The end of April marked a momentous occasion: a year since we decided to take a leap of faith and move to Sweden. This only a month after the initial offer came through, and by the end July we'd packed up, squeezed our friends and left Milan for good. There wasn't really any time to think.
I think that time might have come now though. Nine months in and we've survived the physical move (barely), embraced the newness (giddily), tackled most of the bureaucratic palaver (grudgingly). We've emerged from the disorienting darkness that is the Swedish winter. Routines have become established, and then April came and the full force of our decision hit us like a bus. Bloody hell. We live in Sweden.
Most days the hit-by-a-bus feeling is followed by positivity: Bloody hell we live in Sweden AND we like it here. There are so many things to like - I'll get to those in a minute. I can't lie though. There has also been a fair amount of anxiety.
I think the anxiety is mainly down to our work situation. Mr E+M is on a two-year contract, which means we are nearly halfway through. That, dear people, is a scary thing.
I freelance, which is always unpredictable, and it just so happens I have exactly zero projects lined up for after the summer holidays. First time in about 5 years that's happened. This is also a scary thing.
The combination of being a bit scared plus knowing you're on to A Good Thing that you want keep hold of is making it quite hard to live in the moment and say "we'll just see what turns up" in the way we always have done. Nevertheless, there is of course more to life than work, especially when all the non-work is good.
From the moment the sun - real sun with real light and real warmth - returned it was like the entire country came out of hibernation. Neighbours we didn't even realise we had dusted off barbeques and picnic tables (or, in the case of Swedish Super Dad across the green, built one), loaded up their coffee flasks and decamped to the Great Outdoors for the forseeable. On some days it's still bloody cold, but it matters not. The light is here, with it a riot of colour, and it all needs to be adored. I'm all up for adoring.
So we've had alfresco lunches in our fleece-lined cagoules and taken our thermoses down to the beach. We went to see the cherry blossoms in Copenhagen in April. Next weekend we're off to explore Stockholm, our Midsummer Party invites have come through the letterbox, and we're even planning a camping trip for July (I am not a campy person).
The light is wonderful. It's making it really hard to sleep at night, but I guess before long we'll have six months of winter to do all the sleeping we like.
With all this light and outdoorsiness, it's impossible to resist trying to turn our flat, our lump of sixties' concrete, into some sort of airy summer cabin thing. Despite the short nighttime darkness I haven't bothered putting up black-out blinds. I spend as much time as humanly (i.e. 3yo human) possible in my crochet chair by the kitchen window.
Also: in with the plants, lots of plants. We have a postage stamp-sized balcony, but I'll be damned if I don't turn it into a model of urban sustainable living. There are all manner of herbs, carrots, cucumbers and strawberries, sunflowers, lavender, hanging tubs full of flowers. The aphids have already got to the lavender and I know we'll be lucky to get even 5 carrots, but I'm having a blast trying.
Now that our surroundings look more or less as green as they did when we first arrived here, I can see how much my Bean has changed in the last 9 months. The space, the little forest paths, the myriad opportunities to get properly dirty. He was so afraid and clingy when he arrived, but now he's a happy, confident little explorer. He has his found partners-in-crime at school and comes home telling me, in the same breath, how much he loves them and how one of them hit him on the head with a spade. He eats like a horse, fights sleep like a champ and never has clean finger nails.
He's forgotten every word of Italian he ever knew, too, and speaks way better Swedish than I do (which is, admittedly, not hard). He has days when he's so horrible I consider auctioning him off on eBay, but that has nothing to do with us having moved across Europe anymore, and everything to do with Being Three. The Bean is grand.
Talking of beans, my closest friend in Milan had another baby recently. The ache of missing her, and missing out on this huge experience in her life, is painfully acute. It was always going to be and I don't know how to solve it. One thing is certain though: yay for creativity. Having plucked up the courage to attend a couple of crafter's meetups, I can honestly say I've made real, meaningful connections despite having only been here for a short time. There is an openness, a willingness to just sit, chat and share among the makers in this area that I am truly grateful for. And they bring you wee plant friends when you invite them for coffee, which is always a bonus.
For Mr E+L the social aspect has been trickier, mainly because making friends with your colleagues doesn't seem to be the done thing here. When your work (and the possibility of there being more) is 100% results-based it's of course difficult to step away from it for long enough to pursue a social hobby. I think we somehow will have to make that a priority soon though. That, and learning Swedish for me. If I really want to integrate into the creative community here (and say more than hej to my son's friends!) I need to swallow my pride and feel stupid in a classroom again for a while. Come September, if the work really does totally dry up, it might be the right time.
September. Gosh. By that point we'll have been here for over a year, the Bean will have gone up an age group at school, and we'll have had a whole summer of wind-swept barbeques. There is so much to want to stick around for, and so little point in worrying about it.
I'm linking this post up with Chantelle at Seychelles Mama for #myexpatfamily