From Sweden with love

It is one of the first warm days this spring as I stand by the water’s edge watching the sea and the sun reflecting it’s promise of a long hot summer. The day is crystal-clear and you can see every grain of sand on the bottom. I reach for the bath towel and wrap it tight around my body as I become aware of the wet bathers clinging to my skin. The water is cold but it is invigorating and I feel the energy returning after what seemed to be a very long wet winter.

As I look out to sea, I notice a ripple only about twenty meters away from me and the fin of a dolphin becomes visible. The grey body half rises above the water and then it dives down again. I keep my eyes to the south as I know dolphins usually swim in pairs along this coast and I wait for its mate. It is not long before it shows itself and then there is a third one. The dolphins have paused swimming in a half circle just in front of me. Then I see the baby leaping up in the air as it follows the adults. I move closer and sink my feet into the sand and I make a promise to come down here every day and go for a swim.

The spring has been unusually wet and although it is already the second week of November the floods are still destroying big parts of New South Wales and Victoria. People are evacuated from their homes, animals and farmland are being destroyed and the country is going to suffer for a long time. I cannot help but think how lucky we have been here in South Australia, at least up until now. But nobody really knows what is ahead as we continue to battle this climate change that is killing our planet.

The bright and light season is moving into the festive Christmas time and people are already getting into the spirit of things with the legendary Christmas pageant arriving this weekend in the streets of Adelaide. I just heard the weather forecast predicting rain for Saturday. It seems like it is always raining on pageant day.

I walk towards Brighton Jetty and as I splash in the water I find myself thinking back to a different time in a different place and how everything has changed.  

There was a time when I would have been rugged up in a warm coat, with a woolen hat, scarf and gloves moving through the snow. I would tuck my pants into the boots so they would keep dry while I was sinking deeper into the white fluffy ground and I remember the smell of snow.

November is always a dark month in Sweden, the sun rises at 7.30 in the morning and goes down already at 3.30 in the afternoon. If you are working it leaves very little time to see the sun, unless you go outside on your lunchbreak. December is also dark, the nights can sometimes last up to 18 hours so we welcome the very first snowfall to bring some light. It is a special feeling walking home from work in the evening, watching the snow on the rooftops and the beautiful lights in the windows and I remember the tingling feeling of a promise of a fairylike Christmas. I can feel it even now as I walk in the water with the blinding sunlight and I realize I miss it. It is a different world and it was mine a long time ago.

-        Hey there, you’re not in a hurry today.

The voice comes from behind me and I turn to see Linda hurrying towards me. She has already got the summer glow and shows off a light tan on her bare arms and legs. She smiles and I give her a quick hug realizing my towel is now damp and it must feel very cold.

-        I’m heading down to Brighton to sit for a while under the jetty to dry off. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it.

-        Yea, we’re so lucky. Do you need anything from the market? I think I might head in there to have a look around.

I cannot think of anything that I really need, I like to go there myself just to ponder through the stalls and pick up some nice vegetables and a good cheese.

-        No, I’m fine thanks. Let’s catch up soon for a cuppa, it’s been a while.

-        Absolutely, I might run ahead of you if you don’t mind, so I can get going to the city.

-        No worries, have a great day.

My thoughts go back to that place a long time ago and I am still surprised at how my life changed at the age of seventeen. It was a cold dark February when me and my girlfriend decided to buy a couple of leftover tickets to fly to the Canary Islands. It was with great excitement we landed in the sun and we spent the first day exploring the island and its beaches. We were not really interested in discotheques or night clubs but on the second night as we walked pass a club, we got hooked in by a doorman to a place called Alhambra. We could hear the music from the basement and decided to have a drink and a dance. Nobody was dancing so we had the floor to ourselves and enjoyed the rhythm of Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones. That is when I noticed him. He was sitting in the sofa in the corner with a friend talking and it appeared they were the only tourists in the place. I don’t know what it was about that moment but the atmosphere seemed loaded somehow and it was only a matter of seconds before he came up to me. I looked into his beautiful blue eyes and noticed his long, curly hair falling on the shoulders of a worn army shirt. I thought he was American and was surprised when he told me he came from Australia. Australia was a place I knew very little about and he knew equally little about Sweden. We talked for hours and the music kept on playing as I was running back and forth to the disk jockey to put in a request. David thought I had great music taste. What enthralled me about him was his gentle nature and when he suggested a walk along the beach I did not hesitate. We enjoyed each other’s company and ended up spending the rest of the holiday together. The beaches, sunshine, scenery, adventure rides on the local buses to remote villages, long conversations under the starry skies, it was all set for a perfect summer romance. We walked the streets of Las Palmas; it was as if we were jointed together at the hip and I loved being near him. Then reality took over, it was time for me to go back to Sweden. He said he wanted to see Sweden and I gave him my address. It was the very last night under a clear starry sky beneath those tiny little lanterns that hung from the palm trees in the Catalina Park that I said “come to Sweden”.

I have often thought of how different everything would have been if I had never said those words and I guess I never thought he would actually take me up on the offer.

It was not long before the first letter arrived from England. My hands were almost trembling as I opened the blue airmail envelope addressed to “the beautiful miss Anna”. David spoke of the travels back to England and said he missed me and he was planning a trip to Sweden! We started an intense correspondence but he never gave me a clear date of when he would arrive. I left Stockholm in July to spend some time on a remote island on the west coast where I enjoyed the silence and the beautiful nature when I got a note from the hotel owner saying “phone Mum”. That was scary, I thought something had happened at home and hurried to phone from the public phone booth in the reception of the hotel. Mum sounded so excited and happy when she told me David had arrived that morning and would be staying overnight in my room before taking the train and boat to my island. I was to meet him at 5 o’clock the following day!

We were falling in love and the romance blossomed as we returned to Stockholm and I showed him the city I love so much. He got captured by the culture, art, scenery and the Nordic light and we stayed in a youthful passionate relationship where we explored each other as well as the cultural bond. When the first snow fell that Christmas, he was standing on the step outside the door holding out his hand to capture those little stars from the sky and he thought it was so beautiful. The magic scenery that Christmas could not have been better, the garden was dressed in white and it looked like a fairy land.

I sit under the jetty at Brighton and watch the light reflecting the shadows of the jetty pylons in the water. My body feels warm now after the walk and I have thrown the towel to the ground.

 I think of my Mum. She was diagnosed with cancer which eventually took her life. David and I would see a number of Swedish winters and would return to the little island on the west coast where he met me on that beautiful summer day. It was hard to leave my father but I was distant to come to other shores and although I would return from time to time, I made this place my home.

When did my life change? Was it the night in Catalina Park? Or was it when I said yes to the Aussie holiday while waiting for the first snow on the cold dark November morning in Stockholm? The little words that meant so much.

A car honks its horn behind me and Linda waves from the open car window.

-        Hey, I’ll bring you a bottle of “The Italian Boys” from the market!

She is gone before I have time to answer.

-        Good idea! David will enjoy that as well. 

written by Anna Frederiksen-Washington

November 17, 2022 03:14

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