Archive for the ‘Arrival’ Category

Don’t forget me

June 30th, 2013 | Alina Müller

Adrian Paci, 'A Real Game', 1999

My first childhood world was made up of a town, a bigger city and a village. The town was connected to the bigger city by a road lined with poplars and to the village by a railway and a path through vineyards. We would take the bus to the big city and the train to the village. Sometimes we would hitchhike. Everybody did. (I don’t remember ever travelling between the village and the bigger city, though I’m sure we did.)

There was that and there was Abroad. I grew up knowing that that’s where we would end up. It was never really talked about, at least not that I can recall, but I had accepted this place as our final destination. I knew of no road or rail leading to it. I imagined Abroad smelling of bubble gum, the kind that my grandmother used to keep locked up in her special drawer of ‘goods from Abroad’, where packs of coffee were arranged in orderly stacks next to Palmolive soaps, Chinese fountain pens and German chocolate bars. Hard currency in the widespread bribery system, my father later told me.

One day we were ready to leave. I remember standing in front of my class in school with my favourite teacher, her hand on my shoulder, announcing that I would be moving Abroad. The afternoon lesson was cancelled so that we could draw and write goodbye cards, something we would otherwise only do on the last day before the summer holidays. The next day I used some of my piggy bank savings to go to the photography studio in the centre and take photos with my two best friends. I didn’t tell my mother I was going there so I could have my favourite hairdo for the occasion , a side parting, instead of the straight fringe she preferred (and that, in retrospect, was a better look). My friends and I were eight years old and we kept a black and white photo each. We wrote our names, the date and  ’Don’t forget me’ on the back.

When we finally got there, it turned out Abroad smelled more like Milka chocolate and caramel. Entering my new room and finding a table full of sweets waiting for me, I remember being pleased that it was just as I had imagined it. I wrote and received letters and figured out the country code I had to dial to call my friends and managed to run up a huge phone bill before I was discovered. We had a red automatic camera and we documented everything during that first year: my father drinking coffee at the kitchen table, my mother arranging her hair in front of the mirror, me standing next to the fish tank and the three of us in front of palmtrees at the botanical garden.

A few months ago I visited my parents in Sweden. My mother and I looked through some photographs from those first months. ‘I remember that bright pink jacket.’, I said pointing out a photo of my mother and I standing in front of the Christmas decoration in the shopping centre. ‘Yeah’, she said studying another photo of our first Swedish living room, ‘That first year, every single day I wanted us to leave and go back home.’