October 8, 2013

It grows and grows, our home sweet home

I'm sprawled on my bed listening to Pink Martini's new album, Get Happy. And I am pretty happy in spite of the fact that I'm learning the hard way that "the common cold" is no more glamorous in Sweden than it is back home. It is one of those colds that likes to mix things up, toss you a couple new symptoms or nuanced versions of older symptoms each day. Saturday it was a sore throat. Sunday brought on a stomachache and more of the sleepy-headachey thing. Monday invited nasal congestion to the party, a symptom that continues to plague me today. Sick days have their own little pleasures, though. The view outside my bedroom window is gorgeously autumnal, and I get to cuddle up in a hoodie and let my thoughts drift in and out of sleep all afternoon. Linus told me that when he came to get me for lunch there was a "map of Louisiana" on my face. That's how you know you've had the best kind of nap: when your pillow makes maps across your cheeks.

Since becoming sick, I have continuously been taking cocktails of Zicam, Dayquil, and pain killers. All of my Swedish friends keep acting as though my "American stash" of medical supplies includes drugs of the most rare and exquisite kind. I haven't done enough research at the local apotek to know if it's true. But somehow I only managed to bring four Nyquil pills along, so I'm not taking any chances with that; I'm saving them, the way I often do with two-dollar bills, for a "special occasion." (What such an occasion might be, I'm not sure. I'll keep you apprised.) I didn't have the foresight to bring any Abreva, though, so I need to figure out how to say "cold sore" in Swedish and make a trip to the store later if I can muster the strength.

This past week has been like a see-saw of emotional highs and lows. Some of my deepest frustrations and humiliations surfaced (and at times when I least expected them), but woven throughout the challenging days were beautiful moments of peace and contentment. On Thursday, I was invited to go with the Expo class to Åke's house, a typical Västerbottensgård. Any anxiety I had felt that morning melted away into three (maybe four) slices of warm, fresh, homemade bread with butter, jam, and local cheese. Note to self: learn to make bread. And jam. And local cheese. Åke and his wife were gracious and kind to us.

Linda and Maria-Pia enjoying said bread

Tinkering with the gnome collection

Of course, I was particularly interested in Åke's book collection, which was quite extensive. I have a habit of wandering over to people's bookshelves, no matter where I am. You learn things about people not only by what they read but what the bookcase looks like, where it is, how the books are shelved and arranged. As for Åke, he reads a lot. And he seems to cherish his books. They were like stacks of bricks, not just furnishing the house but building it in a way. Sustaining it.

He let me borrow a Swedish novel by a local author. Clocking in at nearly 300 pages, I will be lucky to finish it before I leave, given my current reading pace in Swedish. I did finish the abridged translation of Frankenstein last week, but I guess we'll soon learn if I'm ready for the big leagues.

One of the most peaceful moments of the day was flipping through a gorgeous picture book that Åke handed to me. I was sitting on the couch with Kattis, listening to the sounds of Simon & Garfunkel drifting in from the adjacent room. It reminded me of the first time I came to Sweden. Three summers ago. I was sitting in the backseat of a car headed to Dalarna for the weekend. We passed thick forests spotted with blueberries. S&G's song "America" came up on my iPod and tears pricked at my eyes, not so much because I missed home, but because I realized that Sweden was home for so many. And it felt a bit like home to me, too, even then. When "America" started playing at Åke's house, I felt much the same. Home, as we all learn at one point or another, is a feeling.

And it might feel a bit like cuddling on the couch with dear friends and watching Gilbert Grape on a Friday night. 

Or perhaps it's the swish of autumn leaves on your way to buy groceries.

Home might be lentil soup with baguettes fresh from the oven.

+ these beautiful folks

And it's definitely tickling someone just long enough to make them laugh their gorgeous laugh but not long enough to make them hate you. A delicate calculation, to be sure.

The temps are back in the 50s Fahrenheit. And I feel warmer.

1 comment:

  1. I'm feeling solidarity with you because lentil soup and of course baguettes. Come home soon, even if you're already there.