December 20, 2006
The SAS flight from O’Hare itself, has already been an experience. The all-night movies at my fingertips and the scintillating conversation with my seat-mate, a history professor on his way to Germany, have made my first International flight from O’Hare, in Chicago, to Arlanda, in Stockholm, truly blog-worthy. But the real treat…the reason for the trip…lies beyond the airport: a visit with son, Tam, daughter-in-law, Malin, and grandson, fifteen-month-old Harald.
After helping me round up my two bags, Malin and I trudge through the melting snow to her car.
“Hope you’re ready for a three-day holiday marathon!” she says, laughing, on our way to their home in Lidingo, a suburb of Stockholm.
Hmmm…let me think a minute…nine days, in all, with my family, including my adorable grandson…? This one’s hard….
“We do Christmas for three whole days. ” she adds. “It gets really crazy! The night before Christmas Eve, we’re all invited to dinner at Mom’s. On Christmas Eve, we’re going back to her house for the tree. Then, on Christmas night, we help her eat up the leftovers. ”
Soon, we’re home. Having arrived at their rustic, weathered, brown-shingle home, we hop out of the car and I promptly start sliding backwards on the icy driveway, before Malin rescues me.
Their house is built to make the
most of the short Swedish days, with the bedrooms downstairs and the kitchen and living area upstairs.
Before she returns to work, Malin brings me a blanket and pillow, and shows me how to use their tv remote. Eyelids drooping, I’m barely horizontal before I’m already down for the count, sleeping off my first-ever case of jet lag.
Before Malin returns from work, her mom, May, comes over and gives me a tour of the stately, older part of Stockholm, rich in history. We pass by
the palaces, the red, blue, and yellow Hans Christian Andersen houses with the peaked rooftops. We grab lunch at a buffet, including lots and lots of fish.
After the outing, the biggest attraction: walking the short distance, in the snow, from their house to Harald’s pre-school.
A pint-size bundle of blue runs up to me and wraps his little arms around me.
“Harald, do you know who this is?” Malin asks.
“Nannie,” answers my blue-eyed, blonde-haired grandson. Although a New Yorker at birth, his Nordic looks make him a poster-child for a Swedish travel ad.
In a short time, although it’s only 5:30 in the afternoon, the sky is already an inky, midnight black.
The phone in Tam and Malin’s house rings.
“Hey, Mom, you want to hop a bus into town and meet me after work?”
I have to laugh. Sure, I’m a gazillion miles from home. It’s icy-cold midnight outside.
But what do I say?
“Sure, hon, I’d love to!”.
As it turns out a neighbor of theirs is riding in on the same bus to the same stop.
“You’ll be fine,” Malin assures me, handing me a bus ticket. “Just get off when Peggy does. ”
Sure enough, when both of us get off at the bus stop in Stockholm, Tam is waiting to give me a tour of the cosmopolitan city, which resembles Dallas, except the signs, in the Swedish language, have way more consonants!
After riding the subway back to their house, we’re pretty much ready to call it a day.
Tomorrow, I just might launch out on a bus ride to their outdoor mall to do a little shopping for Christmas Eve.