Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thoughts On Being An Emigrant



a person who leaves their own country to settle permanently in another

It was November 1962 when I arrived in America. I was 22 years old. I didn't know it then, but I had in fact emigrated to the United States. At that time, I thought I had come for a year or two and it took a long time before I knew I was here to stay. Before I became a citizen of the United States.

Much is said and written about immigrants, but few of us probably consider that each immigrant is also an emigrant. Someone who left family members, friends, country, culture, language, a common religion, a common ethnicity, nature, food, and so much more. 

I have a picture in my mind of a grandmother somewhere in Central America, left behind, standing in a doorway, TV cameras pointed at her. For me it was my grandfather. I loved him so much. In 1962 he was 84 years old. 

My grandfather, Karl Blomqvist.

Some leave poverty, war, or lack of opportunities. I left because I was unhappy in Sweden. In a spoiled youthful way of being unhappy. I wasn't suffering, but I needed a change, some adventures before I finally settled down to become a grownup.

Perhaps some never look back, but I believe most of us do. 

I wonder if the things that I miss as I remember Sweden even exist anymore. 

My friends are still there and I miss them. Christina came to visit a couple of years ago and there was the ease of sharing common values, culture and background. The ease of understanding. The certainty of being understood, something I'm never quite sure of here.

Trolls by Swedish Illustrator John Bauer

When I was little, my grandmother would tell me old folktales of deep forests where trolls were known to come out at night, giants too, who had to retreat to their caves before sunrise or they would melt. She would tell me stories of goblins and of misty ponds where elves danced. 

Are there any grandmothers left to tell those fairy tales? Does anyone care? Are there just ipads now, ipads and smartphones for the kids? I seriously don't know.

There are still glittering lakes everywhere. There's the almost midnight sun on my birthday, light midsummer nights, fields of flowers, islands full of summer cottages. Snow, ice and dark  winter days too. 

Stockholm, my home town, is still there. Old Town with its cobblestone alleys and ancient buildings that lean into each other, with wonderful cellars where jazz was played when I was young. 

And the Stockholm Opera, where I fell in love with Verdi's music and the drama of his operas. It was so easy to get a ticket back then and sit on the highest balcony. 

I believe the concert hall must be there still. In the center of the city, where I went to a Louis Armstrong concert when I was 15 and just about fainted from the excitement of it all.  

In Stockholm, ferries plow the waters and ancient steamboats head for the archipelago. 

When I sit down to write about Sweden, I think of those things. 

Things that shaped who I am. Before I emigrated.

Blueberries, granite rocks, tall trees --  a Swedish forest.


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