I thought since I wrote rather diligently (and sillily) about my goals in the first post--now ancient history--that I'd take a moment to write about my whimsy dreams and a few things that make me very very happy.
I think a lot about being happy and what things make me feel that way, and how I can feel more that way...usually the things that do so are sleeping, eating carbohydrates and sweets, drawing, and being with friends. Skylights. Flowers. Bargains. Today I took a long nap and ate a warm brownie with icing, so life is gauzy and beautiful.
Last night my friend took me out for some strawberry rhubarb pie after a long night in the rain vainly seeking Ellen DeGeneres (don't ask...). That made me very happy.
Strawberries and Rhubarb are one of those things. Things that you forget about all winter until they just appear one day and then you can't imagine ever wanting to eat anything else. At least that's how it is with me. The first time I tried the stuff, I was on vacation with my family, and a warm strawberry rhubarb compote was drizzled over some fresh vanilla ice cream--quite possibly the most memorable dessert I've ever had...
Last summer I travelled to Finland with my boyfriend, and in a small town, just outside of Helsinki, we stayed with a kind young punky family that fed us strawberry rhubarb soup which was (again) so, so so wonderful. Having this last night obviously brought these food memories back, but with them a web of other lovely, blessedly happy memories of my time there.
This family we stayed with had my dream life. Sid, wife Ninnu, daughter Ronja, and baby Minttu. Sid was a punk from California, Ninnu a Fin, from Porvoo. They met in Hungary while Sid was with his sister, trying to get clean and Ninnu was studying. They fell in love young and silly, got pregnant, ran away together and got married. They made a life together that was what they might have always imagined as kids, or even more.
They weren't rich, lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a complex, rode bikes everywhere and were generally quite happy. Their apartment--it must be said--was enchanting. The kitchen, for instance, was decorated from floor to ceiling with small 4 x 6 inch framed pictures of family members. Fleeting, almost accidental glances into their history and presentness, framed and treasured, but then lost in the sea of tiny windows. Crystal fairy angels hung in the sunny window and caught the light, bouncing rainbows on the floor, and on the wall of photos, making the whole room dance with colored light at certain times of day.
There were instruments everywhere; at least 3 guitars, a piano, various keyboards...A tiny hallway was transformed to a genie's passageway with vintage patterned sheets fashioned into a tent and handmade bead curtains at either end. Outside a potted garden (with mostly flowers and some vegetables) occupied most of their tiny balcony space. A birdhouse and tiny ornaments dazzled branches of a tree which peeked in, and was welcome.
Ninnu was so beautiful--she had a typical Finnish pragmatism about her, but she had an girlish wistfulness about certain things that softened her a bit. She indulged herself in unassuming stories here or there about her childhood--always coddled in a delicate nostalgia for the way her family used to do this or that. Sid was just as sweet; he showed us his artwork and movies he made of the girls and Ninnu, played us music on his guitar, took us for walks in the woods with the family. He worked almost all day, leaving at 4 in the morning for a construction gig and then getting back after dinner.
And then there was Ronja. The most lovely nymph of a child to ever walk the earth. She was so good, sweet, and oddly contemplative for her age, but not at the expense of her defiant, more adventurous side. Ninnu named her after the main character in a book by Astrid Lindgren (who also wrote Pippi Longstocking), about a robber king's daughter with great courage and heart. The story is a familiar one, and centers around her love for a young boy of their rival clan, Birk. Ronja has to balance the band of robber's expectations for her with her own love and life dreams. When Birk is captured, Ronja saves him, exchanging herself for him, then causing her father to disown her. Though she initially runs away from her father to live on her own, they are ultimately reunited, and the ending is happy. In a lot of ways I see why this story meant something to Ninnu.
Their Ronja liked to hang upside-down, to play her guitar even though she didn't know any notes, and talk to herself in her room in the mornings while Ninnu was nursing the baby. She would hover over our couch-bed in the morning until we got up, quietly startling us with her wide eyes and brushing our noses with her wispy blonde hair. Once we found she'd placed a bit of salmiaki (the nasty Finnish salty black licorice) on our pillows, which she eagerly watched us eat at 7 am and without any prior experience of the stuff. Sid and Ninnu were still children themselves, barely 25, and with 2 kids, so they afforded time to be in love with each other, and to make their lives beautiful. They indulged Ronja's whims, taking time to sing songs with her, to make up imaginary worlds with her, to dance in the daytime and into the night, to teach her old songs (and new ones), go to anti-nuclear protests, to make art projects and cut-out box houses and masks with her.
They were all about these little details that make life wonderful, taking the time to be silly and young, to dream together, and to be a good clean happy family. I mean. They even taught their dog, Pedro, to spin around and play dead if they pretend shot him with their finger. Instead of training him to get out of the room, they trained him to "Go to Mexico."
The thing about them was that they really took the time to allow life to be beautiful, and to take in everything life threw at them (including me and my boyfriend) and make the most of it. They didn't feel like they needed to be one way or the other, and they weren't afraid to believe in what they wanted to, even if it was fairies, organic produce, or a world without nuclear power plants. And they weren't afraid to be vulnerable by being openly loving, giving.
Perhaps what balanced this was the fact that they also had a true sense of what was good for their kids, what they needed to do for each other, to be a good family, good friends, healthy people, happy, without a burdensome sense of duty or obligation--it was clear that everything they did, they did because they wanted to and for love. And it was mostly right.
So, if you're still reading this, if there is a you, then I'm glad you came along this small memory, and into my fantasy life. Maybe, one day, I'll have something like this.
So, here's to dreams, details, and to strawberries and rhubarb, which will always be a surprise to me in the springtime, and a happy reminder of this family, who I was so lucky to have met, and of my own hopes. I hoped you were only a tiny bit as charmed by them as I was (and am). (Golly, that's a mouthful!) But, mmmm-mmm, life's nice.
A blurry picture of Ronja sitting next to one of Sid's friends with an anti-nuclear shirt in their kitchen.