…thanks to the Aldéns, who welcomed me warmly into their home for the holidays, and who felt like family from the moment they picked me up although I hadn’t remembered ever meeting them before–the Randrup network truely extends far and wide, and I am ever so grateful.
And so I spent Christmas in Sweden. Here, Christmas Eve is The Big Day. I arrived the night of the 23rd, tired from a long journey (a long bus trip from Paris–we took the ferry into Denmark, which was so cool–and a quick train into Sweden from Copenhagen) and terribly excited about little domestic things like washing machines, kitchen tables, and warm showers. We had a festive supper, rice porridge being a main feature, and I went downstairs to watch Love Actually with Ann and Mats (so cozy and comfortable). After a long deep sleep, I woke for breakfast and got ready for church. Ann’s is a small congregation in a part of Malmö that is heavily economically depressed, plagued by astronomical unemployment rates. Ann’s service was pleasant and warm, and we headed home afterwards for a big dinner with another family, friends of the Aldéns. It was very festive, really delightful. Herring, ham, Swedish meatballs, sausages, turkey; cheese and bread and butter and salad. Heavy and delicious. I was nearing food-coma state by the end of dinner, but rallied to watch Donald Duck–a funny Swedish tradition of watching old cartoons at 3pm (As Mats explained, cartoons were not easily had when they were little and so the Donald Duck special was really something to look forward to). And then back upstairs for tea and cake. We exchanged presents much later that evening, after the family friends had retired to their own home. That night, I slept like a baby. I spent the next day, Christmas Day, reading the novel Ann and Mats gave me, a thriller by a Swedish author, and periodically stopping to lend a hand or eat a meal. The Aldéns were going on vacation and so were busy packing and showing me important things about the house. A very quiet day, rainy and gray and cozy.
The 26th was spent at a Swedish mall, running errands and having lunch (Swedish food courts are very much like the ones at Ikea), and later we drove down to Malmö to visit the new Modern Museum, which opened that day. It was small but interesting, and we stopped by other sights in the city before heading home. They finished packing, I finished my book, and together we finished most of the leftovers from Christmas. I fell asleep early, after watching The DaVinci Code on the television (I am still so excited about English-language films). I woke when Ann knocked on my door in the morning to say good-bye, their plane left that morning. Big hugs all around, tremendous gratitude and much thankfulness. The Aldéns were kind enough to let me stay and take care of their cats while they are gone; unfortunately, I leave the day before they get back from the Emirates. Their incredible warmth and kindness has given me a welcome respite from some of the weariness that builds up when traveling, and I will always be grateful to have spent this Christmas with family, even so far from home.