Twelve years! The first year was so strange, like a little mini adventure. We were newly married, and only 2 months after we arrived I was pregnant, so for most of that first year I was also with child. I still sometimes miss the apartment we lived in during that first year in Malmö. It was quite large (95m²) and quite new, and before we moved in it had been fully renovated and re-wallpapered with our choices for each room. There were 2 bedrooms, but we used one for a library and the computer, which I was learning how to use email on, so that I could keep in touch with my family and friends back home. I'd never really used e-mail, we hadn't used it at my former job...in fact, we still used a fax machine: imagine! Not everyone HAD email!
Our living room was huge and thankfully, though we were on the 2nd floor, we were over a bakery, so we didn't need to worry about disturbing the downstairs neighbors, and I don't remember ever being disturbed by those upstairs. It was a quiet building. We never met any of our neighbors, though we knew the big black rottweiler next door was named Odin, since we'd heard his owner calling his name. We had a nice big balcony that fit a small table and 2 chairs, but we didn't use it all that much. It faced out over a green area with a playground and beyond that was the canal that rings the center of the city. We were on the short side of the L-shaped building and the long side sloped away from us on the left.
At Christmas time every single window in the building sported a triangular advent candelabra. I had been to Sweden during the holiday season before, after Anders and I met, so I knew that the white lights in all the windows were ubiquitous but it was a revelation to see an entire building lit up with one in every window, including ours. Some of the balconies and windows were also decorated with light garlands, but with only a few exceptions, these were all white as well. It's only in the past couple of years that colored lights, and *gasp* BLINKING lights, have become more popular. One or two of the advent lights were the kind that went evenly across in a straight line instead of being the typical triangular shape that is most common, and I laughed at those, sure they also belonged to immigrants, because who else would deviate from the Swedish tradition?
We lived in that apartment for just over a year. I walked to and from Swedish classes, learned how to navigate the unfamiliar aisles and products of Swedish grocery stores, figured out my way around the center of town. I ate my first semla there, adopted 2 kittens (subsequently adopted away a year later, sadly) and put together a lot of IKEA furniture. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary and our first Swedish midsummer and the birth of our first child there. When we drive down that street now, I point out the windows to the kids with fondness. The bakery is still in business beneath our living room windows, though most of the restaurants on the street have changed names and ownerships, some more than once, in the intervening years.
It was a good year, in a good place, and a great way to start my life in Sweden. So much has happened in the past 12 years, but I think my life just keeps getting better. Even if I'm not a Swedish citizen, this is my home as much as America was, or the other European countries I once resided in, and I love it here.