3 days and counting: Perfect summer in Sweden. This is when the tourist board rushes out to photograph the countryside, sunlight and warmth lighting up the red wooden houses and blue and gold crossed flags blend seamlessly into the sky behind. The house heats up early and the useless fan is mainly for comfort. Flies swarm inside at the slightest chance, finagling their way into any opening to roam restlessly through the house, drawn to the vibration of my voice, yelling, "Shut that door! Were you born in a barn?!" The children leap like salmon upstream through the sunshine. They alternate in small cycles, craving sunshine, craving shadow. One moment they are bouncing frenzied as Mexican jumping beans in circles on the big trampoline; the next, a quiet sursurrus of imagination rises murmuring in the playroom.
I am torn between getting long-neglected projects done and lying on the grass soaking up the sunshine. Weeding the front flowerbed yesterday, I cleared away the withered first growth of the lungwort to make room for the new green polka-dotted leaves beneath, and chopped down the fat finished stalks of the lupines with their edamame-looking seedpods. The tea rose has rewarded me with fine, fat blossoms of peachy pink, and the delphinium is gloriously violet. I worry about the cherry tree and the nameless red bush, both of them too vigorously soaped against invaders, now dropping their curled leaves. Tiny green sprouts bisect the children's plots: lettuce rearing up in rows to the sun. With my mom, they planted cucumber, tomato, red pepper; 2 kinds of lettuce and a many-armed sunflower. In the still, windless evenings, I walk slowly around the yard, spraying water like a blessing, and ducking while bumbling junebugs careen drunkenly around my head.
Today, a quiet gathering to celebrate America's birthday a couple of days in advance since here there is no day off, no parade, no fireworks. In the peaceful countryside near Skäralid, a grassy lawn beside a big red barn welcomes us. Soon the flagpole is sporting stars and stripes, right next to the stiff and dried greenery of the midsummer pole: Swedish and American traditions side by side. Picnic tables brown in the sun, while we spread blankets in the shade, sitting to chat and relax while the children run about in their red-white-and-blue outfits. The pool nearby beckons and a happy hour is spent splashing before heading back where the heatmaze shimmers over the grills. We pile our plates: BBQ chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs. A big bowl of cut strawberries and plump purple grapes. A buffet of shared sweets: Rice Krispie treats, brownies, chocolate cake adorned with strawberries. Roasting marshmallows over the grill rounds off the meal. Slowly, family by family, the group decreases as the sun lowers slightly.
|Driving south through the sunshine, I sing songs of America to the kids: You're a grand old flag, you're a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave...for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain...O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?|
"Mama," asks Martin wistfully, "Can't you sing something we know?" Obviously, I am much remiss in my patriotic duties. Someday, I swear, we'll be "home" for the 4th, and show them how it's really done.
Back home, the light belies the hour; the kids can't sleep despite darkened rooms with lowered blinds. Karin is anxious that the tooth fairy will understand that she has put her treasure under her pillow this time instead of in a glass by the sink as is the tradition here. The family next door are on vacation: they are all outside, even the baby up late, enjoying the benevolent light, laughing and playing.
Bright and Bouncing Birthday Wishes to totte and conorh!