04/15/2003 Entry: "Missing Sweden"
I cannot find home.
Sometimes, when things get bad, I find myself muttering "I want to go home," so much, it's like a voice in my head. I have done this since I was a wee kid, and when I was about eight or so, I realized I was saying it when I was already "home." I left there when I was 18, was never allowed back, and after about 13 years, my father finally sold it in a hurry.
But I don't know where "home" is. I have never known. When I look at my old house in McLean where I grew up, I have memories. But not really missing home so much as a memory of discontentedness and severe sense of being alone. I recall looking up the real estate listing shortly after it was sold, and seeing my old house as an adult, and how... sad it seemed. Poorly tended yard, house front covered with an aging tree, and how weird it looked separated from the neighbor's houses in the photo. I realize it was a trick of the photographer to make the house look better. I bet it needed it. The listing for the home was certainly full of red flags, something the realtor who looked it up for me also noted. It was listed quickly, way below market value (we estimated at least 30%), as a "must sell - owner moving." There were other items on the "official listing" of note about it being a "fixer-upper," and many items ticked as "needs work." It also had other warning flags like "charming decor" (outdated), "original flooring" (from the 50s), and "a bargain" (for a reason). The realtor mused, "there are only two reasons a house is sold like that: it is falling apart, or the owner is skipping town." The house also had unofficial realtor notes about "evidence severe neglect" and "prospects must be warned of the basement." My bedroom was in the basement. How eerily symbolic. So much evil happened there, I would be surprised if it wasn't haunted. My mother's spirit may still be there, trapped in the house as she was her real life, but I hope not. I doubt she knew that place as "home" either.
My life after McLean jumped around a lot. I lived in Alexandria for a few years, first in the Mount Vernon area (near George Washington's house), then in the Franconia area, and then in the Rose Hill area when I got married. From there, we moved to Reston twice, and settled where we now live in Fairfax. I have never left Fairfax county. And still, I am looking for home.
We own this house. Well, truthfully, the bank owns most of it, and I make payments, but Christine and I are on the paperwork. It still doesn't feel like home. I feel like I am living in someone else's memories. The previous residents, an odd bunch of people, took this house and renovated most of it. Then even added ten feet to one side of the house. When they got it, they said the former owners were terrible, and the house was in awful shape. So awful, for example, they had to replace the walls in many rooms. I mean, apart from a few rooms, this house was gutted, and rebuilt weekend by weekend, for 16 years. During this time, the new owners had three kids, who were all aged 7-13 when I met them. People still refer to this house by the former owners who lived here. Since we are not as nearly active as the former neighbors were in the neighborhood, we haven't made this "The Larson House," yet, and we've been living here since September of 2000.
"I want to go home..." goes the voice.
When I went to Sweden for the first time, as I was flying over the farmlands, an unexpected voice in my head said, "Home? Is this home?" I got real excited about it. But while I was there, I was so distracted, I didn't think much about it. But when I left, I felt I was being torn apart, like when I wasn't looking, something made an anchor there. So then I went a second time. The feeling was stronger. I felt different, I felt... stronger there. I felt I had been there once, grown up there, lived in Sweden since I was a boy, and yet, I had not. Some parts more than others. Sometimes when my cousin Sven was driving me somewhere, I'd pass by some farm, and suddenly have a flashback of running around the grass, under the clothesline, leaning against a car... and none of those could be me. The flashbacks were false, because judging from the decor in these glimpses, they had to have happened when I was already alive, so we're not talking past life or anything like that.
Part of what got me was that a lot of the scenery I passed looked a lot like rural Maryland, in the Calvert County area. Maybe that's what triggered it. Solomons Island was my second home for many years because my father owned a yacht there. Of course, that was a very unpleasant memory, being on that damn boat every weekend for almost eight years until the child abuse trials finally got my father to to leave me the hell alone.
"I want to go home..." goes the voice.
I think of Sweden often, though. I would hope my relatives there thought well of me, too, and that I wasn't too bothersome. I can't express how nice everyone was to me. Sven has been such a magnificent person as a tour guide and translator. He still sends me sporadic e-mail updates about everybody. I feel like they are family, but they are so far away. And I miss them.
I get Swedish food from mail order from time to time. Marabou, Tvist, Hvalost, and other stuff. I got a lot of Swedish knick-knacks when I was last there, and I have them scattered about my house as a hint of the fond memories Sweden gives me. Thinking of that place gives me such an ache of longing: Christine calls that "homesick," and maybe she's right; I never had a home that I was sick of being away from. Yet, when I am in Sweden, I am so nervous I'll offend somebody, so desperate I am to please, to be accepted, that I never really relax. Last time I was there (third time) I got a cold, and felt terribly guilty and embarrassed.
Is Sweden home? I don't know. Part of me says yes, part says no. I bet if I lived there for years, I'd be sick of it. Or... maybe not. I think logically I would, because, honestly, the USA has a lot of crap I like. I am used to it, speak the language, all my friends are here, and it's the "evil I know." I am pretty patriotic, and I feel I'd never leave the US unless it totally changed, I lost my freedom, or some disaster killed my wife, son, and hundred or so friends in one fell swoop. I have often thought, though, when money gets good, to travel there, once a year, for a month, in the summer.
I wonder if I'll ever find home. I know it has to be someplace on this planet, because when I see pictures from the Earth from the shuttle, I get all misty-eyed, and think "Home... HOME!" but that's going to have to be narrowed down. Maybe the world is my home. Maybe home will be a little in the US, a little in Sweden, maybe a smattering in Japan, Fiji, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, England, Denmark... who knows?
I'll tell you one thing: it will really be great on my frequent flyer miles!