would leave, they

would try to offset the trauma but despite their attempts at a normal

life, the family was always in hiding, Reaves said, hoping the mother

would not find them this time.

Because they lived in fear, the Nes family distance itself from

their Norwegian kin. And when her grandparents died, following the

deaths of both her father and mother, Reaves thought her only human

connection to those mysterious pictures died as well. She kept the

keepsakes and continued with life. Reaves moved to the beach, got

married, had children, fell in love with life and moved on. Every so

often she would sift through the pictures and wonder.

One photo in particular always grabbed her attention. The

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