Coming home again & acquisitions
I haven't been at Bastubacka for a long time, some four weeks. That is the longest absence since we acquired the place last summer. It's a record.
It was even longer since I was in my "home" home, my original home, my birthplace, my heart of hearts, my home state of Utah, USA. It had been two years and nine months, to be exact. Also a record.
There was a whole lot of Covid and turmoil during my time away, most recently an outbreak of war on European territory. Russian forces invaded Ukraine three days after we arrived in Utah. The news cast a pall over our entire visit. We hunkered down and just saw family, no one else--no friends, or at least not very many. I didn't have it in me this time. The world is an unpredictable, and in many ways terrifying, place. Knowing this makes me even more grateful that I was able to see my family in Utah, including my elderly and sick mother as well as a brother who is suffering debilitating consequences of long covid. It was a long overdue but very necessary journey. Not an easy one, but a necessary one.
It is impossible to overstate the importance and the joy of being with my family again. One thing we have learned from Covid is that we don't know when there will be a next time. When it comes to my mother, I know this was the last time. Saying goodbye to her during this trip was one of the hardest things I will ever do. I know this for certain.
There were other goodbyes on this trip, too. Like to my childhood home, for example.
The house where I grew up has been uninhabited -- except for plenty of mice and a few stray birds coming in through the chimney -- for about ten years, since my mother moved into the first of several care homes. Now our old family home has a buyer, and although the property will likely stay in our family for now, the house is probably going to be torn down.
I spent a few days in the old house with my older sister and brother, sorting through various things from our shared childhood, as well as from my own childhood. My mother kept nearly every scrap of paper I ever drew a picture on, every letter I ever sent from Finland (there were many), every postcard from every place I ever visited, and every photo of my own family. We sorted through my dad's old office, where he used to sit and draw maps by hand on a drafting table using a Leroy lettering set. We threw away old beds and magazines and papers and junk mail. Altogether, there were six truckloads taken to the local dump, and that's only the beginning of what will be a long, long process.
A few tokens from my childhood have made the return trip to Finland with me. Those things are in the process of finding a new home either at Bastubacka or our apartment in the city. I will write about them in due course.
First, I want to write about a special acquisition, a kind of family heirloom, one that I fought off at first.
I grew up with six older brothers. That's a whole lot of brothers.
I grew up with six older brothers. That's a whole lot of brothers. In my family, there was always a strong division between the roles and expectations for girls and the roles and expectations for boys. I'll leave it at that for now; it's complicated. (And yes, I still grew up to be a feminist.) All of those feelings of division and our gender roles came to the forefront when my older sister quite fervently insisted that I would take into my possession our dad's old sheepskin jacket. It is hard to explain the reluctance I felt. I protested many times. After all, it had been a prized possession of our dad; he wore it to meetings, to conventions, on trips. It was part of his "look"-- that jacket and a cowboy hat, a bolo tie, a button-up shirt, cowboy boots and a belt with a giant belt buckle. He was that kind of guy: a good old Wild West cowboy. Not the fake kind, but the real, genuine article. He wore that jacket to the last party he ever attended. That was the night he died, more than twenty years ago. Shouldn't the jacket stay in the West, with one of my brothers as the owner, to carry on a tradition?
But my sister insisted I should have it, exactly for all those reasons. Not only that, but she painstakingly cleaned the jacket with suede cleaner and a toothbrush, so it's almost as good as new. In her opinion, it's the perfect thing to wear at Bastubacka when I go walking in the forest with our new dog.
A very important "hello"
Wait, new dog? Yes, that's the best part of all, and I have saved it for last. As I write this, an unruly puppy is chewing on my slippers and whining because she wants to go outside and play. So, long story short: I took the jacket back to Finland with me, and I wear it when I walk the dog not only in the forest at Bastubacka, but also in our neighborhood in Helsinki. I love the way the jacket smells and feels, almost like a long-ago remembered hug from my dad. I love the puppy, too, and now I have to go throw the ball for her so she will stop chewing on my slippers.÷<asxfcs (oops, that was the puppy typing)