“Why don’t you put on your coach’s coat?”
– Son, on our way to his bandy practice.
It’s cold out there. It’s cold standing by the side of a huge bandy arena, with the winds blowing the full length of the ice, when the temperature is already in the double digits below zero. My new winter coat is a precious memento from the Vancouver Olympics that I covered for the IIHF, but that’s not the coach’s jacket that Son meant. That’s the 21st century version, but Son was talking about my other winter coat.
It’s cold in Finland. It’s cold like in Russian hell, as the saying goes here. It’s especially cold for a guy who insists on not wearing socks, but as the Swedes say, “there’s no bad weather, just poor clothing.” So I’m not complaining, because only wimps complain, as my Dad says.
Besides, it’s not like I’ve never seen minus-25 degrees before. Listen up, kids. When I was a kid, I walked to school every day: ten kilometers, on barefoot, uphill both ways. After I had milked the cows but before I went to work in the mines.
Helsinki in November is not exactly chicken soup for the soul. If we assume that today was an average day – and why not – it’s safe to say that on an average day, you can’t see the sun at all. Helsinki is dark, it’s gray, it’s wet. It’s cold.
Then again, it’s one of the best little cities in the world. Because it’s mine.
Nine years ago, after I had recovered from the initial shock of the nine-eleven attack, I sent an email to a New Yorker friend, to see that he was OK. Below is his reply.
Turns out, I didn’t know anybody. I thought I could put all the names and faces together, but I didn’t recognize my best buddy. I probably would have had somebody asked me to find him in the crowd sitting in the sun, but when he came to shake my hand, I drew a blank.
Then again, he wasn’t sure who I was, either.
Almost like the first day of school.
Except a lot more fun.
Because on the first day of school I cried.
The last time I saw the dozen or so people I’m about to meet in six hours, Ronald Reagan had just sworn in as President of the United States of America, and a rockabilly fever swept over Finland. No cause and effect, at least I don’t think so, but simply a coincidence.
The sports camp is about to end. We’ve had a week of fun, a week of cracking jokes in the dark when we were supposed to be sleeping, and getting ready for the sports activities we’ll be doing the next day. It’s always the same guys, too, with the same jokes, but they’re kind of funny, and I’m the new kid anyway, so I’ll just lie on my mattress and listen. And giggle.
There’s nothing like a nickname to date you. Not to the whole world, but in relation to your buddies. What works in high school, may not work in the adult world. Sometimes people outgrow their nicknames. That’s why the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs doesn’t want to be called “Tico”, like when we played minor hockey against each other, but Alexander.
“Dad, can we play that things-that-didn’t-exist-when-you-were-a-kid game again?”
– Son, from the backseat, yesterday
Oh, where to begin. Of course we didn’t have cell phones, flat screen TVs – color TVs, actually – remote controls, shoes with Velcro instead of laces, and in the words of a 4331-member strong Facebook group, “When I was your age, hockey bags didn’t have [bleeping] wheels on them”.
There were no Crocs, no CDs, no DVDs, no Euros, no toy Kalashnikovs, and no Star Wars Lego merchandise. We did have clogs, and VHS, and my father used to make wooden pistols, and leather holsters for me.
“It feels so unreal, was it the same for you?”
– Brother-in-law, 48 hours before the arrival of his first-born
Apparently, only four percent of children are born on the actual due date, which, to me, makes the whole concept of having one date simply ludicrous. If that’s the best they can do, why not simply give the parents a good ballpark guestimate, say, a week, and leave it at that.