Across the cobblestoned square, teenagers were stumble-skating around the little ice rink, their skate blades inch deep in snowy ice curds. Pop music filled the air overhead, a dozen small children wearing identical yellow reflector vests were standing to one side chattering madly while waiting their turn. Pine garlands and wreaths swathe storefronts, and julbock Christmas goats, festive with red ribbons, stand guard outside doorways. The solemn statue of the woman with the bowed head at tiny Wallenburg park stands peacefully with snow in her hair. A new graffiti-art mural graces the parking garage wall; the management's motto obviously being "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em": it looks commissioned.
I'm gratified by the size of the crowds in the bookstores. On the hunt for a specific wished-for title, I weave in and out of 4 different stores with no luck. Stopping to browse the card sections, the books are all so shiny and colorful. Can you hear them calling? "Read me! Read me!" they say. A red-headed lady behind the information desk at the last store informs me that no one has that particular book, and it can't be ordered in time for Christmas; I'm reduced to a gift certificate. Which, secretly, is what I would prefer, that is, if it were me I was buying for. All up and down the walking street, the cobblestones glisten with snow run-off. There are dark red market booths lining both sides of the way, filled with handicrafts, jewelry and artwork. One tempts me with bright child-sized hand-embroidered ponchos and sweaters from Peru, until reality hits me again: my daughter would never wear this stuff. *sigh* I turn reluctantly away. Further down, the booths change from gift items to food: glögg and glühwein, roasted sugared almonds, cakey donuts.
It's funny...the day was overcast, grey and spitting a bit of rain. After the 2 bright sunny days of this weekend, you would think it would be depressing by comparison, but not so. Maybe it was just my mood, which lightened everything around me. Maybe it was the smiles on the faces of the skaters and the glad greetings of the proprietors at the sushi deli, calling to me in broken Swedish: "long time! long time." Even the shoppers didn't seem that stressed; they seemed intent, if anything. They're all on a mission but they've all still got time.
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Preposterously Pixie-dusted and Perfectly Wonderful Birthday Wishes to Wee!