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THE ROAD TO ENLIGHTENMENT
Lately, when we've been going on our walks and martinek has actually deigned to accompany me, he's done a lot of mysterious dodging and hopping about behind my back as we go. "What the heck are you doing?" I asked and was treated to a long discourse on the different values assigned to different designs on manhole covers in the streets. The ones with A are "bad luck"...the ones with V are good luck because they stand for vänskap (friendship) meaning you'll get more friends the more you step on them, and the ones with "K" are good luck because they stand for kunskap (knowledge) which also accumulates accordingly. ("Are you sure they don't stand for korkad?*" I asked slyly and was treated to a withering look.)

There are other letters and other designs and some are good and some are bad and some negate what you've gathered so far, much as passing a cemetary on your side of the road instantly kills all the cows you've counted on long car trips. The rules seems to grow and twist and generate new shoots much like kudzu, only faster, as only the hyped up imagination of pre-adolescence can provide. I'm an object of pity most of the time because I stride along without a care for where my feet land. "Oh no! Mama! You stepped on an A!"

I keep walking and echo "OH NO" back with a grin at my disapproving and saddened children.

Today, we spent the afternoon at the pool. Anders is gone for a long weekend so I took the day off and ferried the kids over for swimming lessons. They each have a 40 minute class with 50 minutes inbetween to stand in a dripping line at the kiosk to buy soda and Double Dip candy, and then run around like maniacs chasing each other and their friends and leaping into the pool whenever it seems that the exertion has gone to their brains. I sat tidily under a big umbrella alternately reading a book and writing letters and lifting my head to locate and watch the children for a moment before returning to my amusements. Periodically they would come and flop down on the towels by my feet and talk to me, but mostly they were leaping and diving and generally having a great time in and around the bright blue sparkling pool water.

Afterwards, we stopped by home and hung up swimsuits and towels to dry, before heading to Malmö for a sushi night that was supposed to be an AWC event but which turned out to be just us and one other woman. The food was excellent as usual, and because it was such a nice evening and neither Jennifer nor I was in any hurry to get anywhere, we set out afterward on a quest to find ice cream. Right as we came out of the restaurant, Martin made an exclamation and leaned over to pluck something up from the ground. It was a little plastic animal, some kind of strange little pangolin-armadillo creature, but with tiny red eyes. He was delighted and immediately pocketed the little beastie.

We rejected 2 places that only had pre-packaged stick ice cream, preferring to hold out until we could find scoops and waffle cones. We ended up at Stortorget where a kiosk had plenty of flavors to choose from and stood in line to order. After we got our cones we sat down at the outdoor café tables to enjoy the summer-in-the-city ambience. It was lovely with the sidewalk restaurants and the strolling tourists and the flower podiums and the rushing whush of the fountain across the square and the slanted light shadows shining down on everything.

Later, after myskväll and the donning of pajamas and the brushing of teeth and the kissing of Karin, I went into Martin's bedroom to say goodnight. He was standing in front of his bookcase with a thoughtful look on his face. I assumed he was choosing a book to take with him up into his loftbed, so I was a bit surprised when he turned to me and said, "Mama, I think I'm going to start believing in God."

"Oh?" I said, "Okay, but why so suddenly? Maybe you should read some books about God first so you can really decide exactly what you want to believe."

"Well," he answered, looking down at the little blue pangolin in his hands, "I think I have to because it must have been God that made me look down at just the right moment to be able to find my little animal."

I smiled at him. "Aha. I see. But how do you know it wasn't all those good luck manhole covers you've been stepping on lately??"

I got the hairy eyeball in response, and he's up in his bed reading Anders' old Bible Adventures for Children. :D

*stupid
 cheerful
mood: cheerful
music: Katy Pfaffl—Imperfectly


Comments
(Anonymous)

Oh yeah, the letters. But back in my days, 100 years ago, there were only A's and K's... A was simply bad luck and K good luck. I have to admit I still avoid those A's when I am aware of them, and if I notice I step on K I still think "Oh cool. Now I get good luck!"... LOL!!!

Some habits die hard... Or some people just refuse to grow up and get real! Haha.

/Mia

http://mias.blogg.se

Oh my god, what a hoot!! I had NO IDEA this was a tradition!! I thought it was something that Martin had made up himself or that it was a game all his school friends had come up with together. That is so funny!!

(Anonymous)

Well, they are certainly more creative than my generation! LOL!

/Mia

http://mias.blogg.se

This seems kind of like the equivalent of "step on a crack, break your mother's back" that we had growing up in the States. Martin didn't know that one...I suppose it's not a Swedish kid thing?

If the kids' paternal grandparents were city kids in their youth, I'm quite sure they also know the drill. But I thought K stands for Kärlek (love) while V is just Vänskap (friendship)?

Recently I read a comment from the waterworks and energy company, what these letters really mean. From the very beginning, they were meant to symbolise cold water (K), hot water (V), sewers (A) and so on, but nowadays many cities install whatever manhole they have at home and have drawings elsewhere which waterline goes where. It would cost too much to have a supply of each letter at home. In some places they may still follow the letters though.

Thanks for that info, I had no idea what they actually stood for though of course it makes sense. Martin just told me "vänner" so I guess it's whatever is the thing now that matters.

And the parental grandparents were farm kids from Eslöv and Osby :)

I'm the friendly manhole underneath your feet, would you hop inside my hole?
I got pictures, got candy, I'm on every street and I can take you to your nearest goal.

(Freely adopted from the opening lines in Vehicle, Ides of March 1970 :-)

I remember being the age that Martin is now, creating intricate patterns and reasons for everything. One summer, at camp, I had assigned meaning and rituals to nearly every tree. That same summer, when I got lost in the woods but found my way back, just in time!, I was convince that it must have been God that helped me.

It was kind of beautiful, believing like that. Fascinating too. I even started going to church for a bit too.

I liked your responses. I wasn't allowed to talk about "my faith" with my Mom who was and is a devout athiest. It bothered me that she wasn't open to my ideas, because I needed to explore them.

You and Martin are soulmates, that is exactly how he is thinking. It's really cool to watch (and also to recognize my own past inner child in the one that is growing up in front of me)

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

I love the ones in Malmö. They have royal griffin heads on them!

Your kids crack me up again!

They do it to me, all the time :D

I still avoid the A once, so silly.

i found a little plastic turtle figurine while staying at the beach in NC years ago. i still have it. found animals are very important, whether they prove god's existence or not. :-)

I have all the little treasures I've found over the years, too. They're in my shadow box :)

What a SWEET story! I never even considered the possibility of a God-type entity until I was in my mid-to-late 30's. That seems odd to me now since the nuns forced me to go to Mass six days a week and tried to teach me in religion class five days a week...for 8 years. It was only when I reached middle age that I realized that I'd never once (as a child) believed anything they were trying to shove down my throat. It (that theology) still doesn't compute with me, so the fact that you're allowing Martin to find his way in his OWN way is a lovely thing.

I was allowed to make up my own mind and never chastised for my attempts at research, even in the midst of what must have been the most irritating teenage-self-righteous-bible-study-goody-two-shoes-phase EVER :)

How precious. I love that you let him take on the world from his perspective, while encouraging him to see it broadly.

It's very important to me that my children learn about all the different kinds of faith and belief out there and that they make up their own minds, as I was allowed to :)

(Anonymous)

This post brought me right back to my childhood. Ah! The wonder, the imagination, the play. So, so beautiful.

bohemiangirl
http://www.bohemiancreations.ca/blog/


this is a great entry on so many levels. And James does things like Martin. Unexpectedly wise, and beautiful, and kindly gestures, that make you wonder where did the boy creature go.

Being slightly less than overwhelmed with faith I often question what I should tell my children. To believe with total faith, or to decide to believe after reading and thus not having faith but rather reaching a decision.

Sounded for a moment there that Martin had his road to Damacus moment. I am totally unsure where small platic blue dinosaurs rank in the scheme of messages from God - but definitely safer for small children than a burning bush. Maybe you need to consult a biblical scholar?

Step on some K's for me.


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