Friday, June 21, 2013

Midsummer tears

Today it is midsummer, one of the most celebrated days in Sweden. The general gist is that people go with their family to the countryside, eat and drink all day and dance around a May pole. Apart from the drinking (or maybe in spite of) it is a very kids-friendly holiday. I got to think of Thanksgiving, an equally family oriented holiday in the US where families also gather (in the home) and eat and drink all day. Most of my American friends claim this to be their favorite holiday because it is family oriented and non-religious. It is just about being together. Just like Midsummer in Sweden.

I have spent 10+ thanksgivings in the US and because I have been in Sweden numerous times during the summer (while living in the US), I have also been here during midsummer 4 or 5 times. But it wasn't until today that one contrast struck me: of all the Thanksgivings I spent in the US without my family, I was always invited to join friends or acquaintances in their celebration. Sometimes I went, sometimes I declined (like the time my personal trainer in California invited me over to a pot-luck friends' thanksgiving), but I was never alone or if I was, it was a choice of my own. I went to a friends' sisters' thanksgiving celebration 45 minutes drive away and I went to a Thanksgiving in New York where the only American was the newborn baby (we laughed a lot about that). And I was always welcomed as the most natural 'addition' to the family. Families in  Sweden are not like that. Here, family is much closer knit and not something to bring strangers into. I have in fact never been invited to a midsummers celebration in Sweden. Not that I haven't had nice midsummer experiences like the time Zoe's dad and I, with a tiny newborn Zoe went to the local park for a picnic or the time my brother and I went drinking in Gamla Stan.

It is of course particularly painful for me this year because I don't have my own family to spend it with. For practical reasons Zoe ended up with her daddy this weekend (I'm leaving for Italy early tomorrow morning) and we (read: he) have yet to find a decent way of being together the three of us. I really hope that one day we can do things together all three, if not as a family, then at least as Zoe's mom, Zoe's dad and Zoe.

Luckily for me I have a lot of work to do and the sun is shining on my balcony. I laugh at the drunk youngsters across my street on the opposite balcony and enjoy reminiscing of my own youth where it would have been me drinking, celebrating and having fun. But I'm not the one with a hangover tomorrow.

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