The extreme quick of it: That subject line probably isn’t the best way to start a blog entry, but you’ll understand if you read it all. I am no longer in residence permit limbo. I have been granted Swedish permanent residence for five years. Before that, in about a year, I am eligible to apply for Swedish citizenship (while retaining my Americanosity). So that’s that. I’ve also been on vacation back to Louisiana with a sisters-only vacay at a resort in Turks and Caicos. For more information on those, you’ll have to wait until next time, because I’ve apparently managed to delete all my vacation photos save those on the trusty iPhone. MUTHAFUCK. So I’m going to have to figure that out. Merp. Alas, per usual, there’s…
The long of it: Those who aren’t strangers know I thrive on a delicate balance of being a happy homebody and a wonder-struck wanderer. Moreover, those who have traveled with me will admit, perhaps after a bit of prodding, that I am exhausting. It’s not my quietness, my disappearing to take photos, my fear of sneaky meat or my reluctance to ask for directions. It’s just that I don’t.stop.going.
Right now, Swedish popular culture is euphoric because Sweden won Eurovision – the awkward, politically-charged annual music Olympics – with Loreen and her song ‘Euphoria.’ If you’re not familiar with Eurovision, it’s probably because you’re American and we’re not invited. But more Americans are catching on. Click HERE for an excellent blog post about it that someone else wrote.
But that’s not the Swedish musical moment that’s been on my mind. A few weeks ago, Karl was playing a song on his guitar, singing along in Swedish and I thought ‘Hmm that sounds familiar’ as the lyrics fell from my mouth, line by line in English. and they came out of their houses. and they looked around. but they didn’t see no one. Continue reading
I guess I’ve been waiting to blog until the seasons changed. Or until I got a little older. Or until I found my first gray hairs. That’s what’s been happening since October really – a lot of growing up.
On Wednesday, my nephew turns one. On Wednesday, I will not be there. The good fortune is he won’t remember. Still, I will.
But I need him (and you — and me I suppose), to know that I woke up on Saturday happier than I’ve felt in years. This is not to say I don’t have my happy days. I do. But this breed of happiness is the childhood kind of glee that you grow to recognize later in life. It’s waking up on a rainy, sunless, bitter, winter day warmed to the core, knowing that you are surrounded, embraced, enveloped by love.
In seventh grade, I got hit in the face with a softball. (Could’ve easily been eighth. Damn time flies.) Kerplunk. Smack on the bridge of the nose – blood, emergency room and all. This is the day my dad doesn’t like to remember. I’m not too fond of it, either.
In school I made excellent grades, sat toward the front of the classroom and got things done. I had my tricks. I had my ways. I was successful in not revealing the tiny fact that I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see the chalkboard for sure. In fact, I couldn’t really see past the desk in front of me. But man was I good at making it work. A middle school kid with braces doesn’t want glasses on top of that, am I right?
Though I am a frequenter of grocery stores, I am not a usual patron of a particular one that’s a bit out of the way and on the expensive side. Imagine my content to drop in one day and see a sign proudly proclaiming ‘Äntligen i sverige!’ (finally in Sweden!). What managed to make its way at last? Froot Loops, the beloved cavity-inducing, Toucan Sam-endorsed breakfast goodness. If I were a shrieker, I would’ve shrieked. But I’m not so I just bought some and biked on home. Thanks to mom and grandma, I’m a proud owner of four Kellogg’s plastic cereal bowls featuring the aforementioned Sam and his pals Tony the Tiger; Snap, Crackle & Pop; and Corny the Rooster. (If you don’t know what they endorse, I’m a little sad you didn’t grow up in a culture steeped in advertising to children with cartoon characters.)
I don’t remember her source, but a classmate once told me it takes about 2.5 years to cross the threshold toward feeling settled in a new place. She’s already lived in many places, so I trusted what she said. But I shook it off at the time. I wouldn’t be here that long anyway.
She was right, I guess. Rapidly approaching the three-year mark, lately I’ve been noticing that things do feel different. Maybe it’s the job and a second family of sorts. Or maybe it’s not being so/as lost in conversation. Probably it has a bit to do with Karl and I having a place of our own. But the main force, I believe, is seeing other people.
No, not in the way associated with Swedish sexual liberation. Not like that.
When people ask why I moved here, I usually just say ‘I came here for a master’s and I wanted a change.’ That’s the quick and polite way of not having to dive into an extensive history lesson about how messed up Louisiana is. Yes, it’s beautiful and strange. Yes, the people are wonderful. Yes, the food is great.
I sometimes think if people knew more about Louisiana, they’d ask me instead, ‘What took you so long to leave?’ It’s hard to walk away from your home, your people, your comfort. It’s hard for some of your people to understand they’ve done nothing wrong.
The morning after my 27th birthday, I hobbled toward the nearest train exit. Willing any semblance of moisture back into my dry, sleepy eyes, I found my feet and eavesdropped, as I like to do. (I think of it not so much as eavesdropping, but as a continuous flow of unchecked Swedish listening comprehension exercises. For as quiet as you may know me to be in English, this feature is more substantial in Swedish.)
Walking through town on my way to the library, familiarity strikes. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhzzzzzzzzz! A discernible sound. A sound unlike no other. The pitchy whir of a remote-controlled car. Under whose behest? A grown up. His wife walked several paces ahead, pushing the baby, he lagged behind exercising control of his own. Pushing away adulthood? Preparing the car for the baby’s inheritance? There’s no reason to know really. But this is the kind of moment where I realize something I miss. Like a driveway. It hadn’t really occurred to me that children (and grown ups) across the globe would have to play with remote-controlled cars on the street. (Yes, this is obvious but not one of those things I’ve ever given much thought.) That’s always been what a driveway was good for.