Monday, December 1, 2014

A taste of the familiar

World Trade Center, Freedom Tower & WTC Path Transit Hub  |  A taste of the familiar on afeathery*nest  |
I'd forgotten just how friendly Americans are after 8 months amongst the mostly-reserved Swedes. Strangers smiling, holding doors for you, nodding appreciatively when you coo at their dogs—I didn't know how much I'd been missing that.

(What I didn't miss were the untimely trains and unappreciated catcalls on the street).

I'd also forgotten how much I missed my regular haunts. While I spent the majority of the last two weeks ensconced at my brother and sister-in-law's apartment to soak up as much time with my little nephew (and them and my mom, who stopped by after work) as I could, I still made time for a few forays into the city to my old neighborhood and favorite spots to do a little shopping (which I hate, but for big items I'd rather see the comparatively friendly 8.875% sales tax), meet up with friends and relive my former routines.

Like Sundays in Soho. Since living in Stockholm we haven't been to mass at all. Not only are the English and Italian masses at inconvenient times (or on Saturdays, which I don't like), the very few (three) Catholic churches in Stockholm seem so unfamiliar, at least on the outside. Of course those are all excuses, but in any case, my deeply-rooted Sunday-in-New York schedule of mass and brunch at Hundred Acres (with a beloved Bloody Mary) was happily revived last weekend.

Another revival? Fonda's Happy Hour menu enjoyed with friends, both of which I had missed very much.

And of course the sacred American ritual I was lucky enough to be in the U.S. for: eating (rather, indulging) in one of my mom's Thanksgiving feasts. Sitting down at her table, with the plates I remembered from many meals past, was so special—as was the food: a butternut squash and chestnut soup; a mango and spinach salad; fresh cranberry, orange, apple and walnut chutney; wild rice with toasted nuts; a coconut and butternut squash mash; and Cornish game hens stuffed with figs, walnuts, oysters, apples, cinnamon and ginger. And then of course a pot of spiced chai and her towering dessert: a pumpkin-ginger cheesecake with a walnut-cayenne crust topped with freshly whipped cream. Incredible.

Liberty Harbor Marina, Morris Canal + The Statue of Liberty  |  A taste of the familiar on afeathery*nest  |

The two weeks flew by and of course just when my lively little nephew started to feel comfortable with me again (apparently he'd forgotten all about how we bonded when he was a newborn), it was time to go. He'd just gotten to the point where he'd run around crazily but zoom over to me every so often to either lay his head down in my lap for a moment (sigh) or grasp my legs before dashing back to his toys. We even started to have our own little "thing" going, which will surprise absolutely no one when I reveal that it has to do with The Lion King and us doing lion cub roars back and forth to each other.

But my absolute favorite parts of my trip home (just edging out my mom's Thanksgiving meal) were mornings spent with the baby. My brother and sister-in-law's apartment has two bedrooms, one for them and one that serves as both the baby's and guest room, where I slept. When he woke up he'd mewl in his crib for a while and then sleepily stand up unsteadily, grasping the edge of his crib to peep over at me. He'd stare until I looked at him squarely from across the room and then burst out into the toothiest grin and raise his hands up to me (cue the melty heart). I'd pick him up and bring him back to bed with me where we'd chat and read and snuggle for a bit before he'd be fully awake and back into little-one-year-old-boy-zooming-around mode. Those sleepy sunrise moments were the best and what I miss the most about my quick trip home.

Now that I'm back in Stockholm though, I realize I don't really miss New York itself. My family and old habits, yes, but not the stones and steel and concrete that make up the island of Manhattan. I was actually really happy to come back to Stockholm, and not just because R was waiting here for me (these last two weeks were the longest we've been apart since being married—prior to that we'd gone as long as four months...!), but turns out I missed Lady Stockholm herself, too.

And as the calendar has just flipped to December, the month when Stockholm truly shines (literally and figuratively), I can't wait to revel in the entire Christmas season here. I've been here for the holidays before while on vacation, but never for the weeks leading up to it, and spending it entirely with my Swedish-Italian family this year will make it even more festive.

But just in case a bit of homesickness for the Eastern Seaboard sneaks up on me, I'm glad I've got a stash of my mom's Thanksgiving leftovers in the freezer and many, many videos of my little lion cub nephew on my laptop for a second helping of the familiar.

One year ago: A Derby Bourbon & Postcard from Trinidad & Tobago
Two years ago:  Milkman nostalgia & Being gentle with myself

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