Home Sweet Sweden – on the nature of home and memory

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I live in California now, though we still spend summers in Sweden.  All this moving made me think hard about the nature of home in a restless age.  This is what I came up with for The Morning News:

At naptime I lie with my toddler son in our brand-new IKEA bed in a very old bedroom of a red house in the Swedish forest, with peeling floral wallpaper, rough, unfinished floorboards, and a white-paneled ceiling. My son rolls all over the bed—back and forth, up and down—while I sing night songs to him as he tries to peek through the holes in the paper-thin blinds. And then, mid-roll, he sleeps suddenly, and I let my guard down and join him almost as dramatically.

These sweaty naps break the spell of adulthood, and I always wake in the same half-dreamy state as my child. We are cozy, then grumpy, and I am unable to adjust to the world outside—to my other kid or my wife or the fact that I have anything to do but sit on the kitchen sofa and look at dust particles swirling in the air.

What do you do when, in the middle of a life of perpetual movement, you find yourself desperate for a place of stillness? And what if you’ve already moved across an ocean for your daughter’s sake, but it hasn’t been quite enough, and now there is another baby, too?

These are questions that focus the mind. At least, they did for my wife and me. And as I searched for any good answer—after a dim and dreary Nordic winter, facing a long Swedish paternity leave, still at the start of a new career, with no network in the city, no place to go home to—I was drawn into a kaleidoscope of places and moments. I was left grasping into my past, one that had receded and washed away, both by my actions and by pure chance.

And what I found in my past became one reason why my wife and I decided against upgrading from our claustrophobic 590-square-foot apartment in Stockholm’s suburbs but instead bought a 115-year-old summer cottage of about the same size in a clearing near the hamlet of Marma on the banks of a manmade fjard of the River Dal.

In our purchase, we hoped to condense the stillness of a score of forests we’d seen the world round (even, in my wife’s case, this very one, many years ago) into a narrow stretch of trees two and a half hours north of Stockholm by two commuter trains. We were not searching for just more space, though; instead we needed to bring time into our space, and bring spaces into our time.

You can read the rest of the essay at the Morning News:  www.themorningnews.org/article/home-sweet-sweden

 

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