Obviously the Swedes do not celebrate American Independence Day on the 4th of July! But sometimes we try to do something with other Americans just to acknowledge our national day. This year we were invited to the reception at the American Ambassador's residence on June 30. It was an afternoon affair, mostly for the Swedish business connections the embassy maintains here in Stockholm. Why we were on the list is a mystery but we were happy for the invite. It was a modest affair with good Gallo wine from California and of course, Sam Adams beer. A special highlight were the cherry and apple pies from good 'ol McDonalds! I hadn't had a McDonald's pie in, well, I actually can't remember the last time but it seemed appropriate to indulge at this celebration of America!
On the actual 4th of July we had made plans to meet up with some of the women from my book club along with their husbands for a little grill picnic. The plan was to meet up in Djurgården, a beautiful park in the middle of the city alongside the Stockholm canal. Doug and I rode our bikes out and about half way there noticed the looming, giant rain clouds. Doug said, "That doesn't look good." As we traveled further from the warm and dry confines of our home and deeper into the wide open spaces of the park, little by little we began to get hit with raindrops. By the time we arrived at our party, it was coming down pretty hard. Even so, we parked our bikes, grabbed our umbrella and joined the other couples under a canopy of trees.
Initially it seemed that the good cover from the trees might actually help us avoid getting completely drenched. That was before the squall like conditions blew in! In the 11 years that we've lived in Stockholm, I've never seen it rain like it did on Saturday. Torrential downpour! One of my friend's husband graciously lent me his heavy duty rain coat, Doug huddled beneath our meager umbrella and I also used our picnic blanket as a wrap. One side was plastic and it helped, well, a little. It rained really hard for about a half hour. Once it began coming in sideways there was little to do except accept that you going to be drenched. It wasn't cold so that was a blessing, but it was quite the site...4 American women, 1 American man, 2 Swedes and an Australian, both men, huddled beneath the trees, standing under umbrella's, sipping wine and celebrating America!
Of course, the women were all bemoaning the fact that their once very cute appearance was now a soggy mess. Some had dressed in patriotic attire. I had recently had my hair cut and wanted to show that off. The women wearing white trousers were definitely the saddest! True to form, my buddy Judy, a skin care expert actually had enough optimism to let us know that rain water was very good for the skin so in reality we were getting a $100.00 facial for free!
At one point, Doug broke out into song and thus began the revelry! We sang God Bless America, This Land is Your Land, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and America the Beautiful. When we ran out of songs about America, we decided to sing old television tunes. So in came the themes from the Brady Bunch, Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies. Slowly but surely our singing drove the rain away! Finally, blue skies broke and we decided to have our grill party after all! We moseyed on down to the gazebo that was now vacant and set up camp. We were absolutely soaking wet but no one seemed to mind! Tracy's husband Dag got the one time grills going.
One time grills are a brilliant Swedish invention.They are little aluminum boxes of charcoal that you carry with you. You light them, you cook your food, you throw them away. Brilliant! We staked out the American flag using one of the trusty umbrella's as a flag stick. The boys set up a game of boule and the women messed around getting the food ready. The paper plates and napkins were soggy so we had to improvise. But in the spirit of the American pioneer, we made it work!
In the end, the food was delicious, the company great and the sun broke through leaving us with a gorgeous evening and great memories. In the end, it was a joyous celebration amidst great friends and good food. The only thing that was missing were a few fireworks. Have to wait until New Year's Eve for those!