This fifth installment update was submitted by David Anderson’s sister, Debra Holmstedt.
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Here I sit, gazing at green fields lined with purple and pink lupine, which this year is blooming early in Sweden. I am taken up by the peacefulness, quiet cries of birds and a solitary cat roaming in the grasses. And my thoughts go back to just a week ago, in sunny California, preparing to fly away from North America for the first time, to visit the roots of my father.
It has taken my brother a number of years to persuade me to travel to Sweden. The heart and practicality have finally blended to allow me to fly from Sacramento to Chicago, then to Frankfurt—sitting next to residents of Europe who share in my native tongue their thoughts of America--where I meet my brother and we fly towards Stockholm together.
Flying out of Frankfurt I have been allowed the window seat and long to see the land of my father’s forefathers, but am greeted with a blanket of clouds, solid, but not forboding. Finally we land, securing our luggage, Stockholm cards, and tickets to ride the express train into Stockholm. We quietly speed through the Swedish countryside, seeing the first of the red houses which dot the landscape and I pinch myself—for I have been transported to a new world. I am in Sweden.
We disembark, and walk up into a world of new juxtaposed into history—boat-lined waterways, great hotels, and cobblestone streets which require careful navigating. (I don’t believe I am the first to trip in the uneven pavement, excitement and attention drawn to the surroundings and not to the placement of my feet.) Finding myself face down on the sidewalk I am met with the concern of strangers, who run to assist me if needed, and I am grateful for their kindness.
In the days ahead, my initial excitement has calmed enough so that I learn to absorb the sights and sounds of this land, descending circular staircases to a breakfast smorgasbord of hard breads, cheeses, muesli and Swedish sour milk and other new foods, climbing towers to thrilling views, walking trails through ancient sites and restored homes filled with treasures from the past. Here and there I try to speak the limited Swedish I have learned, grateful for the generosity and patience with which it is received while interacting first hand with native Swedes.
And I am beginning to see and understand my father. Somehow, before he ever visited this land where his father was born, my father built our compact but efficient home with wood-grained floors, the barn for cows and sheep, and somehow the Swedish heritage that was in him came through whether he realized it or not. And as I am introduced to my roots, I am able to share it with my brother, who has traced relatives and planned the trip so that I can really see Sweden.
For more than two days (not nearly enough) we walk and ride the streets of Stockholm, often with guidance from relatives distant in connection but now close in heart, seeing sights and learning about this beautiful city not shared by the common tourist. And the only regret has been for the giant cruise ship which came up into the city waterways, rotated, then turned away and left Stockholm, and the passengers on board excitedly perhaps remarking they had seen Stockholm.