Monday, December 30, 2013

Yule Log

JV and I spent Christmas Day in transit from Stockholm to the family farm in Uppsala. We managed to accomplish all the baking we intended to accomplish on Christmas Eve, so we had two tins of cookies and two tins of cupcakes to take with us. This in addition to JV's companion cube, gifts for the white elephant exchange, and overnght clothes meant we were a bit overburdened. Irritating, but not the end of the world.

The gathering included us, JV's mom (Ginja) and stepfather (Rolf), and his sister's (Petra's) family (husband Micke and two kids). The youngest son, Noel, is too young to have any kind of personality yet, but older brother Tim has full command of language and his facilities and is thus, basically, a little person. More specifically, he is a very forward and, in the kindest sense of the term, presumptuous little person. He could not give a shit what you are doing; if he thinks it looks fun or interesting he will walk right up to you and demand to be let in. If he wants you to play with him, he will tell you in no uncertain terms that it's time to play now. If he doesn't like something, you'll know. (At Thanksgiving, he turned down apple crisp because he "[didn't] want tomatos," which instead of being offended I thought was hilarious.) It's cute now, but I do hope he'll grow out of it as he ages, or at least learn to temper it with concern for other people. Which, to be fair, it's not like he's a little psychopath. He demonstrated spontaneous and appropriate concern for little brother Noel after the latter had sucked down too much ice cream too quickly and went from cooing and gurgling to crying from ice cream headache.

So when Rolf got a pretty powerful, compact little LED flashlight in the exchange, Tim immediately thought it was the best thing in the world and decided that it  was going to be his jam for the rest of the day. He commandeered me and JV in a made-up game of walking around in the dark, in which each person took turns walking across the room to the other two people on the couch. Eventually it evolved into Tim deciding who should be walked toward, and also who should be scared and who should do the scaring.

Petra's family, having a car, left after a few hours, while JV and I stayed over the night (and then another). It's a long way to Tipirary, but it's also a long way to Alunda. As soon as they were out the door, the Boy said, "You know, I'm glad we're not having any kids. I don't have the energy for this." Neither do I, but the nice thing about being around such  little kids is that they use the simplest possible Swedish so that even I can understand most of what's going on, and they also don't (yet) have much grasp of English, so Swedish is my only option.

It was a good Christmas, overall. We brought home a delicious garlic lamb sausage and chocolates from the gift exchange; Petra got the hilarious Svenglish decoration I bought and Ginja got the sushi kit he had picked out. She also sent us home with eggs (from their chickens) and garlic (from their garden), in addition to a pair of mittens and a book (in Swedish) for me. She dotes on JV and, by extension, me. How good to feel welcomed and loved in a new country.

 The food, also, is always fantastic at the farm. Ginja is retired now and so has plenty of time to cook really amazing food; we never eat half so well at home as we do there. Plus, it's farm country so all of their friends and neighbors are farms and everyone buys from (or trades) with each other. At lunch, Ginja pulled out like a gallon tub of proper honey from a nearby apiary to go with the "Graham's grain porridge."

 Unfortunately, the farm itself is rather far removed from the village of Alunda, which is nice enough but rather far removed from Uppsala, which is something like a proper city but still far removed from Stockholm; such remoteness makes it a pretty good place to retire to if you want to just futz around by yourself and live off the land and maybe do a little writing or arting or studying or whatever, but is rather untenable if you (like JV and I) are idiots who don't know how to farm and who lack a car for running errands (and the license to drive it). Thus we get the best of both worlds: carte blanche to visit whenever we like, for as long as we like, but without any of the responsibility of really taking care of the place (though we do help with basic things while we're there, if asked).

I always get a lot of reading done when we visit, and this time was no exception. I'm now about halfway through A History of Histories, and also started Crime and Punishment in Swedish. It sounds overambitious, I guess, but I already read it in English and it's one of my favorite books, so it's not really IMPOSSIBLE. At least, with a dictionary it's not impossible. Without a dictionary I'd be pretty boned. Either way, it's plenty of vocabulary for my notes. One page down, maybe four hundred more to go...!

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