I wrote this on March 8, International Women’s Day, just a few days before my grandmother left this world.
Hand-knitted woolen socks in all colors of the spectrum: pink, green, purple, red, grey, brown, blue and a mustardy shade of yellow.
One new pair every year ever since I was a little kid. A soft present under the Christmas tree for each and every one of us, year after year, with that scribbly handwriting on top of a sticker or written directly on the wrapping paper: ”Merry Christmas Anna! Best wishes, Grandma.”
Line them up and you’ll have the growth chart of the 27-year-old me.
When we were young we’d spend weekends at her place on the countryside about an hour’s drive away from my hometown. My siblings and I would share beds, lie there in our PJs with our stuffed animals, trollis, after having grilled sausages over the fireplace and eaten crêpes with home-made strawberry jam and vanilla ice cream. Grandma’s crêpes, they were my absolute favorite!
We’d go berry picking in the forest or fishing in the rapids behind the house. Sometimes we’d organize the Olympics in the front yard, throw branches and see whom of us managed to jump the furthest. My absolute favorite game was (surprisingly enough?) cooking in the garden. My grandma used to have a huge potato patch where she grew potatoes, carrots, beetroot, parsley and dill, so each of us would get our own little pot from the kitchen in which we’d mix grass and water and whatever we could find in the patch. I loved it, I absolutely loved it. (I guess my days as a food & beverage professional date back to way earlier than I thought.)
In the winter we’d take the sled to the convenience store in the village, or take her old-school orange BMW with leopard-patterned woolen seats to go grocery shopping in the city. We’d play hide and seek and dress up in her clothes, me, my sister and my brother, and then we’d perform. I think we loved performing.
We’d draw, oh we’d draw. My mega multicolored Moomin momma and two-dimensional sun-tanning teddy bears are to this day hanging on her wall, as is my brother’s caravan and my sister’s rabbit. As if time stood still and they were still as valuable – if not more.
She’d teach me how to knit and crochet long before 9th grade when I was forced to sow my very own sweater, one for which I ended up sowing the sleeves together into one big sleeve instead of two. (Whoops!)
Lunch would always be potatoes and meat, always, accompanied by what we used to call ”grandma’s bread” (sv. fammos bröd), a very special loaf of bread that was sold only around were she lived. After lunch we’d have coffee and cake, and cookies. Her lingonberry cake became my brother’s favorite.
At Christmas we’d get the most delicious gingerbread cookies, baked with scratch with loads of love, and when her birthday came around we’d help her decorate the creamiest of birthday cakes with colorful candy.
When it was time to leave she’d give each of us a chocolate bar (King Size Tupla, THE best!), a bag of chewing gum (peppermint Jenkki) and some pocket money. At some point in elementary school I remember my desk drawer was full of Tupla’s, packed to the rim. I’d had a few too many and saved some up. She’d wave at us from the doorway and we’d wave at her from the car until we’d no longer see her.
Then came March 8, 2017. International Women’s Day.
My grandma is lying in a hospital bed, ready to leave this world, and I’m as far away as I can possibly be, able to wave at her only through an iPhone screen. Thanks to technology for that, but how sad is it not to be able to be there in person?
With a heart of gold, she has always put her children and grand children first, later joined by a cute bunch of grand grand children. She’s given us her all, done her very best to be the best grandma in the world, which she has, and now she’s there and I’m here and I’d wish for nothing more than to be there, holding her hand, telling her it’s okay, but I can’t, and it makes me sad.
If I’d at least packed a pair of woolen socks with me.
“Be at rest, my heart.”
Today, April 8, one month later, is the day when more than 15.000 km from here all of my family is gathered to say goodbye to her, one last time, and I’m not there, although in my heart I am.
In my heart I am.