With all the snow that we have in Stockholm now, the kids will never believe me if I tell them that when I was a kid I had to walk barefoot through more snow than they’ve ever seen. But, fortunately, I have other stories to make my own childhood seems fairly Dickensian.
Like the fact that I didn’t have a real bed when I was five years old and, instead, slept on a piece of cardboard between two chairs that faced each other.
“Times were different back then,” said Mom, the mastermind behind the bed invention, when I brought it up during Xmas.
I also didn’t have my own room until I turned 14. “No, no, you got it when we moved and you were 13,” said Mom when I brought that up during Xmas. And she’s right. I was 13 and a half, or, 13 years, five months and 23 days old when I got a room of my own.
“It was the biggest room in the house,” Mom said.
And she’s right. It was.
But because I didn’t have my own room, just a desk in a room with beds, I liked to hang out on the balcony. Mostly in the summers, and you’ll understand why when I remind you that the apartment was in Helsinki, Finland. The balcony became my little office, my refuge, the place where I sat and typed stories from books, pretending they were my stories, and from where I could see my best friend’s window so that we could communicate with mirrors, and Morse code, and from where I could spy on people using the periscope Dad made me after my hopeless attempts to make one myself using instructions I found in the book that I was busy copying on the balcony, using Mom’s typewriter, had failed.
Somehow, I didn’t understand that other people could also see me from the balcony, and I remember how embarrassed I was when a buddy of mine had come up to see if I was home. I wasn’t, because I was out in the backyard, in a biathlon race against myself. I skied around our little playground, then threw myself in the snow, and shot the imaginary targets with one of my ski poles. And more often than not, I missed a couple and had to do a couple penalty loops before I could continue my race.
All that wasn’t obvious to the spectators standing on the balcony.
I did get my own room, and we moved, and I moved once, twice, three times, before I moved back to the same apartment, with the same balcony – thanks to the friend who had laughed at my biathlon race. He had been on a bike ride when he had noticed that there were no curtains in the windows. Dad called his old landlord, who became my new landlord when I got myself a new apartment. And a balcony to go with it.
All this is just a long roundabout way to tell Wife – who blogged about her family having a satellite dish – that I, too, had a satellite dish on my balcony. Unlike the In-laws, I got no help with setting it up, I had to do it all by myself. Well, Dad naturally, brought the dish, and mounted it, but he then had to leave so I said I’d find all the channels myself. That careless comment led to me standing outside, turning the dish veeeeery, veeeeery slowly, trying to find an exciting channel to watch, while staring at the TV that was in the living room, facing me.
An hour later, I would have settled for just a channel. Or any picture.
Two hours later, it had got dark outside when I closed the balcony door, turned the TV around again, sat in the couch, and watched an episode of Columbo on a Polish channel. Dubbed in Polish, by one actor.
The balcony was a handy extra room where I could store stuff in the winter. It was right there, and therefore much better than the basement storage I had. I could just drop my hockey equipment out there “to dry” after practices. One year, I just moved the Xmas tree from the living room to the balcony so that I could then take it out later.
I didn’t really think what happens to a Xmas tree when it’s outside and not watered. Of course, I now know that it loses the needles. But I also know that they don’t drop just like that if the tree is just standing there, unmoved … for a couple of months.
It was an impressive sight when I then, in June, dropped the tree from my second-floor balcony. It fell for a couple of seconds, before the butt of the trunk hit the ground. The tree stood up, still, for another second or two, while every single (brown) needle hit the ground, creating a beautiful (brown) circle on the concrete below me. Then I skipped down the stairs, and dragged the tree to garbage.
My only regret is that I didn’t take a photo of that tree then. I would have wanted to show Son and Daughter what Xmas trees looked like when I was a kid.