Twenty years ago, my phone rang and a nice American lady at the other end informed me that she had a job offer for me. I accepted it on the spot, obviously, having been through several rounds of interviews and a visit to the company’s offices in the Stockholm Old Town.
I hung up, and got back to work without telling anyone. In fact, I kept the secret for another week, waiting for my frustrating boss to say something idiotic so that I could just quit my job right there, in a Hollywood movie kind of way. (He didn’t, so I gave my notice that Friday).
But that evening, I drove to the local pizza place and while waiting for the pizza to be ready, I went to the video store next door, and rented a movie to celebrate my new job.
The pizza? Pizza Bolognese.
The movie? The Phantom.
Hygge is so last year! Or at least it is if you believe the New York Times, which pronounced 2018 the time for two more Scandinavian imports, Norway’s lykke, basically a feeling of contentment, and Sweden’s giant of a phrase, lagom.
In these times, knowing when to stop is invaluable. It’s time to go lagom.
The biggest thing about Christmas has always been the Christmas break. First, there were the school days and the break that was weeks long, that sometimes felt almost too long.
Then, in the university, it was suddenly even longer, with the lectures ending in early December so, with careful planning, I could take off to my parents’ by mid-December the latest, after my last exam, and then return in mid-January.
My salad days.
“Estimated Delivery: By End of Day”
Is it end of day yet?
It’s dark, the sun has set
Is it end of day yet?
It’s time for dinner, soup with baguette
What about now, is it end of day now?
It could be, but it’s not, no way, no how
It’s not the end of the day, no
Until DHL delivery man says so
A long time ago, yes, back in the 1980s, somebody told me that I was one of those people who wouldn’t live in Finland for the rest of his life. I don’t remember how we got to that topic, but I think it came totally out of the blue. The fact that I still remember it tells you how surprised I was to hear someone say something like that.
Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised, in case you’re wondering.In Finland – like many other, especially small countries – making it out of there is a small sign of success.
I’m not sure of that’s what my friend meant and I don’t remember us having a big debate on what it meant to be Finnish, or whether I’d leave the country voluntarily or not.
We probably just went back to talking about Springsteen or the latest James Bond movie, or something similar.
Turned out that my friend was right. I didn’t live in Finland for the rest of my life. I got a job in Sweden and moved to Stockholm.
These days, news travel fast. We still get the morning paper, and we read it at the breakfast table every morning, always sharing the different sections the same way: News and Culture to Wife, Sports and Stockholm News to me, and if we see anything we think might interest Son and Daughter – who read comics – we’ll give the article to them.
Often when Wife tells me about something she read, both Son and I will have already heard it. Now, my excuse is that I’m a freelance writer so I tend to spend too much time reading my RSS feeds and scrolling down my social media timelines. Son? Well, he’s a teenager.
News hasn’t always traveled that fast. Back in the 1980s, of course, you couldn’t find a video stream, legal or illegal, to any sports event online and even the TV sports news had to use still photos from boxing matches in America.
In 1986, I spent six weeks of varying gloriousness in Harbor Beach, Michigan, on a summer exchange program. It was a memorable summer in many ways but one of the highlights was that I got to taste New Coke. They were exciting times because not only was there Classic Coke and New Coke, there was also Cherry Coke and Diet Coke, which had been introduced to the Finnish market two years earlier as Coca-Cola Light.
Like all families, mine had several Christmas traditions. They were of different sizes, and some of them came and went while others have stayed to this day and have been passed on to Son and Daughter.
The three big ones were Xmas Eve drive, dinner, and movies.
One thing they all have in common is that they all have something to do with the relativity of time.
Five years ago, I wrote “Ten Little Stories About a Ten-Year-Old Boy” and since the little boy is now a broad-shouldered teenager, it’s time to list 15 short stories about him. These aren’t really stories, mostly just random facts. They have not been cleared with him, and any embarrassment caused by them is purely coincidental … and part of being a teenager.
She looked like a grandmother. Not like either one of my grandmothers but a grandmother nonetheless. Her hair was white and her face tanned and wrinkled in a distinguished kind of way. The way that, should you have a face like that, you can just thank your lucky stars for it. There’s nothing you can do to make your face turn out that way.
I was startled to see the face, distinguished as it was, because it seemed to appear out of nowhere and it was very close to my less distinguished face. I had just been sitting there, next to Wife, and while I had noted that she had stood up, I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the world.
After all, we were on an airplane. I thought that maybe she just wanted to stretch her legs.