Open Sesame

Last week, I found a secret portal that took me to other worlds. No, it wasn’t books, silly, although that was a good guess (and I do encourage everybody to read).

No, this portal was a garage in downtown Stockholm, a block from Stureplan, which is the center of Stockholm’s nightlife – or so I have been told, it’s been a while I’ve been in the city centre after sunset.

The funny thing about my finding the portal is that I wasn’t on my way anywhere in particular. I was just walking around, waiting for a movie theatre to open so that I could go watch Chaplin’s Gold Rush when I was suddenly, unexpectedly taken to another world.

Instead of being surrounded by buildings in downtown Stockholm, I now saw trees covered in snow around me. I was at the edge of a clearing somewhere in Finland, I thought. It was a nice winter’s day, the sun was still up and the sky was mostly clear. On the other edge of the clearing, there was a small hut that may have been an old sauna, but I figured it hadn’t been used in a while because there the snow was untouched all around it.

Just as I was about to take a step toward the hut, I found myself standing somewhere else in Finland. The hut was gone, as was winter. Judging by the colours, it was late summer or early fall. The setting sun coloured everything orange and brown as I stood there, in the middle of another clearing in a forest, with a couple of lonely pines left standing among a few logs on the ground.

And then it was winter again and now there was a lot more snow than in the first place. I was standing by the side of a road, and in the distance, there was a barn, with its doors open. I could see a few stubborn timothies that hadn’t surrendered to the winter’s powers, even though there was a lot of snow. I couldn’t see anybody else which was shame since the hill the barn stood on looked to be perfect for sledding.

Just as quickly as I had seen those three worlds, they were gone, and I was back in Stockholm.

I knew the magical garage only take me to a limited number of places, and the reason for that was that the magic ingredient that made it function was the smell of oil paint.

Walking past the garage, I suddenly felt the familiar smell that reminded me of the time when I was a toddler and Dad was a part-time painter. He was also a part-time stay-at-home Dad, and a part-time job seeker, but it’s the smell of the paint that I remember. (Other smells that transport me to the past: fibreglass and gasoline).

Those three paintings hung on our walls when I was a kid, but there were many others, and when he showed them to some galleries, there was even some interest in them but – according to the family legend which I have no reason to doubt – Dad didn’t have enough paintings for a full exhibition so it never happened.

But, says Mom, everybody in the family got a painting for Christmas that year.

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