Well, THAT did me a whole world of good! Two weeks at Falla, where my soul is so completely at peace, does for me what I think I was seeking all those years in a wine bottle and what a heroin addict hopes to feel when they put that needle into their arm. Peace, connection and just being at one with the universe. Even the drive was fun and Hubby and I still appear to be happily married (unless he’s just putting on a brave face). There is always a part of me that hurts when I go to Sweden, but this time it was so much fainter and I guess that just shows I’m in a really good place. There are things I need to face still and a few more demons to fight, but there is literally nothing I can’t handle.
I’m still neurotic, of course. On our way back to the UK, on the second night ferry, it suddenly departed without any announcement 20 minutes early and this was enough for my brain to dream up a whole host of ridiculous and outlandish scenarios. Has the ferry been highjacked? As if it’d be a good choice of vehicle for a quick escape. Or has the Captain panicked and gone early because we’re heading into a fierce storm despite the weather app showing “slight to moderate” sailing conditions?
“Anna, I don’t think we will perish during this ferry crossing,” Hubby told me, failing to suppress the giggles that were bubbling up in him.
Of course we did survive, and over 4,000 kilometres later we are back home in London and in quarantine. The door-to-door drive totalled 2,800 kilometres there and back and I am trying to figure out how we could possibly have clocked up 1,200 whilst there, but we did a lot and I actually feel rested, refreshed and still very peaceful. It was one of the best summer holidays I’ve had, possibly THE best visit to Sweden ever, bar for the fact that Monkey didn’t come along. And there was a moment so special that I don’t even know how to put it into words. With special things, there are always back stories:
We always stay at a little old house called Falla. It belongs to my father and it’s his haven, and mine too. It’s the place I love most in the world and my idea of heaven. Dad grew up there, raised by his grandmother and her two brothers who lived there together the three of them, none ever marrying. (My grandma was born out of wedlock – slightly scandalous back in the 30s…) To my knowledge, there was no sinister reason for this. Perhaps his mother, my grandma, was just too young when she had him? Perhaps they didn’t truly bond? Perhaps he was just too boisterous to handle? Or perhaps it just turned out that way. All I know is that at Falla with his grandmother was where dad grew up and where he is his happiest to this day. Just like I am too.
His grandmother was called Anna, she was always the most important woman in dad’s life and I was named after her. Or rather – I stole her name! At my christening, dad announced “well, we now have another Anna, so you’ll be Ida from now on!” – I suspect he was just joking around, ever the prankster, but amusingly it stuck and everyone always called her Ida from then on. I only recall ever knowing her as Ida and she passed away when I was eight. The older brother, Anders, passed away before I was born and so I don’t have any memories of him, but Ida I remember clearly as well as the younger brother, Oskar. A few years after Ida, Oskar passed on too, and Falla went to my dad.
I had a Covid test in Sweden and so felt OK going to see my grandma, who is a sprightly and joyous character at the tender young age of 92. I assumed we’d keep distance and had my face mask handy, but before I could stop her, she’d grabbed hold of me and pulled me close in a tight hug.
“You are so beautiful,” she told me as she pulled back to take a good look at me like she always does, stroking my cheek before proceeding to run her hands along my arms and pinching at my waist too, “and slim!”
“Hardly!” I told her, rolling my eyes.
“Oh stop, you are perfect! You have your mother’s figure,” she insisted, patting me on the hip to emphasise her point.
My paternal grandma has always been this way, always inspecting me and always touching and pinching and squeezing and checking me over as you might an apple at the supermarket. Always loving. Never, no matter my weight or my mood or the state I’ve been in has she criticised me. Any time I’ve got a little rounder (like I did when I first moved to the UK and again when I stopped drinking) she’s told me I’m beautiful and perfect and commenting how I carry it well and how she likes my cheeks round. Grandma is a superb ego boost if I’m having a bad hair day, shall we say.
“Come with me!” she told me and pulled me along by the wrist.
We went into her bedroom and she went to her dresser, opening her jewellery box.
“I’m so old now so God knows how long I’ll be around and there’ll be more coming, but I wanted to give you this,” she told me with her eyes glinting.
It’s funny and perhaps it’s because she’s always telling dirty jokes, but her eyes always have a mischievous glint, like she’s never far from bursting out laughing. And her laughter is never far away – every few minutes, she’ll cackle and chuckle at something. Not now, though. There was just a little smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. With hands that now tremble quite a lot due to a condition called Essential Tremor (that both Dad and I have inherited and that in me was made all the worse when I drank obviously), she carefully retrieved a gold necklace and handed it to me.
I suppose it was her way of “giving with a warm hand”, as we say in Sweden – when you pass things on when you’re alive as opposed to “with a cold hand” via a will when you’re dead.
“Put it on,” she urged me, playfully poking me on the arm to prompt me when I was just admiring it in my hands, “it was mum’s.”
“Ida’s?” I asked, gasping at this as it added considerable weight to the gold chain I was holding in my hands.
Grandma nodded, eyes twinkling as she watched from behind my shoulder in the mirror as I placed it around my neck.
“Anna of Falla,” she whispered and gave my shoulders a squeeze, “now that’s you“.
“I can’t possibly let you give me this,” I mustered, not knowing what to say as a little tear trickled down my cheek.
“Don’t make me angry, girl!” grandma chastised me as she tried to wipe the tear away but nearly poking my eye out with her shaky hand, cackling her infectious cackle of a giggle and gave me a little slap on the arm instead, “I have decided it’s yours and if you don’t take it I won’t speak to you!” she joked and made a grimace sticking her bottom lip out and did a little stamp of her foot to add to her theatrics. “There, that’s that settled, now coffee and cake.”
How do you even begin to express your gratitude at a gift like that? Later on, Dad told me how he’d helped Ida put this on so many times at Falla. It has a fiddly safety clasp and it’s hard to put on yourself. It’s – alongside my engagement and wedding bands and a ring my mother-in-law gave me – the most precious thing I have ever been given. It’s not something you wear every day, and Ida only wore it on special occasions, but I will wear it often. It’s not a massively fancy or opulent piece of jewellery but its value isn’t in the metal’s worth. Its worth is who wore it before me, my grandma and my great grandma whose name Dad “stole” for me.
So here we are now. Back to reality after two weeks enjoying the deep forests of Värmland and the peace my soul finds at Falla. There are so many other things I want to tell you but all in good time.
On the agenda now is finding a placement in time for when I begin studying for my counselling diploma in September, find an income too and finish that book – I’ve thought about it a lot lately and all the things I want to say now that I’m hoping to squeeze out the sunny part of it. If I can just find and maintain the motivation to get it done, it’ll all fall into place. One day at a time.
How have you all been?
Today I’m not going to drink.