This blog was born in an airport lounge, when the universe handed me five unplanned hours.
My flight home from a short trip had been delayed, so I found a cozy spot in a quiet place where I could relax and pass the time. I listened to music, read the newspaper, sent a few emails, and ate a small dinner. Then I settled deep into my chair.
Gazing out the window, an idea surfaced that had been stirring for a while. I think perhaps it has been gently rising for more than a decade, ever since my grandmother passed away.
It may have started the day my siblings and I made a somber pilgrimage to Grandma’s home in Michigan, to attend her funeral and see if there was anything we wished to keep, before her house was sold. Although the contents were mostly removed by then, there were humble traces of Grandma’s ordinary, every day life, still there for us to touch.
I said my good-byes to Grandma, her apple orchard, and her house holding my childhood memories, taking home with me a shoebox full of old photos and ephemera, tucked into my suitcase.
In the years that followed — raising children, carving a career — in rare moments of solitude, I would take that shoebox out of the closet and sort through the photos, examining their small curious details. Among these images from another time and place, there were three very old photos from my grandmother’s childhood in Finland.
I didn’t know very much about her Finnish roots, and wished I could talk to her again.
During these years, I would have these ordinary, every day moments where Grandma’s life would touch and shape my own. Kneading dough attempting to make nisua, smelling phlox, picking up fallen autumn apples in the backyard. I missed her with an ache that only seemed to grow over time. I missed watching her knuckled hands as she kneaded dough, and hearing her speak Finnish to her sisters on the phone.
Sometimes I would take out the tiny Finnish-English dictionary that Grandma gave to me before she died, and flip through the delicate tissue pages, teaching myself random words.
At some point I realized my responsibility to steward this photo history, and by extension, the family link to our Finnish roots and culture.
I was born in America, but raised in Canada, and have spent most of my life becoming Canadian. In my heart, I am Canadian. However, in my soul I am part of a few other places in the world. They give me a sense of recognition and belonging.
This is my story and humble beginnings, for the next phase of my life, becoming Finnish.