Fake Modesty

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.

The church has been there a long time.

Of course, I haven’t lived here in six years now, or ten in the last 12. It’s not the same as it was when we first got to know each other, but neither am I. I realize that I don’t know the city as well as I used to, I don’t know what the cool clubs and restaurants are, many of my points of reference are dated so when a former colleague and I would meet for lunch today, what was a nice sushi place to her, was, in fact, where I expected to see a great Thai restaurant.

Who knows when the Thai restaurant folded?

I don’t.

Then again, a part of me takes great pride in knowing what used to be where. Maybe I’m trying to claim some ownership by knowing history.

The core of Helsinki, the heart of the city is still the same – and hopefully some of the good things in my heart have stayed the same as well.

I was born in Helsinki. Son was born in Helsinki, in the same hospital that I was born in a few decades earlier. When he was born, we lived in an apartment building close to where my parents lived when I was born. I don’t know if Mom and Dad walked through the snow to the hospital like Wife and I did eight years ago, but I doubt it. I’m sure Dad wanted to drive.

But I know it was snowing both times.

It was so cold when Son was born that we couldn’t even go out, and expose his little lungs to the freezing cold but in the spring, Wife and I would walk through the park towards central train station, pushing the stroller with our precious cargo.

Before we hit the intersection of the two main streets, that is the downtown of Helsinki, we’d often stop at a coffee shop. It had easy access (for strollers), and it was a nice place. Son would eat, Wife and I have a cup of tea (coffee for me) and talk.

It became our hangout. When Wife started her website for Swedish-speaking parents in Finland, she held their meets at the same coffeeshop.

When we moved back to Sweden, I kept going back to the same coffeshop on my trips until I finally started to call it my “Helsinki office”.

I’m writing this at my Helsinki office. I’ve been here for two hours and two lattes. It’s a coffeeshop called Wayne’s Coffee.

But you know what? In 2003, it was called Modesty.

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