The Bruise: A Seattle Reminiscence by Dorothea Nordstrand

  • By Dorothea Nordstrand
  • Posted 5/16/2006
  • Essay 7767

Dorothea (Pfister) Nordstrand (1916-2011) wrote this affectionate reminiscence about a sisterly altercation that took place in Seattle around 1928. Dorothea's older sister was Florence (Pfister) Burke (1909-1998). In 2009 Dorothea Nordstrand was awarded AKCHO's (Association of King County Historical Organizations) Willard Jue Memorial Award for a Volunteer, for contributing these vivid reminiscences to various venues in our community, including's People's History library.

The Bruise

Florence was 19 and I was 12 when it happened. It was evening, and she was dressed in her party dress and high heels, her bobbed, chestnut-brown hair carefully combed, and the little bit of makeup that she used, perfect. She was going to a dance at Sloan's Hall with her current beau. She was radiantly pretty. My "too young to go" heart ached with envy. They often took me along if they were going to a movie, although it was understood that I had to sit several rows in front of them. Tonight, I was not included and I was truly miffed.

She was standing at the window, watching for her friend to drive up in his Model T Ford and her back was toward me. It was so easy! I walked up behind her, knocked my kneecaps into the backs of her knees while I wrapped an arm across her chest, and, in a flash, she was flat on her back on the floor.

I was completely shocked by what I had done, but even more shocked when she scrambled to her feet and whacked me across the face. We stood staring at each other in disbelief! It couldn't have happened! I ran, howling, upstairs to our shared room, where I threw myself on the bed in a tempest of tears. Just then her date drove up and they left, with Florence feeling guilty, even though the blame was surely mine.

That was one of the longest evenings of my life. I kept getting madder and madder, and even more sorry for myself. Never mind that I was the one at fault. She had HIT me! I'd make her pay, if it was the last thing I ever did! I couldn't sleep, I was so busy planning revenge.

When I heard her key in the lock downstairs, I pretended to be innocently asleep. She came upstairs, turned on the light, and gasped in horror. The whole side of my face was a nasty blotch of purple and red, with blackish patches around my eye. She knelt by the bed and gathered me into her arms, whispering how awful she felt and how sorry she was.

It's a wonder she didn't hit me again when I burst out laughing! Naughty that I was, I had contrived the bruise using colored chalk and charcoal, adding a bit of Vaseline to give a realistic sheen to my devilish masterpiece!

Why she forgave me, I'll never know, but we have laughed about that incident many times in the years since. No wonder that, to me, she's the World's Greatest Sister.


Dorothea (Pfister) Nordstrand (b. 1916) is the younger sister of Florence (Pfister) Burke (1909-1998).

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