June 19th, 2013
Twenty-three years and a couple of weeks ago, I had what I thought was a chance encounter but instead turned out to be one of the most significant meetings of my life. I was seventeen years old, and on a trip to the “big city” of Lewiston, Idaho, my high school boyfriend and I met up with his cousin and his cousin’s new girlfriend for a quick dinner at the now long-defunct Bonanza restaurant. Said girlfriend was also seventeen, but she was so cool, so sophisticated, so self-possessed that I felt like a child in her presence. All these years later, I still think she’s the coolest person I’ve ever met.
Fast forward very many years, a passel of kids, a number of ex-husbands (for each of us), and we’re still going strong, the best of best friends. She’s spent most of the past year with us, and when she goes back to the States next week I know I’ll be at loose ends for quite a while. There aren’t many friends I could spend that much time with and still be able to make fresh and interesting (and hilarious!) conversation with.
Last week it suddenly occurred to me that we needed to do something big to commemorate our remarkable friendship, and that big something involved a visit to the tattoo parlor. I searched frantically for someone who could fit us in on short notice, and after a few back-and-forth emails, a wonderful Englishman, Ric Payne at WD Tattoo, agreed to give us a slot bright and early this morning.
The appointment scheduled, we started trying to figure out a design. We wanted something that incorporated each other’s names, somehow, but we didn’t want just the actual words or initials. After a bit, Debi mused that instead of a “B” for my name, she could get a bee. I thought that was a neat idea, and we sighed over the fact that her “D” presented no such option. Then light bulbs went off in both our heads and we said at the same time, “but Debra means bee!” Serendipity, I tell you.
Not only would a bee symbolize both of our names, but it is also has many other good associations, including industriousness and perseverance. Furthermore, the word bee in Hebrew has the same root consonants as the word word. This is an added layer of fitting-ness for me, as I have a deep and abiding love for words. We decided to get our little bees inked on the inside of our right wrists, the right side being the “giving” side of the body, and our relationship being built on all that we have given each other over the years.
This morning we left the kids with Olof’s mom and took ourselves into Skellefteå, where we made our way into the far recesses of a maze-like cellar and met up with our guy. He did a great job, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be seeing him again.
June 17th, 2013
Last summer Petra started playing soccer on a team organized by our local sports organization. For the first year it was mostly just play, a chance for the girls to learn about the game and to get a feel for what to do on the field. They played some scrimmages within the group, but it wasn’t until this spring that they started playing actual games. They practice twice a week and play an official game most Sundays, alternating home and away games. It reminds me a lot of the little league baseball teams my brothers and I played on when we were kids, and I’m sure that’s a large part of why I enjoy it. I also must confess, albeit a little reluctantly, that the game itself is growing on me, especially when I see my girl out on the field.
This picture was taken at yesterday’s game, when she played goalie for the first half. I love the concentration on her face.
June 11th, 2013
Olof and I got home from Umeå Sunday evening, and it feels like it’s been go, go, go since. Good thing we had a little break.
Our time away was nice, if oh, so brief. We ate at not one, but two Indian restaurants — one of my very favorites and something that is sorely lacking up here in Skelleftetrakten. We also did a little shopping, but mostly we just took it easy. We walked by the river and drank iced coffees and I talked at him about 17th-century country parsonages and he talked at me about … well, about things that are more interesting to him than 17th-century country parsonages. I read my book and he made some techy-type notes while recaps of the day’s royal wedding played interminably in the background. We watched an impromptu fireworks display from the terrace. It was good.
June 8th, 2013
We’re all packing up our bags here — the kids are off to Farmor’s and Olof and I are heading south to Umeå for a kid-free overnight. Last time we had one of those was nearly three years ago, when I was expecting Yrsa, so I’d say we’re a bit overdue.
June 4th, 2013
Snippets from the week gone by:
- Yrsa speaks mostly clearly, especially considering that she’s not yet two-and-a-half. She doesn’t quite hit the mark on some words, however. For instance, “fork and knife” sounds very much like something less innocuous (try saying it under your breath a few times quickly, and I’m sure it’ll become clear). Now that I think of it, that’s probably the reason that we English speakers more commonly say “knife and fork.”
- Brynja, having carefully pondered the tradition of Saturday candy, has decided that we should also begin observing “toy day,” one day every week when all the kids get toys. Ideally, in her mind, this day would be Sunday, but she’s not picky as long as we decide soon.
- The other day we were getting the four younger kids loaded up into the car to go to town and, as usual, they were bickering. From between clenched teeth, I muttered, “I wish you guys didn’t have to fight about everything.”
“We’re not fighting,” Petra replied in the most reasonable tone you’ve ever heard. “I’m just telling him how I see things.”
- On another recent trip to town, explaining his sister’s sudden loud cry, Tage piped up, “I tried to give her a high five, but I accidentally hit her in the eye. Oh! Eye-five!”
- Yet again in the car, Lydia was musing about her brother’s moodiness. “How do you say medelålderskris in English?” I told her it was a mid-life crisis, but that was more like something I would have. “Or not,” I said, laughing.
“I don’t know, Mom,” she replied. “You are forty and wearing red pants.” (To her credit, she was laughing when she said it, but still … ouch. )
June 1st, 2013
We went to Biltema today, where the girls were quite taken with this guy, whom Brynja aptly called a “character.”
May 26th, 2013
Watching a little baseball and packing up my suitcase in preparation for my trip to Uppsala later this afternoon. I’m really looking forward to this workshop, even though it’ll mean a couple of long days.
That first sentence made me think of a weird thing in Swedish — to do something “up” means to un-do it. Like, to “packa upp” your suitcase means to unpack it. Totally, one-hundred percent, literally opposite to what it means in English. The same holds true elsewhere. Translated, to “zip up” your jacket means to unzip it. To “button up” your shirt means to unbutton it. It’s taken me years to understand that when my kids ask me, in English, to “tie up” a shoelace or a knotted jump-rope or whatever, they want me to untie it. How strange is that?
May 24th, 2013
Last weekend Olof, the four youngest kids, and I drove up to to Sorsele, a little town about 150 miles (240 km) northwest of here. Olof’s sister and her family live up there, but it was the first time we’d visited since they made the move. It’s up in the mountains (not the kind of mountains I grew up with, but after a dozen years living on the coast, it felt pretty darned mountainous), and as you may have noticed in the previous picture, it is spectacularly beautiful. We were blessed with perfect weather, sunny and warm, and apart from driving three hours each way with a carsick two-year-old, it was a great weekend.
Saturday evening went out to the beach for an hour or so, and while the water was way too cold to dip more than a toe in — I was told that the ice had melted away only a couple of days earlier — we had a nice time walking barefoot in the sand and taking in the view. The kids ran around like maniacs with their cousins, and even played a little beach volleyball.
We got home late Sunday evening, and it was pretty much straight back to the grind for me. I spent a lot of the week working on my final essay for the course I’m taking now, thanks in large part to my mother-in-law, who took Yrsa off my hands for two whole days so I could do some writing. I submitted it last night, and though I’m not thrilled with it, I’m sure it’s good enough for a passing grade, Now I’ve just got tons and tons to read before the big workshop in Uppsala next week.
After that, summer vacation!
May 19th, 2013
May 17th, 2013
Wow, it’s been a while, huh?
I have been crazy busy this last while, mostly working on my thesis proposal, which is pretty much the culmination of my entire first year of study. It’s due in a few hours, and I put what I hope are the finishing touches on it just a little bit ago. I’m waiting on some last-minute feedback from my advisor, and once I hear back from her, and probably make a couple more touch-ups, I’m releasing that baby bird into the air.
This week I was down in Uppsala from Sunday evening to Wednesday afternoon, and I had the chance to get a lot of work done. I spent six hours on Tuesday in the archives, combing through hundreds-of-years-old estate inventories in search of “status objects” among clergy families. I know you won’t believe me when I tell you that those hours just flew by, but they did. Not only that, but they were fruitful hours — I found one priest with three sofas and another with gilded leather wallpaper!
Now that the proposal is finished, I’ve got just one more big assignment before summer break. Next Friday I’ve got an essay due for my Self and Identity class, and while it’s important — the bulk of the course’s grade — after the thesis proposal it feels eminently manageable. The last week of May will be pretty wild, with workshops and seminars galore in Uppsala, broken up by a whirlwind, 18-hour trip home in the middle, but I’m actually looking forward to it, not least for the opportunity to meet with a prominent historian in my field who has said that he’s eager to discuss my work.
Now, though, I’m being summoned to go out in the sunshine with my two-year-old, so that’s where I’ll be if you need me.