In place of fireworks, we bring you:
the exploding dalek Christmas tree!!!
We entered 2010 happy, hopeful and rested, and it is happy, hopeful and rested that we leave it. In between, a lot of other things happened.
As well as: learning how to cope with severe Norwegian winters, multiple car repairs, working in the kindergarten, buying sofas, dishwashers, lawnmowers, getting the bugs treated in our basement, a couple of lovely trips to Berlin and one to England, paragliding in Australia, America, Austria, visits from the parents, and planning new adventures for next year. All in all it’s a bit of a whirlwind and it’s easy to think it slid by without a lot happening, but it clearly did! A year I am glad to have had but not sorry to leave behind.
Next year looks like it might be even more exciting…
Yesterday I slept in, but Michael was up early enough to witness these loveliest of visitors.
I’m pretty sure they come past every day, but they are so quiet that if you don’t look out the window at the right moment you miss them.
There’s also an enormous hare I’ve seen bouncing around, leaving hare-prints in the snow, but I don’t have a picture of him.
For once we didn’t go anywhere. This was our seventh Christmas together, but our first Christmas alone together. Our first Christmas in our very own house with our very own tree. Our first Christmas with our very entertaining cats. Our first Christmas married. Our first Christmas in Norway. My very first white Christmas.
On Christmas Eve we tidied up a bit then settled down for presents about 4pm (Michael having ascertained in advance that we would do German presents rather than Australian ones so he wouldn’t have to wait till tomorrow). The kittens were most excited with their toy mice, Michael loved his huge warm grey dressing-gown, I put my early Christmas present of an ipod touch to good use providing some quality Christmas music, and we emptied the Christmas stockings of an over-abundance of Swedish chocolate I had purchased to make up for already having eaten the Australian chocolate Mum had sent me. (We still have some German Christmas goodies left cos Michael’s Mum sent over four boxes of them!) We then called Michael’s folks, had a yummy dinner of roast carrots, parsnips, garlic, red onions, falafels and brussell sprouts, and capped off the evening by watching ‘Let the Right One In’ – brutal and poetic and heart-warming all at once.
The 25th continued in much the same way – our favourite food, a crackling fire, novels on the sofa, a walk in the snow, skype calls to family, and Michael practicing taking photos of lights. Some new friends, a Japanese family, came over for dinner, and their little daughter proved what a good kindergarten teacher I’ve been for the last few months by giving us spirited renditions of ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’.
I thought some more about how much I like that Norwegian advent poem – how joy and hope are there, but longing too. The last verse goes:
We light four candles this evening,
and let them burn down,
for longing, joy, hope and peace,
but most of all
for peace on this small earth
where people live.
My Nanna said that Christmas wasn’t the same this year without Irene, my Dad’s twin sister who died earlier this year. And I must admit, looking at several of my friends’ Christmas photos on facebook of their six month old babies, I felt a little twinge for our lost little one whom we will never meet. But then I felt an even bigger twinge from the very present little one kicking and wriggling inside me, and I smiled. We should meet him very soon. But I like that poem very much because those who are absent can be with us too, they are not shut out.
I love Christmas. I love Christmas in Australia with my family and the sunshine, and I love Christmas in Germany with Michael’s family and the perfectly wonderful German Christmas markets. But this year, this quiet, happy, snow-filled Christmas was exactly what we needed, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Ok so this is just a gratuitous shot of the kittens snoozing in our lounge room. I really want to write about light. Light is very important around here at this darkest time of year. All the houses have little white electric candles in their windows, which shine out calmly to the snow-filled streets.
On December 13th we celebrated Lucia. I think it’s even bigger in Sweden. The children at the kindergarten dressed up in white smocks and carried electric candles and walked in a procession singing songs about saint Lucia. It was strangely moving.
And every Monday at the kindergarten, we lit an advent candle. A day late, but it didn’t matter. Advent candles are pretty new to me, as the church I grew up in wasn’t big on that sort of symbolism. I had of course come across them, but only in passing. So I wasn’t sure if the particular meanings attached to the different candles were universal or peculiar to Norway.
I looked it up, and found this site, which explains it all beautifully. In Norway, the advent candles symbolize, in this order: joy, hope, longing and peace. It feels right to have the longing in there too. This particular configuration of meanings comes from a poem by the Norwegian poet Inger Hagerup. They recite one verse for each of the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a beautiful poem. It’s worth looking at the Norwegian version on the first site I linked to, but an English translation would go something like:
So we light one candle this evening.
We light it for joy.
It stands and shines for itself
And for us who are here now.
So we light one candle this evening,
We light it for joy.
Scratch scratch scratch. Mooowwww!
Open back door for kitten 1.
Kitten 1 pokes his nose out and sniffs. -15, ouch. Sits there looking.
Scratch scratch scratch!
Open door again.
Still -15. Kitten 1 decides to sleep on the couch instead. Gets bored quickly as has been sleeping for the greater portion of the past two days.
Scratch scratch scratch!
Open hallway door for kitten 1 to go in hall. Brief pause.
Scratch scratch scratch!
Open hallway door for kitten 1 to come back into lounge. Kitten 2 goes into hallway. Brief pause.
Scratch scratch scratch!
Let kitten 2 back into lounge.
Scratch scratch scratch, Mooooowwww!
They sit forlornly and look at back door.
Yep. Got married today.
I didn’t really mean to wear black to my own wedding, but it was the only maternity dress I could find. I like it. And at least it’s got lace on it, right? Michael insisted on buying me a proper bridal bouquet of red roses. I wore the sparkly green jewellery Michael bought me within two weeks of our first kiss, six and a half years ago. (I did think about wearing the little casket of uncut emeralds Mum wore to her own wedding, but I decided I needed the extra sparkle.)
We decided to tie the knot now rather than later not because of bubs (I really don’t think he’ll mind much either way), but more out of visa considerations for next year. All that aside, it felt like a good time to do it. It felt special. The script for the ceremony was perfect. Here’s a link to it in Norwegian. If you copy and paste it into google translate you’ll get an idea of it, allowing for some amusing translation errors. We alternated between listening seriously and glancing across at one another and smiling shyly.
Then there were the rings, and the signing, and it was done! We bought the rings in October, from Robert Feather, who has a workshop in a little town near York. That was special too, because we met in York, and lived together for two years there, and the gold of our rings was like the gold of the leaves on the trees.
The wedding was a more solemn and more joyful experience than I had expected. It was very small – just us and our two witnesses – and was over very very quickly. But we were so happy!
The courthouse was right on the harbour so we trundled out there to get a couple of shots in the snow (thanks to Michael’s best man who was our impromptu photographer).
Then we all had pizza at our favourite restaurant, Spisekroken. These guys make the best pizza I have ever tasted. Nowegians love pizza, but mostly it is barely edible. The owners know us, and were very happy for us, and brought out sparkling wine on the house.
We know our families would have loved to be there, and we would have loved that too. But I hope I can share the moment with you this way! And I hope we can eat cake together at a later date. After eating all that pizza, there was no room for cake anyway!
It was a perfect mini wedding. We even got presents. Kylie came back for a cup of tea and we cracked open the Swiss Glory chocolates my Mum had sent for Christmas while the snow filled the windows and the kittens snoozed.
As I write, there was a knock on the door and more roses arrived, from my parents! They are beautiful, but I will take a photo tomorrow because now I think it’s time for some snoozing of our own.
The world has been very pretty around here lately. I’ve even got used to the cold. -7 feels positively mild after -16. And -1 feels almost tropical. During the day, especially, our house is lovely, with the windows filled with sparkly white trees. And quite cosy at night, too, when we light the fire. The kittens have adjusted to the weather too: their coats are fluffier than ever and their paws have gone all leathery, so they can walk on the snow without getting blisters. Mermos’s favourite spot, though, is here:
I’ve finally kicked the never-ending cold, and I feel so much better for it. There are still so many things to do, but we’re ticking them off one by one. Today we borrowed a car seat and a cot and some odds and ends from a friend. And thanks to an early Christmas package from Mum, we have more than enough clothes to get the little man through his first month or so. There are just a few little things we need to still get hold of, and then we need to wash everything and sort out the rooms upstairs, and Michael needs to finish off the insulation in the loft, and then we should be ok.
There’s still paperwork to send in, and expensive car repairs to orchestrate (at least I’ve booked it in now), and something special that we’re doing this Thursday, but we’re getting there. I also had a chat to the head of the department of languages at the University College here this week, and he’s very keen to get me on board there after my maternity leave, so that’s exciting. (They’re also looking to expand their English literature teaching and their research credentials, so it’s sounding very promising indeed.)
I’ve had a very busy weekend and eaten a lot of cake. We had the Christmas concert for the barnehage on Saturday morning, followed by our work Christmas lunch. More cake today from the friend who leant us the car seat, and then even more cake at a three year old’s birthday party. Now I’m tired. Goodnight!
I dream about the baby. I dream we can look at him whenever we want. I dream he opens his eyes and we see his sepia-toned face looking back at us.
I dream about breastfeeding. In my dream the kittens want a go and I am frightened of all their little sharp teeth so I express instead and milk goes everywhere.
I dream about labour. I dream I lie on a bed in hospital and nothing happens and eventually the midwife says go away and come back in two months.