May 21, 2010

"I just needed some AIR to my body..."
This is a long post - you may need a snack to sustain you to the end...

Moving to the farm was an enormous change.

When I was raising my six children our home was the "bus stop" house.  Three times each day ( from the elementary school, middle school, or high school) I would hear the squeal of the air brakes on the school bus, the opening of the back door, and footsteps coming up the stairs to the kitchen. 
 But I never knew whose face might appear. 
It could be one of my own, or one of the neighbor kids, or a friend, or a relative or any combination of the above.
And I loved it.   
 Later, when the kids were raised and having their own families, an unexpected opportunity came and I started a career in teaching.
For the next ten years I was accustomed to spending each day surrounded by students and people at work.  There, I was immersed in  teaching with it's exchanges of ideas and   discussions and social interractions of every kind. 
I had a large extended family with parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters and enough grandchildren for ten people. I saw them every day and visited, and was visited by,  those who were not so near, on a regular basis.  
And if that wasn't enough, as the president of a women's organization comprised of 1100 members, there were friends everywhere...
and they were DEAR friends.
A new life, God-given, exciting, and fulfilling though it promised to be, meant
leaving all that behind.
On the farm, the boys left for school each day between 7:00 and 8:00 A.M. and didn't return until 3:00 P.M. (Gustav in Junsele) and 5:00 P.M. (Manny in Sollefteå) respectively. 
 Hans had contractual obligations signed from almost a year before our marriage that necessitated him being absent for a great deal of the time.
I didn't speak the language.
I didn't know the people. 
It was the dead of winter on a farm in northern Sweden.

Like the little four year old who responded when asked why she had taken off all her clothes:
"I just needed some air to my body".

During those few first months of adjustment, as much as I embraced my new situation, sometimes I needed some "air" emotionally and physically to help me with the transition.

This was my answer.

When I felt hemmed in, at a loose end,  overwhelmed with the unfamiliarity of it all, or isolated and lonely,
I went into the village.

There, there were dear people with kind hearts. 

   Tomas, on the left,  is the butcher in the neighborhood ICA grocery store. Jörgen, on the right is the manager - he came to Junsele with his young family just one month before I did, also starting a new adventure after living for seventeen years in Örnsköldsvik.  Both of these kind men spoke English, but more importantly, they spoke "Friendship" fluently.  
They talked to me about life on the farm.  They talked to me about learning to
cook on the woodstove.  They talked to me about the new chili coated salami that had just come into the ICA butcher shop.  They talked to me about the differences in Swedish culture, and what was the best pickled herring recipe.  When Tomas's beloved mother-in-law passed away, he talked to me about her goodness and patience when she was gravely ill.  When Jörgen came back from visiting his father, he talked to me about his warm and wonderful childhood memories.
When I needed some interractive "air", they pumped it in.
And they weren't alone....

Margita, owner of the local drapery, fabric and sewing supplies store came to my rescue one afternoon when I was trying to make a dent in the huge pile of mending at home.  I needed a smiling face to lift my spirits and a white button to repair a torn duvet cover.   With no ability to speak to her, I unearthed  one of  the existing buttons from my purse and presented it.  She took a look, went straight into a room at the back, got out her own button jar, brought it to the front,  poured it out onto the counter and found a white button that matched.
 I didn't know  until much later that
 Margita didn't even sell buttons! 

I met Laila Jakobsson from Jakobsson's Blommor och Hantverk (Flowers and Handwork) during my first winter when I was on yet another problem-solving quest to find much-needed wild moss.  That fuzzy, fluffy stuff is put between the double windows on the farm to absorb moisture during the cold weather so the view is not obscured by fogging.  What had been gathered from the forest the previous autumn was not enough, so when the time came, we were short by A LOT.  That day, in her cozy boutique, she shared her stash of winter moss with a stranger..

These two angels are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. 
Before my home in Utah was sold, the challenge of trying to keep all the financial responsibilities attended to from half way around the world was monumentally frustrating.  It seemed I was perpetually  
 'a day late and a dollar short'.   Mahlin and Annica, at Handelsbanken (the bank) jumped through flaming hoops to help me with currency transfers and every other conceivable banking need.
 No more money frazzles. 

  And how about this scenario: 

 Hans was away, it was -37 degrees outside and blizzarding.  The time came to pick up Manny from the school bus in Junsele.  Bundled up, I trekked to the old machine hall to start the car but when I turned the key, there was a weird noise and within seconds smoke was coming from under the hood.
Truly lovely.
Could anything be normal and easy?
Something in me said all I had to do was try and make it to the Däckservice Garage and "that man" (Ulf)  would work his magic on it, even after closing.  You can see by the picture, not only is he a great mechanic, he also has a great sense of humor and a GREAT heart. He was indeed the "Auto Guru". And he did indeed fix the car (even after hours).
It made me feel safe again and it was starting to feel like 
I could breathe.

 Anya on the right,  had graduated from cosmetology school and at 20 years old wanted to start her own business.  She needed some space to open her "Salong" in Junsele. I hoped she would be able to find it so there would be a place to get my hair cut without travelling all the way to Övik, which proved to be impossible given the circumstances of my everyday life..
Ulf portioned off a part of his auto storage building for her so she could set up shop.

 Look through the slats in the entryway by the door.  Past the beauty poster you can see  some hot blue wheels!. 
Thanks to Ulf, she's up and running just like the cars, and
 She's doing great!

  It didn't take long to figure out that my prior wardrobe was simply not going to cut it on the farm.  Weeding out was a daunting prospect, there were so many memories attached to some of those clothes... but I started.  I remembered seeing a Red Cross sign in the village, so as I bagged things up  I thought I would take them in and see if I could donate them.
(Anyone recognize the cream shoes in the window?) 
 It was freezing cold outside but toasty warm inside and when I opened the door, my arms full of bags, this is what I saw. The volunteers  were celebrating a birthday for one of their friends.   They welcomed me in like they had known me forever.   The lady with the red hair kneeling down at the right had worked in a newsstand and taught herself English by reading the papers each day so I could TALK to her.

And the Birthday Girl was 91 years old!
Can you believe it?

Skog och Trädgård (Forest and Garden) was  the hub for all hardware, paint, winter workwear, rebar, snowmobile repair, 
You name it. 
It's owner Mats (on the left) and his right hand man Marco, ran it all.
When I needed a reliable stool for putting up the milk hoses in the barn,
they had it.
When I wanted a single edge razor blade for slashing my homemade breads,
they had it.
When it was time to  put a knob on the kitchen drawer instead of the temporary screw that was there,
they had it.
It was starting to get easier!

Remember in "Going, Going, Gone - Part I" when we were hustling to get everything done to have Manny ready for his mission?  We went to Micke at Allmontage and he sewed up the back of Manny's Sunday shoes?
Well, here he is.  And he does a little bit of  EVERYTHING as his company name would suggest.
If I:
 needed a new wood bag to carry up the logs for the woodstove, 
needed replacement glass to fix a window,
needed the leather seat on the snowmobile repaired,
needed some fun conversation and jokes and imaginative business ideas,
I went to Allmontage.
(See the light on the underside of the brim of his hat?  I told you he was fun!)

 And speaking of good humor...
Here are the guys at Gomoran Pizza which in a strange semantical twist of fate can be translated to mean:
"Good Morning Pizza"
"Pretty Lady Pizza"
"Mafiosa Pizza"

Take your pick! 

Since eating out for our family is a "next to never" activity, I was astounded when, with a six month interval between visits, these two pizza entrepreneurs not only remembered my name, but what I had ordered half a year before!
Pretty savvy businessmen! 
Are you still with me?

This post would never be complete without the last two entries. 
The first is
Run by Gunnar Edin and his mother, this family owned business has spanned multiple generations,  

There doesn't seem to be a square inch inside that doesn't have something to make your life run more smoothly. 
 From dolly carriages to dustpans, from toys to teapots, from casseroles to clothing.
 Just about anything outside the realm of food or gas could be found at Edin's.
 Gunnar would look at my "Edin's List" and  lead me in and out of the nooks and crannies of the store,  finding every article that was required.
It was always amazing and he was always kind.

And lastly,

The "OK"
("Oh-Koh" in Swedish)

 If there was a contest for such a thing as a  'Mecca' in Junsele, it would be a tie between the ICA and the OK.
At the OK I could buy my gas from the cute owner, Kiki, who REALLY had it snapped together!
I could post off my letters and parcels with the help of Jimmie, who kept me 

                                                                                                 and  the rest of the customers more than a little entertained with his ever-changing hairstyles. This was one of the most conservative offerings, both in color and altitude. 
 I could buy "E-Free" (no preservatives of any kind) ice cream treats for Hans and the boys,  

or a french hotdog dropped from the top into a reamed out tubular bun and often served with shrimp salad on it (of all things),  from smiley Jessica, one half of the team of Peter and Jessica who both worked there.
If I longed to have one part of my life that wasn't covered with snow and ice, if only momentarily,  for a nominal fee I could wash the car inside and out in the "Gör det själv"  (Do it Yourself) heated garage.  Between the physical energy that expended and the bits of village "news" from the staff (who's dating who, who's expecting a baby),
 I felt cheered up!

Even in the short span of three years, there have been some changes...

The  Co-op store with it's housewares and bedding and helpful cashiers has closed.

The big stucco house down by the Junsele Skolan (school) that was originally a family shoe store and then a Loppis for the community has a "Stängt" sign in the window after over forty years. The aging owners, Siv (pictured with a friend below) and her husband, closed up shop and moved into the Gunilla Gården Retirement Center. 
When I met Siv unexpectedly in the parking lot a few days ago she recognized me instantly and threw her arms around me, talking and talking in Swedish.  All I could understand was a repeated word that sounded like "Texas".  I asked Hans what it meant and he said that the locals all call the multi-story retirement center with it's pink exterior and modernistic top-to-bottom glass window column in front "The Texas" because they think it looks like something that would have been built in Dallas. 

I'll miss seeing her.

Perhaps in the broad spectrum of my new life,
has been in me.
I've loved having a strong and supportive husband and was unaware of how far-reaching the impact of that presence would be for me personally.
I have always loved my role as a mother and grandmother to my biological children and grandchildren.  They are dearer to me than life itself. 
 And now I have the opportunity to play a role
  in the lives of the children and grandchildren I have acquired with this marriage. I love them like my own.
 I've learned about the care of the animals, the garden, the food processing, the wood stove, the root cellar and a multitude of  other skills I never imagined would be necessary for me to know. 
Gratefully, my parents taught me the value of work, and I have always felt I understood that,
but in farm life, there is a level of work and discipline that is beyond what I had experienced before.  It has added a new dimension to my understanding.

I don't ever feel hemmed in.  I feel free as a bird.
I can't remember the last time I felt I was at a loose end. There is WAY too much to do.
I seldom feel overwhelmed, and if I do, it passes almost immediately. 
But most of all,  
I NEVER feel isolated or lonely.
I have the love of my family and friends, old and new, each of whom, like the cheery sign below and through their words and actions have said...

I have ALL the air I need!

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