“Howdy! Are you there? Hellooo! Are you able to hear me? . . . There you’re! Hello! So good to see you once more! . . . Sure, I’ve blended my gin and tonic. Can’t wait to attempt it. Skål, my little Lola! Mmm, so good, however possibly a bit chilly this near Christmas. Perhaps subsequent week we attempt to heat up with some gluhwein as an alternative. . . .”
Sadly, my greatest good friend, Lola, doesn’t dwell shut by me in Sweden, however in France. It’s a pity. On prime of that, after we have been in the course of the pandemic it was arduous, effectively, virtually unimaginable, to satisfy up. I missed her.
However then once more, now that know-how has given us wonders like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Groups, WhatsApp, and different enjoyable issues, surprising potentialities have opened up. It’s necessary that we who’re previous 80 preserve up-to-date with know-how; in any other case we danger lacking out on a lot that makes fashionable life each simpler and extra pleasurable—to not point out we don’t need our kids and grandchildren to suppose that we’re too previous and sq. to take part.
All this new know-how can be good for our friendships: now Lola and I can see and discuss to one another so long as we need to on WhatsApp. And have a gin and tonic—or a gluhwein—collectively whereas we’re chattering away. The nice and cozy and candy gluhwein has saved folks within the Alps alive for ages—it ought to work for us.
Lola and I’ve identified one another for nearly eighty years. When she was eight years previous, her total household moved to Gothenburg, a city on the west coast of Sweden the place my household additionally made its residence. Lola began in second grade on the identical college as me.
I bear in mind her being tall and skinny, and that she virtually at all times wore a darkish blue costume with little white dots. I personally virtually at all times wore a smart skirt and sweater, which in all probability is why I bear in mind her a lot cuter, prettier costume. Not as a result of I wished one too; it might not have suited me—however it was excellent for Lola. I used to be certain I wished to be her good friend.
We went on to spend our total college life collectively, although we selected completely different educational focuses—I explored artwork and design and Lola went to secretarial college. Lola had three nice children, and I had 5. Once I received married, I selected a person who must journey the world for his occupation: we lived in america, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sweden after all. Regardless of the place we ended up on the planet, Lola and I at all times stayed in contact.
Later she turned godmother to my second son, Jan (pronounced “yohn”), one thing the opposite 4 children have been deeply envious of. Someway, Lola was extra of a film star than my different buddies who received to be godmothers for the remainder of the brood. Lola at all times wore the newest fashions, had a loud voice with a particular worldwide accent, cherished to bop, had superb hair, and regarded nice in a celebration hat.
Through the summers when Lola and I have been rising up, many who lived within the metropolis moved out to cottages within the countryside, the place they led simpler lives and inhaled recent air into their lungs. The cottages have been usually off by themselves, close to sufficient to go to the little village to purchase your meals and primary provisions however not very near different folks. Being so far-off from the crowded metropolis was pleasant, although you after all sometimes longed on your buddies.
Our household had a home some thirty to forty kilometers outdoors Gothenburg. As children, we cherished being there throughout weekends and holidays, and so did our aunts and different kin who usually came visiting. Pals visited too, together with Lola.
Within the spring we normally picked flowers, particularly wooden anemones. Lola was a star when it got here to gathering them. Nobody understood how she did it. She would seem with stunning, excellent handfuls of the beautiful white-and-yellow flowers. Did she seize a fistful of flowers directly, after which one other? No, she picked them one after the other, rapidly, and with nice focus. Then, as a result of she was visitor with a beneficiant coronary heart, she gave them to my mother, who put them in vases—one massive bouquet from Lola and a smaller one from me.
We nonetheless snort in any respect the issues we received as much as again then. Up within the attic, there was a giant trunk tucked away. It wasn’t left alone for lengthy as soon as we discovered it. The trunk contained very previous garments—lengthy, tattered night robes that nobody would need to put on as we speak, hats embellished with flowers and veils, and a type of fox skins that girls used to hold over their shoulders, full with tail, paws, and a flattened head. What folks gained’t do to be trendy. However after all we performed dress-up! It was such enjoyable and the way we laughed at ourselves for the way in which we regarded. Then we clomped downstairs in our finery and went to greet neighbors and any visitors who might bear us. Largely solely my mother might.
Lola and her household’s summer season residence was on an island within the southern archipelago of Gothenburg. You bought there by one of many white steamboats that departed from the “stone pier” in Gothenburg. Right this moment it’s the positioning of a elaborate ferry terminal and the ferryboats are actually a lot sooner. You don’t actually have time to have lunch on board as we did again then. Simply touring on the steamboat for some time felt like an thrilling starting to your keep. As quickly because the boat left the harbor, I might really feel that salty, great wind that solely exists on the west coast. I used to be a really impartial little individual, or possibly the instances have been completely different. I bear in mind taking the tram to the ferry cease and getting on the boat on my own earlier than I used to be even twelve years previous.
Lola and her little brother met me on the tiny island jetty after which we took our time going to their residence as we wandered by means of the island’s small village. On the way in which they confirmed me the dance corridor, the tennis courtroom, and the home the place one other classmate, Erik, lived.
Some days we climbed the rocks to get to Erik’s, to go swimming with him and his sister within the chilly North Sea or sail of their dinghy. At instances, we might crush a clam with a stone and fasten it to a string. We’d decrease the bait into the water and lie stomach down on the dock for hours ready for the little crabs to reach and begin to feed. Then we yanked them out of the water. After, we cooked them with dill and had a crab feast.
We’d catch plenty of crabs every summer season. To this present day nonetheless, I discover them scrumptious.
Like me, Lola additionally moved round to many locations on this planet together with her husband and children, however we at all times tried to be in contact. We managed to go to one another in Mölnlycke and Good, Brussels, and Minneapolis. Even as soon as in Dubai!
In these days, calling somebody outdoors Sweden or out of the country than the place you have been was one thing you didn’t do until it was essential. It was just too costly. Positive, we might have written letters, however in between infants and transferring vans it was arduous to search out the time to sit down down, or the peace of thoughts to gather my ideas. Many instances, a lot had occurred that I didn’t know at what finish to start.
However Lola and I made the hassle to get collectively. If you’ve identified someone for therefore lengthy, it’s very straightforward to choose up the place you left off, even when you’ve got not seen one another. You recognize one another’s backgrounds and households and the way every thing was once. So, it’s virtually as in case your dialog continues on prefer it was by no means interrupted in any respect—you discuss once more about occasions, each glad and tragic, travels, the kids, colleges, new acquaintances.
Wherever we lived we tried to return again to Sweden not less than annually. Coming again felt necessary to me. Not that I wanted to really feel like I used to be Swedish or belonged to the nation however to satisfy up with household and buddies and listen to what they’d been doing the previous 12 months.
Every now and then an aged relative might need handed throughout my absence. It was unhappy and I attempted to know it was nature’s approach, although I by no means absolutely received used to the shock of coming residence to search out they weren’t round anymore.
Now that I’m over eighty, it’s turning into extra frequent for folks I do know to out of the blue not be round anymore. And it nonetheless doesn’t really feel pure in any respect. Most of us perceive that no person lives ceaselessly, however it’s nonetheless a shock when the good friend I not too long ago spoke with is out of the blue now not accessible. Ever. The vacancy is directly so infinite.
Reminiscence helps us retrieve occasions and other people we need to bear in mind. However my closest ones are at all times inside and subsequent to me—I don’t want to consider issues we did or stated. Some folks simply develop into a part of you. That feels comforting.
Anyhow, now it’s gin and tonic time and I’ve been wanting ahead to this second for a complete week. It’s going to be a lot enjoyable. I can hear Lola’s voice, hear the ice cubes clinking in her glass:
“Do you bear in mind after we have been twelve years previous and—”
“We have been Scouts and realized the way to tie knots and costume wounds.”
“And we went to camp with large backpacks, put up tents, and made large campfires. At night time we’d sit across the fireplace and roast bread-on-a-stick.”
“They have been normally extra burnt than tasty, however it was very cozy and we made quite a lot of good buddies.”
We toast, have just a little sip, and snort.
“Do you do not forget that time we traveled to Aix-les-Bains to do a language course?”
“Virtually everybody fell in love—”
“We received to know quite a lot of boys, however not that a lot French.”
And so forth we went, choosing up the place we left off, recalling recollections that solely we bear in mind. Quickly our drinks are gone:
“Handle your self. . . .”
“We ’ll discuss once more quickly. . . .”
Generally I’m wondering which certainly one of us would be the first to not reply.
Excerpted from THE SWEDISH ART OF AGING EXUBERANTLY by Margareta Magnusson. Copyright © 2022 by Margareta Magnusson. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.