Summer is over in Sweden. You can no longer walk barefoot in the grass; the earth numbs your feet in 15 minutes. The geese are in full flight south and the blueberries are overripe and falling to the mossy ground. The weather is like eastern Croatia in early October, or New York in late October, or maybe Northern California in December.
With two sniffling kids in tow, we took two commuter trains north on Saturday morning for one last weekend in our summer cottage. Every time I write those words – summer cottage – I have to explain: summer cottages are cheap and common in Sweden, we have no water in the cottage and we live near a big road, a train line, a power line and a Swedish army firing range.
Yes, I doth protest too much. The cottage is glorious. But it comes at a price – which is a car. We had to make a choice last year. Do we buy the cottage and stay in the tiny apartment in the city with two kids? Or do we buy a car and maybe move to a town house in the suburbs?
We chose the cottage and the cramped space. This is an easy choice in a mild Swedish summer. I gushed about it here on the blog in July. But it is a choice we start to pay for now. Getting the family to the train is a pain. The cottage is chilled, and we can’t light fires because of the out of control toddler. The kids will get sick. We will have to turn off the water. The momentum is gone, the cottage is no good until next spring, and we will be left with 500 overflowing square feet and a long, dark Swedish winter.
But now that the summer has faded, we still like that we passed on the car and big space. We still like that we have stepped off the pre-set life path of bigger jobs and bigger houses, of cars and long hours of daycare.
It still makes me feel like an adult, making all these seemingly un-adult choices.
A long time ago, in eastern Croatia, my future wife invited me over for dinner. At that dinner, I went on and on about what is still good about America, about how you can find your way on the edges still, that some sort of freedom still flows there.
That’s how I feel about our life now. We just made it happen in Sweden.