Twenty-three years ago I had the golden opportunity to visit Sweden on a tour with my mother. My mother being…well…. my mother (overly protective) it was not the best situation for a twenty-four year old but it was better than nothing (which meant not going). After all, I’d been away at college, lived alone in NYC and had an independent life for many years.
I was the youngest of the tour group and we spent a lot of time in Denmark and Norway first. And frustrated though I was, I gladly awaited the day that we would be upon Swedish soil.
The day finally came and I can’t forget, for whatever reason, the officials didn’t need to stamp my passport when entering Sweden from Denmark. And yes, even though it was a small thing, the disappointment was tremendous. But not for long. I was on to bigger and brighter things. I was in Sweden and smiled so much my face hurt.
After spending a lot of time with 60 and 70-somethings I wanted to venture out on my own and be a “local”. That was very important to me. Perhaps to hang out with younger people and see what their lives were like.
My first adventure wasn’t terribly exciting. I went to the local convenience store and bought a few snacks and beverages for the hotel room. I felt so big using the Swedish money that I had been saving for a special occasion. I remember getting Hostess Snowballs and other candy. That seems funny now but that’s what I did.
The next adventure was to go into the center of Stockholm to scope out a few Swedish goods. My mom and her group went on to Gamla Stan (the Old Town), which I now wish I had taken a part in because of its cultural importance and excellent souvenirs. At the time, however, I didn’t care about that. I only wanted to find out what true Stockholmers did on a daily basis.
So I headed to the beautiful Central Station and studied the people. It was so fascinating. Just walking around made me feel like the (part) Swede I knew I was. No need to exchange words but just be. I sat on a bench and people watched. It was wonderful.
My mom not being terribly interested in my day of adventure listened with a smile later as she got ready for bed. I knew she didn’t get why I wanted the alone time but somehow it was ok and I didn’t need to explain it to her.
I had my treasures of the day…a collection of local newspapers and magazines and a beautiful map of the city, which I still have as a memento.
To this day this wonderful trip back in 1989 has many fond memories for me. Sweden and I made a connection with each other. A pact that I would someday return with a greater understanding of the Swedish people and language and how similar my thoughts and beliefs truly are.
My wish has since become a reality and my love for Sweden has grown to enormous proportions as a (gulp) middle-aged adult. Taking trips to Sweden, studying Swedish, reading about Sweden and decorating my home with Swedish crafts have brought me back to my first visit to Sweden I soon won’t forget.