Friday, September 20, 2013

So this totally happened, or, why I love my kids, reason #457-2A

So last Sunday my son was having dinner with us, and there was a discussion going about the history of the Mongol Empire (not that I know anything about that, but Jeremy has been doing a lot of reading). Well, anyway, the conversation turned to that poem, you know the one: "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree..." and we disagreed over who we thought the author was. I was thinking Coleridge, but Jeremy's vote was for Wordsworth.

No point in having a daughter with a degree in honours English if you don't use her as a resource, right? So this text conversation totally happened:

Me: Was it  Coleridge who wrote, "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan..."

Rose: Yes

Me: Ha, I win

Rose: He had a nerve disorder which gave him extreme and unrelenting pain only in his face, so he became addicted to laudanum, which clearly inspired that poem.


Rose: Why do you ask?

Me: Jerm and I were talking

Rose: Who did he think it was?

Me: Wordsworth

Rose: Ahhh. Good second guess. But no. Although some witty Romantic commenter said that Coleridge's best poem was Wordsworth. So, potato, potahto.

Rose: I can also discuss Coleridge's theory of mind quite extensively, should that ever come up.

I have to admit, I was pretty sure that not only was I right, but I also thought that Rose would laugh derisively at Jeremy's choice of Wordsworth. Got schooled, didn't I?

That same dinner-time conversation wandered, as conversations will, into a remember-when? kind of deal, where I learned another astonishing thing about how the smallest, least-memorable thing you might do as a parent can have incredibly far-reaching consequences. We were talking about self-confidence, and how Important it is, blah blah, blahdy-blah, and then this happened:

Jeremy: Remember when I was in Grade 1, and I told you about playing Magic with Boy A and Boy B (names withheld to protect the guilty) and how they were being mean and not playing fair, and you told me that if people weren't nice to me, then FUCK 'EM?

Me: Good God no, I have absolutely no memory of that (and I didn't, and still don't, friends and neighbours, not one single neuron twitches in recognition. But I am pretty sure I didn't literally say "fuck 'em", not when he was only 6.....but it's me, and I may have...)

Jeremy: Well, that stuck with me forever, once I figured out you weren't mad at me, you were mad at them, and it's pretty much why I decided to stop caring what others thought about me. It's why I wore that pink fuzzy housecoat all through Grade 12, actually., a kind of throw-away comment, not carefully thought out for sure, has moulded my son's character in a completely unseen way. At least, that's how he sees it, and he's the one that counts. Funnily enough, one of the things I most admire about Jeremy is his sense of self, how grounded he is in who he is. And guess what? He credits me. Go figure.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Things I love about Sweden - Part the First

1)      Skane - 

The southern little bit of Sweden where the house, Gläntan, is: my favourite landscape of all, rolling farmland interspersed with woods. The woods are mostly pine and birch, growing in surprisingly sandy soil. The meadow flowers include poppy, cornflower, daisy and buttercup, which, when I was a little girl, were the flowers of my make-believe wedding bouquet. The woods smell strongly of piney incense and the wheat fields in the sunshine smell like bread. There are berries everywhere; right now at the end of July, the raspberries are ubiquitous and also scent the air – I’ve never smelled so many good things all in the same place. Blueberries are out too, and currants and gooseberries. It’s too dry right now for mushrooms, but if it weren’t, there would be chanterelles.

A drive in the fields around us at twilight reveals deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, and so many frogs all over the road that you have to drive a slalom course to avoid hitting them. There is apparently a hedgehog living right under our deck, but I have yet to meet it. We have toads and big fat snails, and those legless lizards as well. In the woods you can get scared by wild boar, and sometimes the local pig farmers get a surprise when little bumblebee-striped piglets are born, evidence of a clandestine visit to the sow by a wild boar.

Have I mentioned that I love this place? Just around the corner is Drakamöllan, a nature reserve of dry, heather-covered hills and pine woods with a herd of semi-wild ponies, a flock of sheep, and sometimes Highland cattle roaming free.  On a hot sunny day the honey scent of the heather knocks your socks off. The animals are fenced in by electric wire, but the considerate Swedes have put steps over the fence at strategic points, wherever the trails intersect.

2)      Swedes -

My own particular Swede, of course, who was born in Sweden but is now a French citizen, and perfectly bilingual in Swedish/French (as well as speaking numerous other languages, but let’s stick to these two for now). It’ a curious thing how his personality changes with the language; French Frédéric is witty and sarcastic and can be kind of an asshole (love ya, baby!) but Swedish Fredrik is different; he’s…Swedish. Hard to pinpoint exactly how, precisely - more laid back, for sure, but there’s more than that. Schizophrenic, but I loves him.

Also, where but in Sweden would the daytime radio show have a program where the hosts are sitting in front of a pile of sex toys, and the discussion is all about how you use them, are they any good, and please, listeners, call in with your own thoughts and experiences.

Or in Stockholm, where a wildly popular show consists of a sing-along, in a park, that’s filmed live every week with various local celebrities, and everyone sings along to old-time folk ballads. Wildly popular, I reiterate – think that show would fly in Canada?


3)      The Food –

OK, the food – let’s start with the obvious, and talk meatballs: even the Swedes go to Ikea to eat meatballs. But don’t forget the smoked reindeer, or the crispbread, the lingonberries and the cloudberries (although Newfoundland has those too); there’s a zillion kinds of herring (which you must eat with potatoes, amusingly called “potatis” in Swedish), and the aquavit that you drink with the herring…..or the salmon: gravid lax, all dilly and delicious. Not much can top the crayfish dinner though: a beautiful ring of crayfish cooked with dill, eaten with crispbread, cheese, salads, beer, and of course more aquavit. 

And then there’s pear – pear-flavoured gum, pear-flavoured drinks, pear-flavoured ice cream, pear-flavoured candies…Swedes like pear the way they like black licorice, the only flavour I take exception to.
No paean to Swedish food would be complete without at least a brief mention of TUBE CHEESE: available in dozens of flavours, including blue cheese with pear (see?), ham, reindeer, bacon, walnut, etc. etc.:


Ok, that’ it for now – more later!