Thursday, July 28, 2011


Sweden Day 13: Homesick
I am sitting on the deck in the yard of my Swedish dream house.  The sun is about half  way through it's 3 hour decent and the sky is filling with shades of pinks, lavenders and orange that if combined anywhere else would be gaudy. When the breeze blows one way, the faint smell of fresh and fermenting apples fills my nose, from the other the perfume sweetness of the evening phlox.  It is so quiet and still, the faintest movement can be heard, my dogs breath, a man's sneeze from an open window across the lane, a goose calling it's mate in the distance.  It's hard not to feel at ease surrounded by so much natural beauty.

These are the easy moments, when my senses can recline and lull my heart into believing I am somewhere from my past.  Somewhere familiar.  It really isn't all that different from where I grew up in New York. In fact it is more like it then anywhere I have lived since that time, so familiar....almost home, but not quite.

Today was a good day.  A trip into Stockholm with the girls to practice their commute to school.  I learned from recent mistakes, to pack plenty of healthy snacks to keep everyone happy and then supplemented with candy for the return trip home.  It is hard though, always being the ones who are different. Being the ones who are ignored, but watched.  It's not anything personal.  It is a well known fact that Swedes don't engage in niceties with people they don't know. Not in elevators, not in grocery stores, not on wooded paths, not even standing across the street from one another while unloading a car in your own driveways.  "Don't take it personally" one of our relocation specialist told us.  It is just their way.

So we don't take it personally, but that doesn't keep it from being weird.  So then maybe I should say "Hej"?  But then what next?  I don't speak Swedish, and not everyone speaks fluent English, so that kind of limits the conversation.  It would just be so much easier if I could ask the lady walking her dog, "where is the good vet is on our island." Maybe even understand the finer point to the extensive Swedish recycling codes and drop off centers. " Can I bring all my empty Ikea boxes to any bin or do they need to be brought to the transfer station?" and  "Where is there a place to bring my children to swim?" We are, after all, living on an island for goodness sake, there must be some body of water we can walk to!!!!

Deep breath.  I would have these question regardless of where we moved, but at home, I would at least know where to ask, to get the answers.  Right now I feel like a child with many conflicting needs and no way of expressing myself to get them met.  It is rather frustrating for a girl who could easily talk her way in or out of the charms of others with nary an ounce of effort in the states.

But I think what I miss most is the familiar.  Knowing with Martha Stewart sureness how to behave or misbehave to just the right degree.  The other day, (which was a particularly bad day) I was listening to my ipod while throwing a makeshift dinner together.  KC and I were dancing hard to our favorite song and singing loud.  I knew all the words every note with no hesitation.  It floated me back to a memory (as songs often do), of a large green fenced in field, with a sea of people gathered on fourth of July.  Leaning against the fence on the blanket we had laid 10 hours earlier were my girls and finance guy with our best friends, singing at the top our lungs as fire works exploded in our ears and the sky.  All gathered for a common celebration.  A common purpose,  we all shared.  Our borderline obnoxious singing met with smiles from neighboring blankets, and smiles plastered on our own faces....and I was sobbing in my Swedish kitchen, with a longing I didn't anticipate.

Even the Swedish summer sun takes a rest south of the circle, and the pastel sky has faded to deep blues and the trees and bushes are now black shadows.  Tomorrow, well... we'll see what tomorrow brings.



  1. Gosh, Karen, this was beautiful. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

  2. We are dismayed when we learn that people we like are unhappy, ill, lonely, in pain, scared, or homesick, and we want to make everything better. When a friend or family member is in distress, we want to help. If we're nearby it's easier; a smile or a silent hug may be all that's needed. But distance makes it more difficult. So we might try cheery platitudes. My grandmother, for example, used to say that home is where the heart is, whatever that means. The good nuns back in grade school would insist that faith and prayer can solve any problem. The well-meaning among us might point out that tomorrow will be a brighter day because, after all, it is a wonderful adventure in a beautiful place being experienced in the company of a loving family. For what it's worth, here's what I think: no one who knows you, no one who has read this blog, can possibly doubt your strength and resilience. You have met and overcome obstacles and challenges that would have brought most of us to our knees. You have shown us what can be accomplished with love and grace and humor. We admire you and we have no doubts. Please know that you are in the thoughts of a whole lot of people, all of whom wish you well.

  3. Beautiful.......For what it's worth, I had a similar experience when I moved from north Jersey to Iowa...a stranger in a strange land.Even they we all spoke English, we didn't speak the same language and everyone knew I wasn't one of them. Sending lots of love-Susan

  4. that was on of the most touching blog posts ever
    I have been homesick before it wasn't fun so I know
    how you feel