I have a hang-over today, but not the kind that follows a night of too many adult beverages. It’s the emotional kind that comes from surviving the Swedish version of favorite American holidays and traditions…in this case Independence Day, which also happens to be my birthday.
Next to Christmas, which is always hard to do “away from home”, the 4th of July is toughest holiday for me to handle abroad. Thanksgiving ranks right up there, too, but if I’m in Sweden for Turkey Day, it means I’ve already got a plane ticket to the U.S. for Christmas, and the anticipation of that carries me through quite nicely. I have no such crutch to lean on for the 4th of July. Here it was just Tuesday.
So I put in a full day at my office yesterday, which still feels strange after five 4th’s overseas. (Even when I was a radio news anchor in the U.S. I only had to work a couple of hours on holidays.) My closest colleagues gave me a colorful candy dish for my desk filled with sour stuff .. .some of which was completely new to me. (I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for sour candy in the great sea of licorice that seems to dominate the sweet selections here.) Of course they also gave me instructions that I was to keep it filled at all times. We had ice cream for afternoon fika (because you’ve GOT to have ice cream on the 4th of July) and they sang the Swedish birthday song to me, which ends with a literal cheer …”Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah!”… that I sorely needed at that point in the day.
The celebration at work was actually pretty raucous compared to the one at home. Dr. Darling just isn’t much into birthdays to begin with, and on top of that, she’s still kind of blue about getting another year older herself last week. Plus we had already decided that we needed to save most of the money we would normally spend on each other’s birthday gifts to put toward the new TV we’re going to have to buy when our current one dies … which could be any day now. (It miraculously starts behaving immediately after we’ve been out researching new flat-screens, so I figure as long as we stop by an electronics store once a week or so, it may actually get us through the rest of the summer.)
So, with the gift budget seriously curtailed she had to be creative and gave me a fun pin and two cans of Diet Mt. Dew that she paid way too much money for at the local American import store. I’ve been on the look-out for it ever since I moved over in 2002 and this is the first time we’ve ever seen it anywhere in Sweden … so this was a MAJOR treat. I’m really looking forward to slamming one down straight out of the can when I get home tonight. Then we had kebabs for dinner (my favorite form of “fastfood” here) and I spent most of the evening talking on the phone to friends and family while Dr. Darling watched the World Cup semi-finally between Germany and Italy.
So it was not exactly a “July 4th to remember” but it will be a long time before I forget the “birthday hang-over.”