Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.
“Looking back at my years in Saint Lucia, one of the greatest regrets that I have was that my mother-in-law never came to visit us”, which is one heckuva way to start a story. You see, Mormor, which means maternal grandmother, or mother-mother, in Swedish, loved birds, flowers, plants, and life in general. She would have been thrilled at our fecund environment, and would have ignored our leaders’ lacking fecundity. She lived for life; her fertile mind brooked no setbacks.
Now I know it is not fashionable to love one’s mother-in-law, but I loved Mormor; she was energetic, artistic, a fabulous cook, a passingly good housekeeper, a fantastic gardener, caring, concerned and brave. She was also one-of-a-kind, a real oddball; in wintertime when temperatures sank below freezing, she could be seen every morning in her flimsy dress and wellington boots plodding through the snow that covered her extensive garden, always finding something to do, even though Nature itself appeared to have closed for the season. It was always easy to remember her age: she was born in 1900. She died in 2003. Mormor was made of the right stuff; she was durable. Remember that word: durable.
I recall one time, I had finished my lectures for the day and was about to set off for the 5-hour-long drive home when my wife called and asked me to “pop in” to see Mormor in Broby on the way home, a detour of a hundred miles or so, because she had just spoken to her on the phone and felt there was something amiss even though Mormor had insisted that all was well.
When I arrived in Broby, Mormor met me at the door; she had been sitting at the window watching out for me; supper was already on the table. Well, supper had to wait. Mormor had slipped on a patch of ice and broken her arm. Being a tough old bird, she had bandaged it up, as she had done with many a damaged limb before, and carried on regardless. I tried to remove the bandage, which obviously caused her great pain, but stopped when I saw broken bones protruding from her flesh.
Somehow I got her into a cardigan and into the car. There were no painkillers in the house because she didn’t believe in that sort of thing. And I drove the thirty miles or so to the nearest town with a hospital. She was immediately admitted and remained there for the next few days, but of course, no hospital in the world could have retained her for longer than that. She was 83 at the time. For her 75th birthday we had bought her a new bike, which she rode to and from the store and all round the village; she couldn’t wait to get back on it, so they discharged her; they had no option.
Back in those days, we had three choices when it came to visiting Mormor: we could either drive, which took three and a half hours each way, we could take a tiny two-seater plane and land on a grass strip a couple of villages away, or I could take the helicopter and land it on a patch of grass just 100 yards from her home, much to the delight of the local school kids to whom I delegated the responsibility of guarding the aircraft until my return. Mormor loved the celebrity status her son-in-law’s helicopter bestowed upon her; she became quite the aviation expert in the village, though she always declined my offer to “take a spin” over the surrounding countryside. Her explanation was simple – No thank you, I flew already in 1917 – as if one flight per lifetime was enough for anyone.
Mormor could make anything grow despite the harsh Scandinavian climate; she would have worked wonders in my garden here. We would have been self-sufficient in many ways; we’re not great meat-eaters, and I am sure Mormor’s allotment would have provided us with almost everything we needed.
Now you might be wondering where all this is leading … well, Mormor lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s that crippled the world economy and is considered the longest, deepest and most crippling depression the world has ever seen, and the last fifty years of the Twentieth Century that brought revolutionary social change and the replacement of just about every standard, value and ideal that had ruled the first half of her life.
Mormor exhibited perseverance and durability; she was made of the right stuff. Had she been alive today, she would not have spent her time moaning and groaning and seeking excuses in the global economic turndown; she would have rolled up her sleeves and got on with the job of working towards better days. You see, it’s not that we had never had it so good, we just never realised at the time how good it was; we grew soft, complacent, lazy and lethargic, and relied too much on others to solve our problems. I wish Mormor were still around.