Monday, August 26, 2002

In the east of Stockholm lies a green island, Djurgården, the site of the grand residences of ambassadors, a zoo and an amusement park. Next to the amusement park stands a quaint little white church that began life as a schoolhouse in 1820.

On Sunday, the policeman and the priest were married in the quaint little white church on Djurgården. Wrapped in grey silk and with purple sweet william in her hair, looking a bit shaky and serious and lovely and very much seven-months pregnant, the priest stood in front of the altar with the policeman. So tall and blond and handsome, the policeman barely got his vows out, his voice cracking and hardly under control. An accordian played a bit mournfully, and a clarinet joined, and then a woman sang, not quite sweetly but deeply and pleasingly, of halves becoming wholes and of love. Everyone watched and listened in the swelter of an unseasonably warm Sunday in August, and the women cried.

Me, I cried too. How awful it is to get so sentimental as I grow old.

Then, the psalms sung and the gospel read, we followed the bride and groom out of the church and posed for pictures on the stairs outside, and finally wended our way in twos and threes to the heart of the island to eat dinner in a garden, Rosendals trädgård.

In the midst of bowery green allees and beds of sunflowers and cosmos, we sat in a glass house, eating endive and wax beans and potatoes dredged in rosemary, all from the garden. We laughed and were entranced by the brides' sisters, and listened to speeches and sang songs and toasted the bride and groom with glass after glass of red wine.

In between the toasts and the speeches, the charming woman to my right told me she was a singer. But wasn't it awfully difficult making a living as a musician, I asked.

"Yes, I suppose it is. I guess we're just lucky, my boyfriend and I," she said. And as we continued to talk and she revealed bits and pieces of her life, it dawned on me that there I was again, talking to some nominally famous Swedish person whom I'd never heard of before and hoping that I hadn't made a fool of myself, that this particular famous person was finding me naively amusing and not an ignorant American oaf.

After she offered me a cigarillo, and after someone put on a recording of "Pomp and Circumstance" while we stood on our chairs throwing streamers and honking on noisemakers and singing at the top of our lungs from pieces of paper with crazy words of praise and humiliation to the bride and groom, the singer told me I had such a nice voice, that I should be in a choir.

What could I do but blush?

In the end, the husband and I ran to catch the midnight ferry back to Södermalm and our apartment on the Farmer Street. The ferry keeper waved us on board, telling us we could pay another day, and as the boat chugged over the smooth black waters of the Baltic under a moon newly snipped after a day or two of being full, the husband and I told each other we would never live anywhere else on this fair earth.

The Swedish word for the day is välsignad. It means blessed.

- by Francis S.

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