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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Midsummer

Yesterday was Midsummer’s Eve. My older daughter kept referring, mistakenly, to New Year’s Eve, and somehow I could understand why. There was a buoyant feeling of fresh optimism in the air, and Finland was in the best of party moods. There was that same New Year’s sense of gratitude for life’s riches, and the feeling that things could only continue to get better.

It was a gorgeously sunny day. The sky was bright blue and the air was warm and energizing. The weather alone made me feel happy and alive. We went to Mustasaari Island with close friends who live in our building. We watched our kids playing happily together on the beach and venturing breathlessly into the icy cold water. Afterwards, we grilled sausages and ate them with mustard and ketchup, washed down with the faintly-root-beer-ish Pommac. We turned our faces skywards and soaked up the sun and warmth with gratitude. We eventually dragged ourselves away in the early evening and crowded onto the home-bound ferry, the kids leaning precariously over the sides and shrieking with laughter that filled our parental hearts with joy.

We reconvened in our shared back garden for more food and drinks, to find that our neighbours had magically transformed our courtyard into a fantastic party zone – white-tablecloth-covered table with rows of fancy hors d’oeuvres and glasses of champagne, a grill sizzling deliciously with home-made hamburgers, and a radio playing hilariously melancholy Finnish midsummer classics interspersed with 80s hits. The kids played happily with bikes and hula hoops, and challenged each other at salibandy. We ate greedily, but somehow still made room for dessert - summery rhubarb crumble and sweet, fresh strawberries. With a few drinks inside us we sang out loud to old songs and laughed. We laughed so much, and felt all our troubles float away into the summer night.

At one point, suddenly we heard a solo trumpet ringing out brilliantly through the still evening air. We looked at each other in disbelief (were we suddenly in a movie?) We finally spotted him - a young boy, on a nearby balcony. He was playing Suvivirsi (“Jo joutui armas aika…”) the traditional graduation hymn. It was pure and true and it echoed through us poignantly. The Finns especially were very moved - this song carries strong emotions for anyone who has sung it at a school graduation. When our lone trumpeter finished we applauded him loudly, and he turned, in surprise, to look at us. He hadn’t even realised we were there. He was playing only for himself, but he took our breath away.

Long past her bedtime, my smaller daughter finally announced, “I think I have to go home straight away to sleep.” And so, reluctantly, I dragged myself away and put my little ones to bed, reflecting, with a big smile, on a day and night I’ll remember always. I felt thankful for so much – for sunshine, for my lovely family, for great friends and neighbours, for my Finnish home, and for the privilege of being alive.

11 comments:

  1. Oh my, what a perfect day. Golden memory to be brought to mind as often as possible about how good life is. Wonderful.

    Salibandy? I must know.

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  2. Ahhhh...sounds like a GORGEOUSSS dayyyyy...we spent today indoors, away from the sääskiä hi hi...yesterday we spent it outdoors for a while. :-D

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  3. So very Finnish, so very beautiful! Hyvää juhannusta sinullekin!

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  4. Oh that sounds so wonderful! You wrote beautifully, made me feel some of your happiness all the way over here.

    Hyvää Juhannusta, näin vähän myöhässä!

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  5. What a perfect day! It sounds beautiful and you write about it so well. x

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  6. :) the sunshine is reflecting in your heart and voice. love it xx

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  7. Enjoying all the pleasures of summer is what Juhannus, to me, is all about. I'm so glad you were able to do that this year. :)

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  8. How absolutely delightful!

    I'm wondering if your daughter was referring to the solstice? A New Zealander friend of mine was telling me a story from her youth that the Maori's celebrated the recent solstice as their New Year.

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  9. Thank you all for your lovely comments. It was one of those rare days where the force was with us, and everything somehow came together.

    Kellogsville, Salibandy no doubt has another name in English - I just don't know what it is. It's essentially ice hockey without the ice, and played with a small hollow plastic ball with holes in it instead of a puck. The older kids in our building play it endlessly in the back courtyard!

    Carmen, it was really interesting to hear that the solstice is the Maori New Year. I think my daughter's fixation on the New Year was more to do with the feeling of celebration in the air everywhere. Finns go a bit nuts about the summer - no wonder, given how long and dark the winters are...!

    And Amel, oh my gosh, the mosquitos (and the various other things that fly around and bite!) are just terrible in your part of the world when it's warm! When we went on holiday in northern Finland one summer, it was a shock to realise that you really had to be careful or not only would you get bitten, but you might also get a mouthful of mosquito!

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    1. It's salibandy is called floorball and the informal Finnish name for it is sähly.

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    2. Looks like I need to start proofreading my comments.

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