You could hear it from afar. The metal garden swing, sitting on the stone pavement laid out in the garden of my grandparents. Thin grass grew between the stone slabs, but did nothing to prevent the swing from giving up its creaky sound. The heavier the ones swinging back and forth were, the less it sounded, thus it was easy to know if my grandparents had grown-ups or kids visiting.
Right beside the garden swing was a small fireplace. It was built in bricks by my grandfather and the tin chimney roof was beaten by hand by granddad as well. He was a tinsmith, and very proud of his work. Granny was a housewife first. Always. She did work in a school canteen on an off in the community where they lived. But she never talked about it. Perhaps because of the food they had to serve there. She was a proud woman when it came to food.
Proud of the way she made those very typical Swedish meatballs, with gravy sauce right from the frying pan. Proud of how she could turn those gooseberries and apples in the garden into delicious marmalade or apple sauce. Granny loved cooking. But only Swedish home cooking. Nothing fancy. Her food was like the earth. Immediate, basic and simply wonderful.
When we visited granny and granddad, we usually ended up in the garden swing. Its’ pillows were bleached by the sun, but you could still make out those big yellow, orange and brown flowers, matched by the brown canopy with white – or as the years went by – greyish fringes.
The seat cushions also had a fringe, which tickled your legs when you sat in the swing, making us all giggle and lift our legs up high.
After a ”fika” where we all stuffed our faces with cinnamon buns and cookies, we always had a short walk around the garden, admiring grannys’ beautiful flowers.
She even had a small greenhouse, where she grew tomatoes and herbs. She loved flowers. Every year, on my birthday, I would get the most beautiful bouquet picked from her garden. I knew it was a big thing, since my grandmother never put flowers from her garden in a vase on her kitchen table. She thought the flowers were best in their own flower beds, and picking them was something very difficult – only to be executed on special occasions.
Thus I was always very happy about that bouquet – and as a grown-up I have come to miss that feeling of fresh flowers from a loved garden on my table the first week of July every year.
My grandmother never sat at the table with us when we had dinner at their place. She sat on a small stool by the stove. She ate while stirring the meatballs, serving them as they got ready. She always had a lot of food. Having endured two world wars, she had made it her mission to feed her children and grandchildren. Nobody could leave her house hungry.
My mother turned against that as a teenager. She became very careful about food. As a young adult, she was actually one of the first ”ordinary people” in Sweden who was portrayed in a women’s magazine as an accomplished ”dieter”.
There is this weird picture taken for the occasion of her appearing in the magazine. It’s of my father holding a measuring band around my mothers’ waist, proving how society viewed both slimness and the difference between men and women. I find it fascinating. And scary.
When I ate cinnamon buns at my grandmother’s place, I used to wish that my mother would not be present. She had a compulsion to tell us not to eat. She used to start the visit by saying to my grandmother that
today, we don’t want any cinnamon buns,
and then when my granny put a whole tray of buns and cookies on the table, she would tell us to be careful.
Of course, we were not. We ate like there was no tomorrow. Nobody made cinnamon buns as succulent and sweet as granny Ruth. She had it in her from Finland, where a cinnamon bun was the hight of luxury in the remote country side village, where she grew up.
It was what she had to offer. Her legacy. And I, for one, am happy I took the opportunity and enjoyed her legacy the only way possible. She had nothing else to give. Time had run past her. Her daughter was an accomplished woman, having studied at the university. Her grandchildren were all better educated than herself. But cooking, baking and growing beautiful flowers in the garden – well nobody beat her at that.
And the absolute best way to enjoy her legacy, was swinging back and forth to the creaky metal sound of the garden swing, cinnamon bun between the teeth, singing some funny song and giggling – all designed to make my mother go bananas.
This is what I think of today, when I enjoy a hot summer day in the country side, where flowers as wild and beautiful as those in my grannys’ garden surround me. The birds are singing, insects buzzing, and a light breeze lends itself to me while writing. This is the closest I can imagine eternity. My grandmother passed away twenty years ago. But she is still with me. In the flowers, in me baking cinnamon buns and enjoying food just because I can. And in remembering her, and what was important to her.
If I can exist like this in the world after I am gone – I am truly happy.