One century ago

One century ago, my grandmother danced on the ice, swirling around, holding on to her friends, fast and happy and all into the music, and she never forgot about it, about how it felt and who she was dancing with, and how it would never be like that again. But she tried to pull us into the images she draw for us, to make us see and feel what it was like, so many years ago, when she was a child, like we were when she told us.

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It makes me think of her when I’m on the ice now, like we think of her in so many other fragments of our days. Her stories have for a long time become part of the life of me and my sisters and my brother that is going on, while she is missing. She came from such a fareaway world, a village world with farms and horses and village ponds on whose banks young people played music for the others on the ice. The name of the village sounds to us, who are her grandchildren and know it only from her tales, like a name out of a story book, which it is, in a sense: Alverdissen.

When we think of her as the child she told us about, we think of her father’s house under linden trees. About sunday mornings in bed, about her fathers’s horses that she alone was allowed to drive, about the day she and her best friend Sophie with the brown curls secretly attached their wooden slides at the back of a carriage and drove out of the village in a swirl of speed and powdery snow, little girl devils out of control. We see all the laughing and fun and dancing, the summers on the fields, the winters in the hall. We also hear the more serious lessons, the things her father taught her and that she, many years later, planted in our own behaviours forever. Always offer a passing visitor drinks and food, he is the guest, he is the king.

There are many things she didn’t tell us, things we wonder about today and will probably never be able to find out. The darker stories that were only evoked in fairy-tale-like puzzles of symbols and re-assembled bits and pieces. They are part of our ramblings, too, somewhere under the surface they keep stirring and moving, their vague drifts affecting our paths.

We grew up just a staircase away from her world, in one house and then in another, her time was always ours, and we continue to feel her around, but we miss her in the hours when we would just like her to laugh with us and put the table for us and our friends. To hold our hands and make us understand that we’re strong and loved by her and that we’ll do all right, whatever we do now.

The village of Alverdissen around 1663

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