Friday, February 12, 2010

Taking stock



Someone I knew 23 years ago and hadn't heard from since just got in touch over one of these social networking things. She asked how I was doing. I ended up writing this, which, for some reason, I think I'd rather like to keep.

"Where to start... It seems like it wasn't really THAT long ago, but a quite a lot fits into 23 years after all. So might as well start with the now.

"I'm in Helsinki. We're having the snowiest winter since... 1987, come to think of it. About as much as in DC right now, I think. We've had it since mid-December, and it keeps on coming down. It's cold. My wife Joanna is having a conversation with our cat Missy in the bathroom; we're going to have breakfast shortly. She's tall, dark, and Lebanese, and is working on her doctoral dissertation at the Media Laboratory in Aalto University, formerly University of Industrial Art and Design in Helsinki. (Joanna, that is, not Missy, who is of solid Finnish country stock, although she had a difficult childhood, having been discovered under a hedge, and subsequently rescued from certain doom by a cat-lover, from whom we adopted her.) We'll have been married ten years this summer, but sadly have no children. Our dog Jekku -- an oversized, somewhat simple-minded but terribly good-hearted border terrier -- is sleeping on a rug that he has carefully crumpled up into something that works like a pillow. I'll straiten it up again in a moment.

"After breakfast, which will be black coffee for me, tea for Joanna, some orange juice if we have any oranges left, yogurt, strawberries (from the freezer), and müsli, I'll be headed off to work. That's a short subway ride away, at a small Finnish software company, where we make things that we hope will finally render paper obsolete and save all those trees. I'm generally pretty happy with my work, although there have been ups and downs there as well. I've been working there almost as long as I've been married to Joanna. My work has nothing to do with what I studied at university, which was political history, but that's OK, mostly.

"Yesterday I went to the smoke sauna with my father. We go every few weeks, whenever he's in Finland. My parents spend a lot of time in France these days; they have a rather nice house there, and both are semi-retired. They plan to retire fully this year, or the next, but I don't think they'll be any less active – my mother teaches yoga already rather more than her supposed job, which is being a physician, and my father has any number of side projects going on. Both are well and happy.

"My sister Johanna is married and has two children, a girl and a boy. They live in the suburbs, and plan to move to Hämeenlinna, a smallish town about an hour's drive from Helsinki. She's a veterinarian. He's disabled after an incident involving a summer night, an empty country road, and a powerful Japanese motorcycle, so he mostly stays at home and takes care of the kids. They also have two Labrador retrievers, a chocolate one and a yellow one. My sister Anni, the tiny blond four-year-old in 1987, will be getting married this August. He's from a tiny place called Muonio in Lapland: to get there, you drive north about 1000 kilometers and then take a left and drive a bit more; you're there when the road ends. He works as a schoolteacher in Helsinki these days."

There was a bit more, but that's the gist of it. Time does fly...

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