Two weeks from today, my brother Hans, his partner Anne Marie, and my dad will wait for me at the dock at Linanäs, the small town on the island of Ljusterö where we are having our family reunion of sorts this summer. I have already started taking out my flannel jammies and sweaters and thick socks because the high today was 68 and right now it is 54 degrees. I am however, also taking my bathing suit because this child of Swedes will take at least one jump off the granite rocks, into the Baltic while I am there.
I leave on the morning of the first of August to Newark. In the early evening, I will fly away from the night, across the Atlantic to Arlanda airport, and after riding the high speed train into Stockholm, I will catch the ferry that goes through the archipelago, making stops along the way. I’ll be on the ferry for a couple of hours which should put me in Linanäs at about noon, Swedish time, 6 in the morning on this side of the water. Almost 24 hours traveling. I will force myself to stay awake as long as humanly possible because that helps me get acclimated to the new time zone.
Very close to Ljusterö, there is an old fortified castle, Vaxholm. It is a restaurant now, a lovely one. The first time I ever ate smoked salmon, I was with my great uncle Gösta and his wife, Moster Lillan, who took me there for lunch when I was 9 or 10. I felt incredibly grown up because my parents trusted my manners enough to allow me to go out to lunch with older relatives unsupervised. I was also, in my mind, so sophisticated because I found smoked salmon and caviar to be delectable. Now, my dad is way older than Morbror Gösta and I am only 10 or so years younger than my great uncle was that day. I will know I am close to my destination that morning when the ferry slips past Vaxholm and I begin to see the swans.
Several folks will come visit with us during those two weeks, relatives and friends. One of the people coming to spend a night at the cottage is Tonia Tell. After Sherod and I married in Huntsville, AL, I got my green card and started job hunting. I had been working as a freelance translator and had even passed the English to Spanish Certification Exam of the American Translator Association. But though it earned me enough of a living, I would sit at home day after day, getting more and more lonely and isolated so I had decided that would not do. I had already accepted a job as a manager of a nursing home (!) when out of the blue I got a call from the translation department of Intergraph Corporation. A spinoff from the space and military complex in Huntsville, Intergraph was a company that specialized in cartography, CAD/CAM and a couple of other engineering subspecialties of software development. This was right around the first Gulf War and Intergraph had a tightly secured area very few people could go near, where they were developing software for military intelligence.
It was a booming company and the translation unit represented 8 languages. Celia, the lead for the Spanish translation team had stumbled across my name in the ATA directory and over the phone that day, basically offered me a job, sight unseen, for double what I would have earned as a nursing home manager. At first, she, Mariano from el Perú, and I, were the only members of the Spanish team. But the need for computer manuals was growing so rapidly that they decided to hire another person and selected Tonia Tell. Tonia is originally from Barcelona, the daughter of a Catalonian dad and Belgian mom. She and I became very good friends, and with a couple of the German translators and a French translator, became a little pack of twenty-somethings doing the corporate thing. My favorite story of Tonia is when, in all seriousness, she went to our manager and asked why Intergraph couldn’t open a “siesta lounge” with cots where we could all nap after lunch. I wish I could have captured Dean’s utter incredulity in the face of such a request.
I moved to Memphis, eventually she left Huntsville too and ended up marrying a Swede and moving to Sweden. We lost touch and then found each other on Facebook and agreed that this summer, we would meet. So she will come from southern Sweden and spend the night with us. My mom and dad got to meet her one summer when they came to see Sherod and me in Huntsville and my dad thought Tonia hung the moon. She was merciless about our “Sudaca” accents (the despective term Spaniards use for the barbarians of South America who claim to speak Spanish), she has a wonderful accent of her own and the best laugh around. ¡Qué cachondeo! We will see each other one week after my 35th high school class reunion when I will have seen almost half my class and a few days before I get to meet my younger brother’s wife and daughter.
Sitting at my kitchen table on a quiet Friday afternoon, I am aware once again, my past is literally my future. Reality, man, what a concept…