When I got to know one of my best friends in middle school, he told me that his father was a Member of the Parliament in Finland. I’m not sure if I really knew what that meant, but it sounded important and cool, so I told Mom about it that night.
“Really? What’s his last name?” Mom said, mostly out of curiosity than anything else.
“Ekman,” I said.
“Huh. I don’t remember a Member of the Parliament by that name,” Mom said.
The Finnish unicameral Parliament has 200 members. Father may know best, but I figured Mom knows a lot, too, so I confronted my buddy the next day. With the best possible argument, of course:
“My Mom says there’s no Ekman in the Parliament.”
Unfazed, my buddy replied:
“No, no, of course not. It’s the Parliament of Finland, so he’s there under his Finnish name: Tammimies.”
“Oh. Oh. Oooooh, I get it,” I said.
And then we proceeded with our plans to make prank calls to the girls in our class, especially the blonde one that my friend had a big crush on.
We were great friends. We hung out every day, and on Thursdays, when school started at 10, he came over 8.30-ish, so we could do stuff before school. And after school, we went to his house, listened to music, talked, and hung out.
He had also told me that he was born in Paris, France. Obviously, this was before his father had become an MP. It was only natural that the family had traveled and lived around the world. Now, I was born in Helsinki, Finland, and I had never been to Paris, so that made him a little more cosmopolitan, and, more importantly, way cooler than me. That, and his hairstyle. The 1950s were in style, so every day, he’d use hair grease and whip up a nice pompadour.
Me? I sometimes used sugar water. Like in my class photo.
Anyway, one day, we were walking up to the church because that’s where you went to get your birth certificate. His family was going on a trip, and my friend needed a passport. We walked up the hill, it was a beautiful, sunny, spring day, one of those days when you put on your warm coat in the morning, only to realize you have to open it and roll up the sleeves in the afternoon.
We walked in, and my friend got to the desk to pick up his birth certificate. I was standing next to him, waiting, like a good friend. He signed a piece of paper, and the church lady went for her files. I looked at the posters about the Third World on the walls. Then it was time to go.
On our way down the hill, my friend was silent for a second.
“Listen, I guess you saw it,” he said.
“I guess you saw that my birthplace wasn’t Paris, but Helsinki,” he said, apologetically.
“Oh, yeah, that,” I replied.
“It was just a fun thing to say, you’re not mad at me, are ya?” my friend said.
“No, whatever,” I replied.
And then we walked back towards my house. We took our jackets off, and started running. As always, we had big plans for the day.