“Only those who wander find new paths” —Norwegian Proverb
I’ve been back from Norway for almost a week, and I am happy to say jet lag has not been a problem. It is, however, taking me awhile to get back to my pre-trip busy self…which is probably a good thing. I’m the kind of person that has to go to the other side of the world for at least ten days in order to get my head to calm down, apparently. The further, the better…and in this case, a place with a different language, landscape, and light. 24 hours light! I may as well have gone to another planet. And guess what? From the first night in Oslo to last Friday’s nap, I found myself dreaming again. Nothing worth mentioning or even writing down. But I was struck by the fact that upon waking, I actually remembered having dreams at all. I took that as a good sign that after three years, my brain was slowing down again, that there was space being made on my busy brain desk. So that’s my self-prescribed remedy for stress: frequent trips to Europe! Anyone want to support my mental health ventures? Anyone? (Just kidding!)
When I got my 2015 tax return, I knew it would get spent on bills and gas, etc. if I didn’t put it aside for something special. I wrote to Synnove, Maki’s mum, suggesting that we might all meet in Norway the next year, instead of sending Maki to New Zealand for his annual summer visit. Norway, after all, is the country he is most nostalgic about. Maki’s mother is from Norway so he spent much of his early life in that country, and he can still speak the language. I visited Oslo once with Vernon and Justine shortly before we moved from England to America, but I never got to experience Maki’s version of the country.
When I met Maki at four years old, before I even married his dad, I expected he would grow up Norway, and we would be forever slightly to the west of it. He traveled back and forth on airplanes between countries, between parents. Humans are amazing, aren’t they? The ways we cope with change are infinite! I suppose in some ways it was this ability to move through the world at an early age that prepared him for what life brought along later. But even when he was young, I imagined that one day, we would visit him in Norway, that he would show us his world, that the families would come together in one place and he would see that his life wasn’t so disconnected after all, that his families, though stationed in different places, were supportive of him unconditionally. It was just a little dream I had, but I never forgot it. Well, things turned out differently than they started. We never meant for it to become so complicated, but here we are. And that dream came to pass in it’s own way. Going with Maki to Norway was very special to me. Seeing him with his younger brother and sister and his mother (whom I’ve become friends with since Vernon’s accident) was wonderful. Spending time with his grandmother and aunts and cousins was wonderful. Vernon couldn’t be there, obviously, but I think he would have been happy about the whole thing. I certainly was.
It was, after all, a place that Vernon had spent many years, when he was with Maki’s mum. We spoke of him a little, I’d hear about the places he went fishing and saw some of his artwork around the house. It was a reminder that he’d been there, matching the stories I’d heard him tell. But this trip was really about Maki, seeing him in that other element, that he hadn’t visited in four years. Hearing him fall so quickly into his old native tongue. Eating the fish and homemade bread and lefse his grandmother is famous for in our house. So many poignant things that I can’t process in this particular entry…but here are a couple of highlights.
Climbing a mountain with Maki (it took 3 hours and we lost the trail for much of the way, but this was when he said: “See…this is what I mean when I talk about Norway.” And I said: “Yes, I do. That’s the reason I’m here.” Video shows more than a single photo can, but still…it was more spectacular than it looks here.
The hospitality of the family was so nice. I felt very accepted by them all, which was lovely. We do have an unusual modern family dynamic with all the internationality and history. But the nice thing about modern families is that we get to make up the rules ourselves. It’s not always easy for everyone, but we are figuring it out as we go.
I did learn to knit. I caught a fish. I played with the children. I didn’t learn Norwegian. I let the beauty of the countryside and the endless light heal my heart through my eyes. But seeing Maki there was especially great. Here he is fishing…a natural, just like his dad. I’m sure this time has been healing for him too. He’ll return here at the end of summer for his Junior year of High School (but no one wants to think about school just yet!)