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Monday, November 16, 2009

A Joyous Occasion

This is my friend Barbro. She turned 80 a few days ago! This was taken at our book club meeting where we celebrated her. She is a remarkable person and my life in Sweden has been greatly enhanced through knowing her. A week ago last Saturday, Doug and I were invited to her birthday gala. It was a real treat. I don't know Barbro's children or grandchild. She became my friend through the American Women's Club here in Stockholm so I don't see her in her family context. She was married to a Swede, Ingvar, who passed away before Doug and I moved here so we never got to meet him. This evening of celebration was a true treat for us. Her 4 kids and spouses, along with her grandchild as well as friends she's known for years put on a great party. But before I get to the details of the party, there's a bit of a tale to tell about the adventure we had just getting there.
We had arranged to take public transportation to the party as the directions seemed quite easy. Take the train, then the bus, and restaurant is "mittemot". I did not check with great detail about the exact whereabouts of this fine restaurant thinking that when we got off the bus, we'd see it immediately, since I know that mittemot means opposite or across from. We had also arranged to meet some good friends at the train station and head out with them. Except that I had the wrong train stop in my head. And of course, I forgot my mobile phone for the first time, like, ever, so we had no way of communicating with one another. Fortunately they were waiting for us at the stop where the bus was so we joined hands and found the bus. Then as we were traversing along, our bus stop came up. I said, "Good, this is our stop." I rarely take the bus, and even when I do, it's usually in the city so the bus stops at all stops regardless. Not so in the "countryside." Next time I looked, a new stop was posted. We drove past our stop because I forgot to push the STOP button. Ugh. We were already a bit late and I was starting to get a little bit stressed. So, we got off the bus, crossed the street and caught the next one back to our stop. Problem was, it dropped us in the middle of no where and there was nothing "mittemot" from the bus stop. There was scarcely a soul around to even ask and once we did ask for directions, it just didn't seem right. So we wandered around...aimlessly, for about 30 minutes. It was awful. We knew we were within shouting distance of the party and could not find it. Finally, in a moment of desperation, we flagged down a car. This is not done in Sweden, not because it's dangerous, but because talking to strangers just isn't really an acceptable thing to do! Fortunately we found Mr. Good Samaritan himself because not only did he know where the restaurant was...about 500 meters from where we were...he offered to drive the 4 of us there! We were elated! Once in the car, our dear friend proceeds to tell the driver that this will come back to bless him many times over because he's just offered kindness to 2 ministers! The man was delighted, proceeding to explain to us that he is a Christian and actually knew something about Immanuel Church! He could not have been more delightful and kind to the 4 Americans who were woefully unprepared to find the site of this fine party that awaited us.
We were now almost an hour late and were trying to sneak in under the radar but was announced that the latecomers had finally arrived. UGH again. At that moment however Barbro had asked all in attendance to line up in order of how many years we've known her! We were near the end as most in attendance had known Barbro for many, many years. From there we made our way to the dinner tables and her neice Karen, was our table hostess. She is an American who also married a Swede and is now making her life in Uppsala, Sweden. We had met briefly before but it was a delight to get to know her a bit better. In traditional Svensk style, the evening began with a song and a toast and continued with many more toasts, songs, speeches, and tributes. It was a joy to get to see Barbro's kids and spouses honoring her with humor and love, to experience the obvious deep joy the grandkids have in her, to listen to friends speak of the amazing person Barbro has been in their life. What a treat to enjoy all of this in the company of good friends, around a beautiful table filled with delicious food and drink.
I was deeply touched to be a part of celebrating such a special person. Barbro has lived in Sweden for many years. She has been a great example to many of how to navigate the sometimes difficult road of being in American living in Sweden. She has fully embraced her life in Sweden and inspires me to do the same.
It is hard for me to believe that Barbro really turned 80. She looks fabulous, always dressed in style. She is sharp as ever, offering thoughtful and bold opinions about any and all topics at our book club meetings, and she has a heart of gold that all who encounter her are lucky enough to experience. She is a great inspiration to me, and I know to many others, and I am grateful for the opportunity she gave us to share her joy in turning 80. I loved seeing her kids and their spouses and their kids embrace and celebrate her. It was indeed a joyous occasion, one to be savored for all time.