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in the land of swedish fish

March 5th, 2005 · 4 Comments


In the land before time, in the Redmond before Microsoft, horses ran through fields along the side of the road. The girl would watch them from the van as her mother drove her baby brothers and her home through the boundary of Bellevue. Seeing the horsies in their pastures was the delight of her day.

The girl had purple-framed glasses she didn’t like, acquired at the start of kindergarten, and long hair her mother would sometimes comb into pony tails. The girl’s favorite outfit was pink plaid. She liked books better than most things in life except her family and friends, especially days when Daddy was home.

The girl would grow up and have her college interview at a restaurant in a Redmond parking lot with someone who worked at Microsoft. The girl would spend her seventeenth summer moving mop and broom cleaning a store across the street. Those blocks of intersections on the city border, between Bellevue and Redmond, would mark milestones. It was a time of transition for her and for the area itself, intense growth yet to come.

But all she knew at age six was that she liked Sears. Sears with its large red letters on brown brick box. Sears had a pet store where hermit crabs crawled across sparkling sand and neon fish darted in a tank. She hoped her mother would shop at Sears so she could peer into windows along the wall as they walked past and see the creatures.

Sears also had a candy store. Sometimes on Saturdays her father would take her shopping with him. At Sears, he bought her a bag of Swedish fish, chewy candies in red, yellow and green, shaped like fish, complete with eyes, fins and scales. The treat was a silly celebration of their Swedish heritage, a smidgeon of the mix inherited from her father’s family. It was a celebration of Saturdays and special time with Daddy.

The girl forgot about Swedish fish. She grew up and Redmond also grew up, buildings and subdivisions filling the flat pastures. The horses disappeared. Sears lost its candy store and pet store. Her father moved away.

The grown-up girl moved to the other side of the Sound, and had her own girls. One day she shopped at a warehouse known for affordable furniture. The store was like a labrynth but one of intense mediation not meditation, a lengthy maze to negotiate and an adventure in purchasing. Furniture on display as comfortable chairs and sturdy tables would be bought in boxes, for assembly at home. It seemed strange that three dimensions could be reduced to two. Who would guess what could be created from flat pieces of cardboard sandwich filled with bits and pieces. What could come from what could be seen now, she had learned she could never imagine.

At the checkout, after what had been a marathon morning for her girls, she spied a snack and out of exhaustion and hunger tossed it onto the belt. Swedish fish. These fish were small and red in color. It was a new taste for her daughters but a familiar one for her.

The girl was a girl again. The girl remembered. Pushing the cart through the parking lot, she declared to her daughters: You are Swedish! Her kids stared at her, surprised. At home they spoke German and ate Chinese food, continuing the dominant heritages, the cultures of the girl’s mother and her husband’s family. Somehow the girl had forgotten the slice of Sweden she and her kids also carried within them.

They all sat in the van for a moment, the grown up girl and her own three girls, resting and sharing candy fish. She picked up the map and looked for the route they would take to their next destination, tracing the roads with a finger. She thought about the furniture turned into boxes turned into furniture again. She thought about the taste of Swedish fish and rural roads in Redmond where horses once ran. She thought about the past and the future, what had been, what was to come and what she couldn’t see.


Tags: journal

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Mar 5, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    (Did you really post this at 3:39am??)

    Loved this piece. It reminded me of the interesting stories of yours I got to read years ago, PRINTED on PAPER! Wasn’t that a long time ago…, the sunflowers, the glass, the apples…

  • 2 katy // Mar 5, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    We’ve gotten Swedish fish at Ikea too! It did not bring up remembrances for me, but I hope one day, it would for my girls – not the Swedish fish, but the $1 soft serve cones!

  • 3 Katherine // Mar 7, 2005 at 1:08 am

    Julie, tried to answer your email but my reply got “greylisted” – does that mean you will or won’t get it? You can reply to me by email. Thanks.

  • 4 joann // Mar 7, 2005 at 1:32 am

    Great story Julie!

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