Sweet eighteen?

I like rules. I’ve always liked to know that there are rules and I expect everybody – I’m looking at you pushing a shopping cart on the streets – to follow them, even the unwritten ones. (Really, dude, it’s not your cart).

I like rules so much that I make up new rules for myself. These are rules that may have been inspired by other people, but they only apply to me.

Two of these rules have to do with how I speak of Son and Daughter – and no, there’s no rational reason behind them. One, I never call refer to them as “children”, “kids,” or even just “son” and “daughter”, except here on the old blog. The rule is to always include their name in the conversation.

I think it has to do with my being an only child. I never wanted to be just a kid. I always wanted to be Risto.

Funnily enough, the second rule has to do with the end of childhood. And the rule is never to call someone “an adult” or “a grownup” when they turn eighteen.


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I coulda been a contender

Finland had a presidential election recently, and for the first time in my lifetime, the new President is younger than me, albeit only by a few months. The new head of state is also someone I’ve played hockey against when we were – both – pre-teens and teens. 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting across the table from his father, a prominent hockey executive, talking hockey for a book I’m working on. And since it was right in the middle of the campaign, the topic of presidency came up. 

“I’m sure he’ll win,” I said, while grabbing another Jaffa cake (which, for some reason, you can’t find in Sweden, but that’s another story).  

“We’ll see,” said the then-future Father of the President. 

“It could’ve been me.”

I didn’t say that out loud but I did think it. And then I took another Jaffa cake – because they were there. 

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Let’s take a cruise

I once tried to estimate the number of times I’ve been on these ferries that traffic between Sweden and Finland. It’s almost like one of those questions you might expect to get at a Google job interview in which the right answer is less important than how you try to get there.

The first three – six, if you count return trips, and why wouldn’t you? – are pretty easy.

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Happy birthday, Daughter!

For years, Daughter and I have driven to games and practices in four different sports, all year round. And over the years we’ve developed a few routines for our trips. Not all of them have made it this far, and some have changed a little. 

For example, we no longer listen to Ed Sheeran’s album +. These days, you’ll be more likely to hear Taylor Swift or any one of the One Direction guys in the car. 

But when we get to our destination, we always fist bump each other and I’ll tell her to go get ‘em. 

If I’m travelling and can’t get to the game, or if it’s an away game, I’ll text her the fist bump emoticon. 

The day Daughter was born was a cold one. We had been to the hospital once earlier, but were told that it had been a false alarm. Daughter wasn’t ready to meet the world yet. When we returned to the hospital a month later, it was way past her due date, so we both, but especially Wife, were more than ready. 

She was born at quarter to six on that cold March day. Since she was our second child, we knew a little better what to expect, which is why we had our special CD with special songs on it, to create the perfect mood. We were cool, calm, and collected, and since everything went well, and she was healthy and happy, I drove home later that night, and returned the next day to pick up my two girls. 

It was even colder the next day day as we walked out the hospital. It was windy so we had wrapped Daughter inside a fluffy white overall inside a blanket as I carried her in my arms, not lifting my feet on the icy ground on our way to the parking garage. 

I can still see her tiny face, with a little bit of cheeks and nose showing from underneath the blankets. And when I put her down on the car seat, I have a vivid memory of her raising her tiny fist for me to bump it. 

I may be imagining things. After all, it’s been seventeen years today. 

Anyway, it’s funny how certain parts of one’s personality never seem to change. She’s still often a little late, and likes to sleep in whenever she can. However, when awake, she’s always been an active child. She learned to crawl and walk at an early age. Well, maybe not as much “walk” as “run”. She’s always loved all kinds of games from football to darts to hockey to card games, and doing everything with a smile on her face.

I don’t think we have one photo of her in which she isn’t smiling. 

* * *

The other day, I dropped Daughter off at the hockey rink. We were late, things were chaotic, and she just grabbed her bag and took off. I sat inside the car, with my right hand extended out, my hand a fist. And sure enough, three steps in, Daughter stopped, turned around, opened the door and bumped my fist. 

“Go get ‘em,” I said. 

“Will do,” she said with a smile, slammed the car door shut and ran off. 

I couldn’t see her face, but she was probably smiling. 

Best pizza in town?

I love pizza. I could eat piza every day. In fact, about a decade ago, we went on a road trip in Italy, and I did eat pizza every single day for two weeks. Well, every day but one. That day, I decided that I couldn’t eat pizza every day and that I should at least try the pasta – when in Rome – so I had pasta.

It was in Siena, in a restaurant by the Piazza del Campo.

I remember it vividly because when I saw Wife’s pizza, I regretted not having the same.

I’ll never make that mistake again.

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It was twenty years ago today

I don’t remember my twentieth birthday, and that’s not me trying to be funny and imply I had a wild birthday party. I most probably didn’t have a party at all. 

It was a Tuesday, so I probably took the subway to the university, had a few classes before taking the subway back to my tiny apartment. In the afternoon, I’d guess I drove my Nissan Sunny to hockey practice and home, and then watched the Invisible Man on Sky Channel – and waited for Monsters of Rock to begin at 1am. 

A good day, in other words. 

Risto at 20.

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You can take the boy out of Finland

“Are you Finnish?” the man asked me, wasting no time with niceties.

Now, he asked the question with a smile on his face, but his tattooed knuckles told me I’d better answer him, and answer him truthfully.

“Yes, I am,” I said.

“I could tell. Finnish genes are strong,” he said and raised his finger to indicate he was about to take a pause in the conversation.

We both did a set of bicep curls.

“I don’t know what it is, but there’s something very Finnish about you. My ex-wife was Finnish so I can tell,” he went on and wiped some sweat off his brow.

I did, too.

“Yeah, well, I don’t really know what it is, but sure, I’ve seen an image of the genetic map of Europe and we’re way out here when the rest of Europe is here,” I said, pointing holes in the air.

“Where in Finland are you from?” he asked me then.

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Son, 18


You know, Helsinki in November is not heaven on Earth. It’s dark most of the day and even when the sun is supposed to get up, you’d never know because you’ll never see it. It’s probably cold, too. And windy. It rains … unless it’s snowing, but these days, it’ll probably rain. Unless it rained yesterday and then it got cold overnight and the sidewalks turned into skating rinks.

Well, you’ve seen it.

And the worst part of it all is that before it gets better, things get worse. The days get even shorter and the weather even colder so that by the 22nd, with another month to go until the winter solstice, you’re just about ready to go into hibernation.

And yet, one of those late November days in Helsinki changed my life, made everything better, and brought sunshine into our life. Mine and Mom’s.

You were born. In the middle of the night, on this day, eighteen years ago.

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Through the looking-glass

Every time I tell Son and Daughter that they spend too much time staring at a screen, I get a guilty conscience because I can also see a photo of myself, aged about 3, standing 50cm from a bulky, black-and-white television set, staring it, completely mesmerized.

To be honest, even the first words I learned to read were words in a TV advertisement. 

But that’s probably not a surprise, considering that when I was old enough to sit by myself, when my hard-working mother needed some me-time so she could concentrate on her studies, she tied me up in a chair with a scarf (so that I wouldn’t fall down) and put me in front of a TV. Especially when the Thunderbirds were on. 

In short, I was raised on TV. 

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Wonderful like Jennifer

It’s not easy to keep ta bird’s eye view when you’re 15. If anything, it’s hard. Time doesn’t really matter, because, what’s another year – to quote the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest song I remember falling asleep to the night Johnny Logan won the whole thing – because so much can happen in a year. Ten years seems like an eternity and yet, you’re in such a hurry at the same time. 

So, when I was fifteen, I found it hard to really see the consequences of my decisions, although, I have to say that had I sat down and thought about it, I probably would’ve understood it. I probably even did sit down and think about things, and thought I understood it, but didn’t. 

Or, even if I did, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t feel it. 

In my defense, life’s not a straight line and even if you do make good decisions at fifteen, you still have to make new decisions at twenty, and twenty-three, and fourty-two, and some of them may be polar opposites of the ones you made at fifteen. 

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