Sweden – ye old and ye free.
The title refers to the Swedish National anthem. Sometimes I miss my native Sweden so much it almost hurts.
Today is the Swedish National Day (Glad nationaldag alla svennar!) so I suppose it’s fairly appropriate that I’m missing it especially today. I was browsing a few Swedish blogs earlier, and paid Underbara Clara a visit (Underbar means wonderful, and Clara is her name). I was scrolling randomly through her archive and found this picture from a post many years ago.
Clara lives in Northern Sweden where they still get winters like this. Where I’m from, we used to get them when I was little, but the climate change has definitely changed that (pun totally intended). But this picture struck a chord in me. Having grown up with snow and ice, sledging and ice skating, with schools being shut because people just couldn’t get there, and serious tutor time talks about NOT throwing snowballs at each other’s heads… Well, you kind of end up missing it when it’s not there anymore. I miss the winters. Most of all, I miss Lucia (read about that here). Being little miss involved-in-everything when I was a child, I sang in three different choirs. And Lucia is a big deal for any choir. With the school choir we first performed in the school in the morning, and then visited the local nursing homes to perform there as well. Just after school, the swimming team (which I was also part of, of course) did a swimming Lucia performance with lit candles in the pool. The evening performance with the church choir was my favourite though. The entire church was lit up only by candles, and we sang all the songs a capella. It was magical. Magical. That’s exactly how I felt about Lucia and that time of the year. The days were short and the nights were so much darker. But Christmas was around the corner, and looking out my window in the evening the white snow made every tree branch shimmer in the street lights, or moonlight, whichever was the brightest. The air was cold, but smelled of promises of more snow (yes, snow has a scent) and, I suppose, hope. And excitement. Mum even used to light candles at breakfast. Magical.
Mr Man, Bean and myself have been to Sweden in the winter quite a few times now, but a couple of years back we were really lucky – it snowed about 40cm on our 3rd day there. I got to show them a little bit of my childhood magic, whether they felt it or not. I took this picture on our way home from sledging one evening. That’s the house where I grew up, and where my parents still live.
The quality isn’t great, I admit, but it’s taken with an old iPhone and it was dark. I look at that picture and I can feel the cold on my face. I can feel how rosy my cheeks are after hours spent outdoors. I can smell the snow. And I can feel the magic. Crazy huh?
And then I look at Clara’s picture, and I get this weird sensation in my tummy. Is it longing? Am I home-sick? Is this expat actually admitting to missing her home country after 12 years in London? Maybe. May be. May well be. I think about what it would be like to live in a red, snow covered house like the one in Clara’s pic, and I try to picture myself, Mr Man and Bean there with me. How we’d have a wood burner in the kitchen, mis-matching chairs around the kitchen table, and a drying cabinet (torkskåp hallå!) to shove all our outdoor gear into as soon as we get in the door. And it almost works, in my head, I can almost see it. Could we? Would they be happy leaving their home and relatives behind? Would I be happy to come back to a country that, sure, I grew up in but, let’s face it, I have no idea how to lead an adult life in? I mean, whenever I go to Sweden, I can’t even make sense of the grocery store layouts, and I end up darting back and forth through the entire shop. But the quality of life… We could buy a four bedroomed house in Sweden for a fraction of what it would cost us here. But is it even an option? Most likely not. But the thought is appealing, so very appealing. Hmm…
It’s funny really. Today we had 25 degrees here and beautiful bright early summer sunshine, and tonight I am reminiscing about snow and my childhood winters. I guess no matter how far away you go, and no matter how long you stay, you can take the girl out of Sweden, but you can’t take Sweden out of the girl.