Well, it’s been quite a week since we last spoke, friends.
Bright and early Monday morning, after dropping the husband at the train station (I’m earning so many wife-points and listening to a lot of early morning metal), I got a long-awaited email.
Erik, whom I now consider a friend (although we’ve never met), emailed to say that my shipment of furniture had arrived from Canada. It was now sitting on a dock in Oslo begging for retrieval.
I felt like I had been waiting for this day for 4 years. Of course that isn’t true, because I can’t actually predict the future (I know. So disappointing), but it felt like that. I met my now-husband 4 years ago and back then we didn’t quite know how we would make the long-distance relationship thing work. People tell you it’s hard (thanks people), and it can be at times, but it also forces you to make some fairly speedy choices and commitments. We knew very early on that we wanted to be together and so it feels like the day of my things arriving here – to my home – has been in the making since the day we met.
And holy smokes. We have been through a lot to get to this point: Many multiple trips back and forth between Canada and Norway, hours of Skype conversations , the eventual decision to live together, the decision for me to move to Norway, the decision to marry, hours and hours and hours (and did I say hours?) of time spent filling out forms and visiting various government offices in Oslo, hours of planning, hours of stressing, hours of decision making, hours of arguing (true story), looking for a home, buying a home, more decisions, more commitment, more planning.
But I’m not complaining. It’s been a long and unexpected road, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
So, finally here I am. Monday morning. Married to a Norwegian. A resident of Norway. In my new house in Norway. And my stuff had arrived.
As my husband said so eloquently, it feels like the circle is closing.
Yes, yes it does.
A VERY EXCITING CIRCLE WITH MY FURNITURE IN IT!
I responded to Erik’s email in 1.3 seconds.
You may wonder how I have befriended the man who is the operations manager for the shipping agents in Oslo. It’s called persistence, friends. Since my stuff left Canada almost a month ago, I have been in constant contact with Erik to get status reports on my impending delivery. And he has been nothing but an absolute treasure.
Our relationship started in English.
The first time I emailed to ask about my stuff, this was his reply:
“Hi Jill, I am working on this, will revert when I have some details. Best regards. Manager Operations. Erik”
Friendly. To the point. Norwegian. I proceeded like I always do. With wild abandon and unbridled honesty.
I started telling him things, like the fact that my family were coming to stay and I was worried about them having a place to sleep. Seriously. This person is busy at work. Do you think he is worried about my family’s sleeping arrangements? But this is how I deal with my anxiety. I share personal details with complete strangers.
Here was the reply:
“I am so sorry Jill, but it as been a strike in Gothenburg where the cargo comes via, and they have a big backlog, and I tried but failed to get your cargo through. And sorry about the floor for your family.”
He actually wrote “I am so sorry Jill”!? Who is this man!? What a lovely individual I had happened upon!
Then I threw caution to the wind and started emailing him in Norwegian. It was the least I could do to show my gratitude. (I am not sure how subjecting him to my poor Norwegian was really a ‘thank you’ but if felt like the right thing to do.)
Then things really blossomed.
“Hei hei Erik!!,” I’d begin my emails. “Jeg håper at du hadde en veldig god helg! 🙂 ”
(Hi hi Erik! I hope you had a really good weekend! 🙂 )
I’m not sure that any Norwegian has ever experienced so many exclamation points, so many smiley faces, and so many personal questions about their past or impending weekend plans, all in a work email… with someone they do not know.
To cut a long story short (not that I ever do), the whole exchange of emails, over the month, made the stress of everything an absolute pleasure.
So back to Monday morning.
I replied quickly to Erik that I was very happy to hear my stuff had arrived and that I would go to the Toll/Customs office right away to get the clearance stamp so it could be delivered to me.
My last email ended as follows:
“Takk for å være så hjelpsom og tålmodig med meg og med min dårlig norsk! God mandag og god sommer! 🙂 “
(Thank you for being so helpful and patient with me and my terrible Norwegian. Have a good Monday and a good summer! 🙂 )
And I got this back:
“Ikke noe problem, og din Norsk er veldig god. God sommer! 🙂 “
(No problem, and your Norwegian is very good. Have a good summer! 🙂 )
He complimented my Norwegian. And wished me a good summer. And put an exclamation. And a smiley face. Listen guys, we are basically best friends.
Isn’t it just so lovely and refreshing how the most banal situation (shipping furniture and arranging for it’s delivery) can end with such a pleasant and friendly exchange.
I dare say, I might miss ol’ Erik.
So, off I went to the Customs office on Monday. It was my first journey into Oslo since I had left almost 3 weeks ago. Strangely enough it now felt like a big city. And, also strangely enough, I felt somewhat nostalgic coming into the city and seeing the familiar skyline of the Barcode buildings.
My visit to Customs, which I had been a little worried about, went smoothly and I was in and out in 5 minutes. Dealing with government and police appointments in Norway are always, in my experience, very unpredictable. They can either go extremely quickly and efficiently (as in this case) or they can be like taking acid and journeying with Alice down the rabbit hole. You come out wondering what the hell just happened and why you feel so weird and you know you never want to feel like that again. And you are also so frustrated that you want to go to Vigeland Park and punch that angry baby in the face. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, come visit me and we’ll go to the famous park and see all the weird and amazing sculptures. Or you can save yourself the airfare and just Google “Oslo angry baby“.)
The moving truck arrived promptly on Tuesday morning and everything was piled high into the house. And so began my three day mania. When I decide to tackle a project, especially one that interests and excites me (like unpacking all my things), I don’t approach it lightly or with moderation. Since Tuesday morning, I have been going non-stop… unwrapping, cleaning (things get mighty dirty in storage apparently), and organizing.
I have been occasionally amazed and amused at what I chose to pack. Given my terrible memory, things packed only a year ago delight me as though I haven’t seen them in decades: the yellow pottery “chicken” I made in Grade 1 (some of you have had the pleasure of witnessing this “art” on Facebook and Instagram), the 750ml bottle of hot sauce from Barbados, a pair of leg-warmers I haven’t worn since the 80s (but seemed wise for Norway. Huh?) The retro “Tim Horton’s” coffee mug, in case anyone doubts my Canadian roots.
Just to add to my frenzy, my husband’s parents arrived yesterday for a 4-night stay. I love these people and have been looking forward to them coming since we bought the house in the winter. But it felt so important to me to have things unpacked and looking good when they arrived. As my husband says, again so eloquently, “they don’t give a shit if the house is perfectly organized”.
It’s true. They wouldn’t care, of course, if there were boxes everywhere. But here’s the thing: I have been to visit these folks at their house and at the cabin countless times. I have experienced their generosity and kindness more times than I can count. So, finally, I have a chance to extend that same welcome to them.
Every Friday, my husband’s mom and I have a little message exchange. We talk about our week and what the weekend plans are, and wish each other a “God helg”. (Good weekend). Since we bought the house, I think I have ended our chat each Friday with, “Jeg gleder meg til dere besøker oss i det nye huset! (exclamation, smiley face).
“Jeg gleder meg” is a perfect phrase in Norwegian. It means “I am looking forward to” but it also implies a great level of joy. So I write, “I am looking forward (with great joy) to you visiting us in the new house.”
So, finally, they arrived yesterday and I wanted them to feel how I did arriving at their cabin the first time: welcomed, taken care of, spoiled, and loved, and slightly terrified. Except not terrified.
I have even bought some smoked fish for the very exclusive members (my father-in-law and I) of the Norwegian-Cabin-Breakfast-Fish-Club, or as I like to call it the “Norskehyttefrokostfiskeklubb”. (You can read that story HERE.)
Yesterday, as I set up the beds in the guest room – smoothing out the new duvet covers, and fluffing up the pillows – and laying the fresh, fluffy towels and pretty soap in the bathroom, I realized that I have made another big step to feeling at home in Norway. I am now welcoming the people I love to MY home. I get to be the hostess. (Dare I say, with the most-ess?)
In a week and half, my brother and his family arrive and then later in August my dad and step-mom come to visit. So many things to look forward to.
Late yesterday afternoon, tired and hungry, I unpacked a pottery photo frame I made years ago. On the bottom is written “on my 26th birthday” and inside the frame is a photo of my mom. In my unpacking haste and frenzy, it caught me off guard. I sat down suddenly with the frame in my hands, staring at the picture – the last one I ever took of my mom. She died when I was 25 and I remember, like it was yesterday, making this frame the following year especially for this photo.
Boxes and mess piled high around me, I sat on the floor with this precious photo in my hands and cried harder than I have in years. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I loved my mom and how close we were. She was smart and wildly funny and outspoken. I know I inherited her adventurous spirit and she would have loved to have witnessed my adult years. How I would have loved her to have met my husband (whom she would have adored) and to have come to visit us in Norway. Imagining what it would be like to have her here brings me simultaneously immeasurable delight and pain.
In the midst of this unexpected wave of grief, I am reminded about how lucky I am. My husband heard me upset and came downstairs to see what was happening. He hugged me for a long time, tears in his eyes. I know how much he wishes he could have known my mom. And I am reminded of how grateful I am to have met him and to be a part of this new Norwegian family. His mom reminds me of my mom in so many ways – her kindness and down-to-earth-ness. His dad is much like mine too – gentle and generous to a fault. And then there is my husband’s younger brother – one of my best friends already and the younger brother I never had. And the older brother – quiet, and yet sharp-witted and (like all of them) a brilliant mind.
How lucky I am to not only have inherited a beautiful new land as my home, but also to have inherited a family I love as much as my own.
My mom would be thrilled. And then she’d give me a hug, and tell me to dry my tears. And the she’d tell me to go make my bed.