Waking Up Into A Dream- My First Day in Sweden

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It was afternoon when I woke up on a brown leather sofa in my grandmother’s living room. I looked around. Above me on the wall was an oil painting of a sunset on the water. Water can be so beautiful but I am terrified of it. To my left was a wall covered in framed family photographs. There was a small photo of my family when there had been only four kids. Close to it was a photo of my mother as a young girl. For the first time I saw my great grandmother, she looked like she had been working when the photo was taken. To my right was a large open window with white curtains that danced in the breeze. It looked out to the back courtyard. I was on the ground floor in an apartment building, in a neighbourhood with lots of other buildings that all looked exactly the same. The soft sounds of the upstairs neighbour’s conversations travelled down to us. It was the month of May and the sun shone brightly, trying to cheer up my gray mood.

‘I am in Sweden’, I kept repeating to myself. I am awake, but it feels like a dream. I left reality behind, this isn’t real. I am not really here. I touched my arm, my face and looked at my feet. I saw that I was whole, but parts of me felt missing.

My grandmother noticed I had woken up and brought me a glass of pear juice. It was delicious. I looked at her. It had been several years since she had visited us in the states. Her hair still black with only a few white strands. Her physique slender from all the walking she does. Her face naturally beautiful as she did not wear make up. I could see that she was my mother’s mother. She then started to point out her things and explain them. She had a large collection of white porcelain pieces displayed in a glass cabinet, all labeled on the bottom with her name and the year she got it. She had bookshelves full of journals that she had faithfully written through the years. I looked out the window again as she kept talking. Her Swedish was easy to understand. My mother’s mother, they spoke similar. Just yesterday I had been home in Ohio. Four airplanes later I was here. The world felt small and I grew restless. I stood up and asked if we could walk. She looked surprised but agreed.

We walked around the block. I was looking for something interesting, something that stood out to be “different”. Something that would make me feel like it was okay to be here because there was something I would have otherwise missed out on. We crossed the road onto a sidewalk that was made of cobblestone. It was pretty to look at, but made my ankles hurt. The greenery was beautiful, the cars that drove past were all nice but the thing that stood out the most wasn’t a thing, it was sound. Everything seemed so quiet. The cars weren’t honking. The dogs weren’t barking. People weren’t shouting. The calmness around me a direct opposite from how I was feeling inside, because inside I was screaming.

We walked back to the apartment and she began to cook dinner. I sat in the living room and called my mom. The phone sounds were different. The smells from the kitchen were foreign to my nose. I had just arrived but I was ready to run. Like an ungrateful spoiled girl, I sat with a bad attitude. Complaining about everything under my breath. Blind to the opportunity around me. Eventually I would learn, but I was a hard egg to break. And with that hardness, some things come too late.

This Road and I

This road and I met a very long time ago. Although she had been around for a long time amongst those who knew her, she was very new to me. Her sounds, looks, smells, shops and the overall feeling she gave me as I walked alongside her.

Over time I got to know her very well. No longer labeled as new, she was now a familiar road. I could describe her to others and give directions. I knew what I would find each time I went to her.

So many memories were created. Too many to count or tell.

One day I said good bye, not knowing when I would return.

For years we were apart and during those years we grew apart. She had many others to keep her company and I met new roads that kept me walking.

When I did come back I saw how much we had both changed.

I knew who she was but I was just another passer by visiting.

The memories are still there, tucked in a corner of my heart.

I’ll never forget her. x

The House of 44666

My husband and I sat on the couch. He was watching a movie but my head was thinking about where I was ten years before. Living in a white house, on a long road that never seemed to end.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I lived in a haunted house?”

“Yep. Lots of times.”

“Well, pretend it’s the first time. It all started right after I graduated high school. Probably because I was home during the day all the time. The shower was in the basement and I normally waited until the younger ones had left for school and mom left for work. I swear I heard footsteps above me. People just walking around. And not just a few seconds. The whole time I was downstairs. My heart would start racing.”

“Sexy you were in the shower.”

“Hahaha! Glad you are listening! When I did go back upstairs everything would be still and quiet, but knowing I had heard something I did not feel alone. Which was creepy.”

“Are you going to tell me about the knock next?”

“Yes! Okay, mom and everyone else wanted to go to the park in Canal Fulton. I did not feel like going. We had a big suburban and a gravel driveway, so you know it’s loud when mom drives away. You can hear it. And I did. I then went into the bathroom to pee. There was a knock on the door. Immediately out of habit I said- HOLD ON! Then I thought- did mom come back because one of the kids suddenly had to pee? Probably Emma! Strange I did not hear mom’s car on the driveway, and she would not just pull up in front of the house. I thought all that in just a few seconds when someone knocked on the door again. I got irritated and shouted HOLD ON! When I opened the bathroom door, everything was still and completely silent. It was as if someone invisible was standing right in front of me staring me in the face, but I could not see them. I stood there a bit frozen and had to catch my breath. Mom and the kids were not there.”

“Crazy.”

“Did I tell you Emma talked to the ghost? We were all outside on the front porch when we joked about the house ghost taking stuff we could not find. Like a necklace my dad had given me. It was silver with three hearts. I had placed it in front of the mirror next to my make up. I took it off, put it there, went to sleep and in the morning it was gone. I never found it. I was in the same room! Imagine if I had woken to a floating necklace! Anyhow, Emma said the house ghost was a nice boy. Surprised I looked at her and was like what? She says, ‘His name is Cody.’ Or was it? It started with a C.”

“Maybe Casper?”

“Funny. No it was not Casper. I wonder if she would remember. She was only ten years old. But I have heard people say that children can see things us grown ups cannot. And maybe that is true because when we moved months later, we had help from our home teacher who had to bring his little five year old son. We went down into the basement and suddenly he looks around, like this, as if something were circling around his head. He whispered to me, ‘we shouldn’t be here.’ I was already holding his hand and we ran out as fast we could. That was the last time I ever stepped foot in that house. You believe me yes?”

“Of course. Can I finish my film now?”

“Yes I’ll be quiet now. I believe in ghosts. And aliens. Next time I’ll tell you why.”

“I can’t wait.”

I Wish I Had Written Journal

This morning I was thinking about how years ago I was able to visit different places in the world. My memory proves hazy as I try to remember the plants, the smells, the sights, the people, the food, the sounds and how I felt about all of it. Why have I not kept a journal? Imagine the endless interesting stories I’d be able to tell from just the past eleven years living in Europe. Some places seemed so fairy tale-like in its nature and existence. Especially places I have seen in Sweden. Even if I were to go back, I doubt I would be able to find those places again. I wish I had taken more pictures! I wish I had the eyes I have now, back then.

I am not one who dwells on regrets. I normally will be the first to say I do not have any because life is what it is and we are who we are at that time and regretting past choices does not change anything.

But today it is nagging me.

I am slowly forgetting. If I were to try to recall those places and memories, it would be more fictional than fact. Memory is not always reliable.

As a writer, I love stories. Reading them, telling them, listening to them; it opens a different sphere to this world that I find exciting to visit before having to come back to reality.

Almost eleven years ago I was living with my grandmother in Sweden. That summer she had booked a trip for me and my cousin, Esther, to go to the north of Sweden. We travelled by bus from Jonkoping to Stockholm and from Stockholm we took a train north. I don’t recall exact times but it was about 24 hours of travelling. Once up north we met her sister and stayed with her a few days. We also travelled even farther to visit my mom’s cousin. We also went to the little village, there was a school, a kiosk and a post office, my grandmother grew up. Although it was in Sweden, they spoke mostly Finnish as it was very near the border. Her brother still lived in the small house where she grew up. We drank a lot of blueberry juice.

Being so far north was magical. The sun never set. Roads never ended. The horizon and sky felt close enough to touch, but obviously we couldn’t!

One of my grandmother’s friend’s house was a long drive out in a remote area. We passed countless of miles of forest and a few houses with peculiar handmade fences. Their gardens were immaculate and beautiful. When we got to the friend’s house, we walked uphill on a paved walkway of different shapes and it felt like I was walking through a massive garden of flowers. The interior of the house was very traditionally Swedish and everything seemed to be handmade. We drank a berry tea.

There are so many gaps I wish was filled with the writings of a journal or an album of photos. I am longing for more.

How important is it really? Why should I care so much? Because it is all family history. We are their future. She was my grandmother, our worlds so vastly different and yet her and I were very much alike.

Now I have two little boys and am experiencing all sorts as a mother. A journal needs kept because these are the moments I never want to fade out of my mind.

The memories and stories of my children are priceless beyond measure. I never want to regret not having one for them. No regrets, but lesson learned.

Shipshewana Flea Market

(photo credit)

My mom had given me a bottle of lotion. The smell of the lotion reminded me of potpourri. Not just any kind of potpourri, one that took me back to a place that held many memories of hot summer days and lemonades. A place called Shipshewana. It was a very long time ago, but I remember.

In the early mornings we’d get woken up at the hotel, mom loaded us sleepy kids in the suburban, and we fell back asleep as dad drove us all to the market. Not to shop. To work. Half asleep in my seat, eyes closed, I knew we were driving past miles and miles of cornfields in Amish country Indiana. We passed the KOA campground, the twin mills, more cornfields, some houses and I’d think of eating blueberry pancakes at the Perkins not far from the market. I think it was Perkins? We went sometimes and it was my favourite. As dad drove, the familiar smells of cardboard boxes, blankets and dirty shoes filled the car. It was about a twenty minute drive on those roads and when dad made the last left turn, I’d wait for the bumps of the railroad tracks beneath us, then I’d open my eyes. I loved seeing the row of old terrace housing. There was a laundromat with a flag outside, a barber shop, and other things I never got to find out what they were. These days it would be charmingly vintage.

The tiny town was buzzing. Horse and buggies everywhere, their owner’s faces told everyone they were running errands. The sound of horse hoofs on the road was always more welcoming than car engines driving by. Coach buses filled the parking lot.  It was still so early that the mist was still sleeping, yet the tourists filled the few restaurants for breakfast and shops were already open for the day. Out of towners were easy to spot: men in baggy jeans and the women wore teeshirts and ponytails. Later in the day when the sun reigns strongest, those teeshirts came off and women wore bikini tops. Even the old ladies wore strapless tops. Their bra-less breasts hanging down to their waist. I promised myself that when I grew breasts, I’d give them the support they needed. I’d also keep myself covered up. Only my husband will be allowed to see my saggy arm skin.

Soon we’d be lined up with other vendors, driving to our designated spot to set up for the day. We all had our assignments and knew exactly what to do. Tarps, tables, linens, boxes, merchandise, signs, bags, money bags, double check the change and eat donuts.

It has been over fifteen years since the last time.  I wonder if the “kite man” and Avon lady are still there. In my dreams I often see a market that represents Shipshe. Sometimes I can still taste their amazing nacho supreme and chicken salad croissant sandwiches. Maybe a summer soon I will be able to go with my husband and kids. Fingers crossed. x

“Welcome to America.” from an eight year old.

I was about eight years old when my school class loaded up on a bus and drove from Hartville to downtown Canton. We arrived at a big building and as a class sat at the very top and looked down at the stage. There was a big American flag on the right side and in centre was about fifty chairs with people sitting on them. People that had moved to America from other countries.

A man came out onto the stage wearing a suit and spoke into a microphone. The fifty people stood up and put their hands on their hearts. It reminded me of when we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. They were becoming citizens. We were the witnesses.

Soon after we were standing in front of the building, lined up to get on the bus again. There were crowds of people around us, all leaving at the same time. I recognised a man who had been standing on the stage. He was tall with dark wavy hair and a big nose. With no real reason I had decided he might be from France.

I quickly ran over to him and tugged at his suit coat. He looked down at this three-foot tall little girl smiling at him. There I was, little Swedish immigrant girl, talking to a stranger and the irony of me saying, “Welcome to America!”

“Well Done Son”

A friend of mine was walking into an open market hall when she witnessed a crime. She saw a little boy, about 5 or 6 years of age, run out of a corner shop with merchandise. Her first thought was: “darn undisciplined kids these days!” Until she saw him jump into a car with 3 grown men who were obviously waiting for him. And because she was still standing at the entrance of this market hall she was close enough to hear the driver say to the boy, “well done son.”

True story.

(photo credit)