Scandinavian Romance

My daughter Tori thought we should share this correspondence with the world. I agreed, since it happened over the holidays, and it has that feel: snowy, international, with a lesson for us all: "Let nothing you dismay."

      I'm sorry to tell you that something nasty happened to your Norwegian sweater. I had it stored in the basement. The basement flooded. Water got inside my clothes' containers. No one notified me, not even the landlord. When I finally went down there, I had two bins of totally moldy clothes. Disgusting. I sent the valuable ones to the dry cleaners...including your sweater. Now there's a hole in the front (can mold EAT clothes?) and irreparable staining: the blue dye bled into the white part. Should I give it away? Hang onto it? It's not moldy anymore, but who would wear it? Do you want it back?

* * * * * * *

Dear Tori,

      Be at peace! This is all part of the Peer Gyntian drama of that sweater. It all began in 1979 when I was an exchange student in the land of fjords and trolls.

      It was gifted to me by a young lad whose family had hosted me in Oslo. He came to visit our family farm in Illinois. He was pleasant looking. He was destined to be a doctor. He was warm and bright and...and...his mother had knitted a sweater for me. A frail, illness-plagued woman who had taken me to gather blueberries on a hill outside of Oslo! Who invited me to remove my shoes before entering her pristine home, and gave me thick warm stockings to wear on her wooden floors. The classic Norsk design, the sizing of the sweater, all chosen for Rrrroonda de amerikansk.

      What could I possibly give in return? Was I expected to marry her son? I secretly turned to my own mother. She brought out a needlepoint throw pillow she had made. "This is for your mother," I said to the lad. He looked very pleased. "You made this?" he said hopefully. I shyly mumbled something. Was I destined to be a doctor's wife? I had nary a thought. Tore--yes, his name was Tore! with a slash through the O and pronounced "toorah"--did not captivate my heart.

      He went his way (to Ohio, I believe), and I went mine. 

      Ah, Tore Lappegard. His name meant "small field" (should a farmer's daughter marry him or no?). I have a photo of him somewhere: his family took me to a park in Oslo where I photographed a statue of a naked stomping baby called (English translation) "Little Spitfire."

      I did love that sweater. Unlike Tore, it fit me perfectly. And I found love while owning it: your father, the truly suited suitor. We and the sweater moved to Massachusetts. There I, a starry-eyed new homemaker learning to do my own laundry, washed the sweater. And dried the sweater. The WOOLEN sweater. the Norwegians say, og...og...og....

      It shrank. Shrunk.

      Too tight in the armpits. Like Too-rah, nice but not really comfortable.

      I thought I'd taken the sweater to a thrift shop long ago. Occasionally, I thought of it, but always with a cringe, as "that beautiful hand knit sweater that I stupidly shrunk." Until this moment, until your note, the remembrance of the sweater has given little joy.

      But ah, this final demise. It is like the dank dark woods of Thor's very realm. "Baldar the Beautiful is dead! Is dead!" Midnight blue bleeding into rams-white wool. The smell of rotting leaves trodden by cruel landlords who lie, who steal, whom the gods must avenge.....ahhh, Hulga! Hilda! Hoy ya hoy YA!

      Be free. It is a Nordic saga for a frosty winter night. Take dramatic photos of it. Involve your husband's Norwegian ancestors somehow. Above all, save the buttons. They can become anything: charms to ward off howling wolves, stoppers for sacks of rich wine. Ornaments which you hang on the first fir tree of your new life. As all who go to Norway say (unless they are mismatched),

Jeg elsker deg.