School Days-August 25, 2009
My son went to school today. My precious little man has officially started his scholastic journey that will be marked by tears, rejection, acceptance, grades, popsicle art, macaroni necklaces, book reports, research papers and final exams. He might even play sports, or pick up a musical instrument or take to art. I guess we’ve entered a new chapter, blah blah blah, insert sentimental mommy stuff.
What is supposed to be a significant day really started like all the others, with one exception: I woke him up. We lay in his bed, a dull light entering his window. “I dreamed about Lightning,” he says. “Are you ready for school?” I ask the umpteenth time this week. “Yeah, sure,” he replies in his squeaky little voice. Hair sticking up at all ends since we chopped it to repair mommy’s poor attempt at a trim. He looks like a little boy this morning. A proper boy who terrorizes little girls and digs up worms in the garden and wants to play soccer. I get two pieces of toast down him, and he behaves himself at the table while I rush upstairs to throw something on. Don’t want to look like a slob in comparison with the French mamans or the Norwegian mødre. Long skinny jeans, baby doll top, ubiquitous scarf slung around my neck.
Alec is ready to get dressed: a miracle! He’s good with his outfit until I go to put the Mr. Happy hoodie from H&M on him. Scrunching his face he tells me “I don’t like it.” “I know you don’t Alec, but you’ve outgrown everything, and your dinosaur jacket is dirty.” He blows air out of his mouth. “They’re going to laugh at me.” How does he have this fear already? “No they won’t Alec, I bet they all have the Mister books. They’ll like it.” He shakes his head. I don’t push for now.
Pictures are snapped on the front steps, garden boots lurking in the background. We hop in the car without problems. Again, miracle of miracles! I sip my coffee as we trek towards downtown. Dodging pedestrians, cyclists and triker, or trams. He attempts to identify the languages spoken on various radio stations. “Is that English, mommy?” “No honey, that’s Norwegian.” We change channels. “And this one is French, that is what they will be speaking today.” I try to ease him into his first day at école with French radio reports of Swedish-Israel relations tensing (who knew?) and Somali soldiers.
We find a parking space by the grace of God, and I slip into it, taking care not to kiss the Beamer behind me or the small generic VW in front of me. I pour all the coins I could gather this morning into the meter and slap the ticket on the dash. He dons his Lightning McQueen backpack on (over the hoodie-success!) and we try to snap a photo.
We traverse the crosswalk and round the corner where echoes of French are bouncing off the buildings in the courtyard. We run together, into the tall building. Toilets, check. I note with pride he is the only one among the munchkins who goes into the stall by himself and comes out without a hitch. We locate his name, hang up his backpack, rain gear, rain boots, etc., and enter the classroom.
And then it hits me as he bolts from me. My little man is well, as little man. He takes off to the play area with nary a thought of clinging to my jeans. There will be no hiding behind my legs today, peeking out from the triangle of my thighs. I go to say goodbye. “Mommy’s leaving now Alec. I’ll see you in a little while.” No response. Not even a courtesy nod. “Can you say goodbye mommy?” “Yeah,” he mutters, focused on his task, acting older than he is. “Goodbye mom.” I breathe a sigh of relief, and try not to think of the “mom” bit. He’s only three. I know he still needs his mommy for a little while yet.
Bunny Island-July 9, 2009
What could stir me from my months-long sabbatical (because that sounds much better than lazy, no time excuse you were going to get) but a story about rabbits. On a recent boat tour around parts of Oslo fjord, we spied many bumps in the water with cute little names. Hovedøya (skull island), pale island (where the small children’s hospice for TB was installed), Langøyene (for overnight camping on now forgotten garbage dump) and my personal favorite, bunny island (Gressholmen). Story says that decades ago, a bankrupting bunny farm came out to this small green piece of land firmly plotted in the Oslo fjord and dumped all their bunnies. Well, time goes on, and hours later the joint is packed with ears, noses, bucked teeth aplenty. Don’t forget those cotton tails, either. The whole island was covered with tame bunnies so that families could come have a pet with the local population. Can’t say something like that everyday. But they began to decimate the vegetation, so, well, after introducing a couple of foxes I believe, no more bunnies one day.
Which brings me to my main train of thought: Norwegians are really bunnies. Never in all my life have I seen human reproduction on display quite like it is here in Oslo. Could be like this all over the country, but since I prefer to keep generalizations to a minimal so as not to alienate all of Norway, I will stick with Oslo. It is befitting that the city itself begins with a large O; the pregnant woman really should stake her claim as Norsk mascot. I am sure there is some insane data that the census could support, but I don’t need numbers and decimals and percentages to tell me there is a whole lot of propagating going on around here. I can’t imagine it’s the bees to blame, but perhaps that is where NAV derived their milk money idea. Pass out the figurative pollen and the bunnies will go to work. Clearly I am crossing all sorts of species lines but perhpas you get the comparison. If NAV gives money, then “jeg” will do my duty to Norge by getting knocked up.
The sheer numbers of beautiful pregnant women in skintight clothing is astounding. Just last week we were surrounded at Villa Paradiso by three pregnant women, within a 3 table radius. I walked not 20 yards when I was hit with not one, not two, but four bellies in Sandvika Storsenter. Aker Brygge had their fair share as well.
Which brings me to the subject of the pregnant woman herself. The real glowing preggos are here in Norwegia, let me tell you. Perfect skin, shining hair and a general aura of sex and girl next door all mixed in. It’s just so……fertile. It’s enough to make a girl want a bolle in the oven, ikke sant?
Safe, Sunless Oslo-November 7, 2008
It’s cold again. Imagine that. As the wind whips my face, and I receive a lashing from the sleet shooting down from the Heavens, I think what in God’s name have I done?
I live in a city where Halloween is a ritual performed out of car trunks in a poorly lit parking lot. Where men with accordions fight over street turf. Where the women don legwarmers and Wellingtons.
And just when I think things can’t get any different, I discover that the 7-11 down the street was robbed the night before, and I think, ah, just like home. The bottle brunette (because certainly there aren’t any naturals here) even showed me the scar from where the bat met counter. Oh, they employ baseball bats here? Interesting-not even a sport I thought they played here. How do they get the bats? Is there a tax on bats? How does that work? But I digress…
Safety is something I am not entirely used to. Let me rephrase. I have always felt secure in Dallas, but have never lived somewhere and felt truly safe. Here I have no problem walking alone at night downtown-not so in big D. My guard is still up-I am wary to let it down completely. I like to think the wariness keeps me alert. Don’t want to lose my street smarts (if I ever had any to begin with). But I also find my trepidation at relaxing can also get in the way of meeting people.
For instance, I was approached at the pool by a girl who is studying to become…wait for it…an astrologer. I smiled politely and listened as she told me about her double cancer sign, and ascending suns and moons and things. She recounted her tales about Mexico and Los Angeles-an aspiring actress as well. She seemed a little dippy and maybe even a little pie-eyed, but truly genuine. She told me all about how she preferred the city to the suburbs, and that the suburbs were filled with bad, shallow people. This all explained while she was completely naked in the shower, like three feet away. She and her breasts both told me eagerly that she would leave her contact information for me at the information desk. What could I do but smile and say “takk”?
I feel bad. I feel bad that I ended up taking her information without really looking at it. I feel bad that I couldn’t make eye contact with her as she told me she would like to teach me Norwegian, the whole time knowing that I would never email her or call her. I feel bad that she gave a shit and took an hour to talk to a complete stranger, a foreigner who probably looked like she could use someone to talk to. But she could be crazy right? Who does that? Who calls people they just met randomly? Would I have made a friend if she had been a lawyer or a sta-at-home mom? Probably.
So I’ll keep my guard up for now, avoiding those that are too different from me. I’m not ready to take a chance yet. I’ll stick to the ex-pats for now. So far, I’ve a got a pair of Wellingtons and the newly purchased legwarmers are sitting in the dresser.
Not *really* lost, just in Oslo-October 21, 2008
But I feel lost. The whole process of moving to a foreign place feels like being lost and finding yourself over and over again. Everything must be relearned to a certain extent, but you are given a few clues with which to start. Familiar letters, pictures and sounds. You are reduced to a 4 year old sounding out letters, something akin to a Dick and Jane book. Toaletter for instance. Hmmm. Towlettay? Twaletter? It doesn’t matter how you pronounce it, but after a few seconds you realize, a ha! Toilet. And then you find yourself excited over every word you can figure out the meaning of. The same goes with habits and actions.
Every day is a constant rediscovery of things that you did without a second thought.
For instance, food. Never really had to worry about food before. Just went to the store and bought it. Now it’s: where is the grocery store, which one is better, how do we get to the store, is the store open, is it a Sunday and am I totally screwed? My first breakdown came at the grocery store when I realized I needed 10 kroner to get the bloody cart to even think about putting food in my basket. When I asked a woman to help me try to decipher the denominations of the coins I did have, she thought I was panhandling at first. After discovering I needed 10 kroner adn finding an ATM and buying something to get change, I was ready and armed with my basket. Then began the shopping by pictures. Then the pictures began to look the same. Excuse me sir, what is the word for ham? Stinky? Oh, Shinky. Uh, really? Could you spell that please? S-k-i-n-k-e. Sounds like shinka. Excuse me lady, could you please just tell me which is the normal salt? Because there are 10 different kinds here. Oh, no more room in the basket and I don’t have ten more kroner. Time to check out, put bags in the car, and then come back in again. Seriously. I’m not kidding.
Then there are rules that maybe you just never learned:
1. Always put brakes on the stroller. It’s really windy here. Strollers can fall into the tram tracks, and well, that’s bad. At least Alec wasn’t in the stroller at the time, so that’s a bonus. This may seem like common sense, but I ask, do you actually incorporate the brake on a regular basis if you live in a suburban mall most of the time?
2. Wear boots outside of your jeans. It may be a fashion faux pas in the states, but is a necessary evil. At least we will all look like idiots together. In fact the look is kind of growing on me. But the problem is that I need skinny jeans and not bootcut, and I don’t think I can find pants to fit over my ginormous American ass.
3. Always carry 10 kroner with you for the grocery store. See above explanation.
4. Bad weather is no excuse to stay inside.
So I’m relearning my rules to live by. Day-to-day I just worry about getting out of the apartment, cooking dinner, and making sure Alexandre is taken care of and fed and happy. I guess we’ve gone back to basics. I’m sure Nirvana will come later, Maslow.