“Luffe, kom hit,” Wife shouted, and a blonde dog that looked like a golden retriever came running back to her, his ears pulled back by the wind and his mouth open as if in a huge smile.
Wife patted the dog and looked at me.
“Had somebody told me a year ago that i’d be walking here with you and a dog, I wouldn’t have believed him,” she said.
“Walking here with you, maybe. But not the dog,” she added after a pause.
And yet, there we were, walking around the neighborhood, Wife and I – and a dog.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have believed it a year ago, either, just like ten years ago I wouldn’t have imagined us living in a yellow little house in Sollentuna, Wife’s old neighborhood.
And twenty years ago the idea of me living here with a Swedish wife and our 2.0 kids and that I’d be eating pyttipanna for dinner would have been a hilarious one. Not to mention that we’d have a Volvo.
I wouldn’t have imagined it then, or thirty years ago, or forty years ago for that matter. Maybe I could have but I just wouldn’t have – and didn’t. I’ve never been good at visualising things, whether it being a dream girl or a dream car.
And yet, right here and now, somehow it all makes sense. I also got my dream girl and … well … Volvo’s a solid car.
It’s almost as it it was meant to be. It’s like Sweden was calling me for a long time.
The first Swedish words I ever learned were numbers. A friend of Dad’s taught me to count from eleven to, well, twelve. Or, maybe just to eleven because his joke consisted of three words – elva, tolva, luppakorva – and only one of them was correct Swedish. Elva does mean eleven, but since tolv, Swedish for twelve, wouldn’t have rhymed with luppakorva, the non-sensical punchline, he added an “a” to it. (And I’m sure he didn’t come up with the joke, but he told it to me).
Luppakorva? That’s “drop ear” in Finnish. As in, the long hanging ears that Droopy – our our Luffe – has.
Now that I think of it, he didn’t teach me to count at all since I only learned one Swedish word. Anyway, I was only six years old and learning to speak Finnish was enough. By the time I was in seventh grade and we started to learn proper Swedish, I was ready. I had hockey buddies who spoke Swedish and I knew that a lot of Helsinki slang was based on Swedish, and I was eager to learn that.
In the first chapter of our Swedish book, we were taught the very basic greetings. How to say our names, where we live, and so on. In the margin, I wrote, “jag bor i Åggelby”, the Swedish language name of our Helsinki suburb. That alone was cool, I thought.
In Chapter 2, another character was introduced. One that took an entire generation by storm.
The scene’s only eight lines long, it being our second Swedish lesson and all. In it, Anders and Olle, two buddies, are in a park when suddenly Anders sees something interesting. This is how the scene opens:
Anders: Look, there comes a dog!
Olle: That’s Luffe. Luffe, come here.
Luffe: Woof, woof.
To this day many, if not most, of my friends remember the name of the dog, and his line in the dialogue. It’s the “woof, woof”, or vov, vov in Swedish, that truly makes it. I recently posted a photo of the page on Facebook, and my timeline was flooded with comments with references to the characters and the fictional town in our Swedish book. Since I moved to Sweden, I have heard Olle’s and Luffe’s lines recited back to me at least a half dozen times by different Finnish friends and I’ve used it as a punchline in several conversations with Wife. And it always makes her laugh because I pronounce Luffe’s barking like a Finn.
It’s a line that’s been with me since I had just become teenager, and it’s followed me all the way here.
Luffe, kom hit. Come here, Luffe.
Only these days, it’s not inside my head anymore. I’m home.