.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Three score and ten or more

Monday, December 25, 2006



Actually Jan won’t officially qualify as a cootess until she reaches her own three score and ten next fall, but I figure that what she went through this fall gives her an extra year so I hereby add her officially to the list. To tell the truth, this has been a crazy Christmas. We are a family who had had a rock hard list of traditions for many years. The principal days in our traditions are/have been Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

On Christmas Eve, as early as is convenient, sons and daughters (and if possible their sons and daughters, though only two of our six children have fulfilled their obligation to marry and provide grandchildren as objects of dotage) gather together at the house. (This gathering is sometimes limited since one of our sons (the one with children) lives in Washington State, and two of them are in the military reserve or guard and have spent recent Christmases in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but anyway, they gather as they can.

I have to admit that the father of the clan, being a procrastinator emeritus, for many years spent the early part of Christmas Eve trudging from store to store, trying in futility to find that very special present to Janet (about which he had been meditating for months) and sometimes missed the very early Christmas Eve activities. As the children got older this halted (I am not sure why).

When we got together, at least after 1967 when we were in Finland, compliments of Mr. Fulbright and the U.S. government, the process was the same with very little variation. As the family joined together, the children first sang a couple of songs in Finnish. My choice was probably less than inspired, but they were songs the children remembered. The first, Tonttu leikki involved the children with Santa hats (and, when they were too young to protest, red tights) dancing a sort of specific dance in front of the Christmas tree and singing “Tip top tip top tippi tippi tip top, Tonttu leikki. Tip top tip top tippi tippi tip top Tonttu leikki. Tip top tip top tippi tippi tip top Tonttu leikki, TIP, TIP, TOP.” You can see why they could remember the lyrics. They translate “Tip top, tip top, tippy tippy tip top, the Elves (trolls, or which every you use to identify ‘tonttu’)are playing, etc.

The second song, goes more or less like this, “Porsaita aidin oomme kaikki, oomme kaikki, oomme kaikki. Porsaita aidin oomme kaikki, oomme kaikki, kaikki. Sina ja Mina, Sina ja Mina, porsaita aidin oomme kaikki KAIKKI..

(The a’s on sina, mina, and aidin should have two dots above them, which means that they are pronounced “A” as in Dan or Ask. I have been taught twenty five times how to convince my computer to make the keystroke that creates the two dots, but I have a blank in my mind which prevents me from remembering this anytime I am at the computer)

My liberal translation is
We are mommy’s Christmas pigs, all of us, yes all of us,
We are mommy’s Christmas pigs, all of us yes all.
You and me, yes, you and me
We are Mommy’s Christmas pigs all of us yes all.

My children have discovered that with judicious repetition of certain lines, the translation works well to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down.

Following the group performance, the general comment was “Let’s Eat”, which is appropriate following We are Mommy’s Christmas Pigs . For this, we usually gathered around the fireplace-(for many years we heated our house with wood, a fireplace insert and a Fisher, stand alone stove, in which a sour dough loaf was often baked in a dutch oven and Pulla was baked wrapped in foil) Our Christmas Eve meal always amuses Finns when I tell them about it, because none of the foods we use are Christmas foods. We have always had Karjalan Piirakoita, or Karelian Pies, which are made of a kind of rice pudding on a rye crust or tortilla which is folded up on the edges. These are eaten hot, spread with butter into which chopped boiled eggs are stirred. They are Wonderful, but have nothing to do with Christmas. We also have Pulla, which is a Finnish, cardamom laced sweet bread that looks like a swiss braid. We ordinarily break it rather than cut it. For beverage we have sima, which is made with lemon juice, honey or brown sugar, yeast, and raisins. It is a drink used in Finland really only on Mayday or otherwise in the spring, and which must be made with real care to be carbonated but not alcoholic. Other foods may wend their way into the meal occasionally but these are the “always’ things.

After we eat, we join around the Christmas tree and each person can open one package. (The children, as a group, consider that this was, while they were young, a means of making sure that each had a new, clean, pair of pajamas for Christmas morning. ( This was not an unfair conclusion). We then sang some Christmas Carols and concluded with each of us demonstrating some talent. Sometimes the piano was played, sometimes a solo of one of the kid’s participation in a Christmas dance recital, sometimes a flute, clarinet, trombone or other solo, sometimes a recitation (our kids have all been actors at one time or another), sometimes puppet plays, but always ending with the old man reading the Christmas story from Luke, sometimes with elements added from Matthew. The reading is almost always from a large leather covered antique family bible (which has 1873, 75, and 80 baptisms and marriages recorded in it by a family named Wilsey, which I picked up in a junk store in upstate New York -the book, not the family.) This was always followed by a family prayer where we all knelt and linked hands, (in later years, even joined in by some who had pretty much lost faith). Then it was time to go home, to bed, or some other, appropriate, where. (We have sometimes gone to a Christmas Eve Service or Midnight mass at the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, or, one of my favorites, a little community Church of Christ, which was always small, and intimate and caring – and which has since become great big)

Christmas morning had it’s own traditions, one of the most important being that the children couldn’t go into the living room until they came and woke us up. That way, the parents and the camera got into the room while it was whole. When packages were opened, one of the children would get under the tree and sequence the presents so that they were handed out in order. “Santa Claus” gifts (gifts with no donor name) were placed near each person’s identifiable stocking. At first, mother and father knew what each of these was, but over the years, unidentified additions appeared for all. Breakfast was usually leftovers from Christmas Eve, with additional glasses of milk for all, then it was dinner preparation.(some were left to rake up the paper and wrappings) The turkey was always mine, and I prepared it a variety of different ways, including one semi-disastrous episode with deep frying. For years I had a proprietary blend of dressing (stuffing) spices , then I learned that Tone’s spicy spaghetti sauce spices had everything in it that I loved, and it has been the dressing spice of choice for years. I sauté lots of chopped up celery, Vidalia onions, and occasionally granny smith apples with spices and real butter (that is crucial- diet be damned) add it to broken up bread (usually whole wheat) with fresh ground sea-salt and pepper and Tones spicy spaghetti seasoning (to taste, but usually about a couple of tablespoons ), rub the outside of the turkey with a mixture of Cajun gunpowder and Tones, then pop it into the oven for the appropriate time. I used to use a turkey bag, but the skin was never a luscious as when I heat the oven to 500 degrees, pop the turkey in for half an hour then insert the thermometer, turn it down to about 275 cover with a paper bag, and wait for the proper temp to come. (Usually about five hours). The problem with this method is that the turkey skin is so delicious that, while the turkey is resting before it is sliced, I have to stand and guard it. If I leave for any length of time I come back and the turkey is skinless. My children have stripped it immorally to the meat.

I don’t pay much attention to the rest until dinner time, but we still have pulla (We slice it sometimes at dinner, there is no fate more perfect for a slice of cooling turkey than to end up between two slices of pulla with a little butter, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce.) and we still drink sima.

Now that you have seen our traditions, it is time for the Coot and Cootess version.

We arrived home from Finland on Nov. 13, and discovered that neither Jan nor I were worth a flip physically. We briefly discussed going out for Thankgiving, but the kids resisted and volunteered to cook everything. (All four that live near us are really good cooks, if they ever decide to mate, their “mates” will get a bargain in at least one sense.) One did the sima and the pulla, another did vegetables and salads, another did desserts though I went ahead and did the turkey myself, unwilling to let go. Jan was not going to cook at all, because her hands shake so badly and she could only be up using her walker a couple of hours at a time. We hadn’t cooked since we got home from Finland. Folks from our church came by every day with a well cooked dinner and some general treats.
Of course when the day came she wandered in with her walker, propped up on a stool and helped and supervised everyone (even me, and no one has supervised my turkey cooking in a long time). We had a lovely meal and watched the appropriate football games and DVDs, and distibuted leftovers for "take home" purposes.

We had not really thought about Christmas. Since June we have had two time share lodges reserved for the week before Christmas at Lake Chelan in Manford, Washington and were were planning to spend Christmas in Washington with the Washington grandchildren where son and daughter in law would do all the work and we would "guest"
Just after Thanksgiving both our general Physician and the local cardiologist just put their collective feet down and forbid us to make that trip. “You can do that kind of thing, perhaps in March or April” said the cardiologist. The silliness of the plan hit us when our realtor called to let us know that the final meeting to change the zoning on our house would be held on January 3, and if it was approved we would have about ten days to get out and go where we need to go.
Since we had not planned to be home for Christmas anyway, our local children had decided to go have Christmas in Oxford, Mississippi where one of our sons had moved and bought a new house. (guess what he does for a living”), so, in order to get some rest, we proposed that they go ahead to Mississippi, and we would stay home and have a quiet, restful, holiday (Does that read well with Coothood?)

We roamed around a bit, did some manic Christmas shopping (to mail stuff) and made trips to the doctor. Finally, on Sunday, the week before Christmas, Jan looked at me and asked if I thought she would be messing up anyone’s plans too much if she just asked everybody to come to our house. I said I would call and ask. The comment from my daughter who lives in South Carolina was “Well, she held out longer than I thought she would”. And everyone made plans to come to our house.

Shift of traditional gears. We decided to have sea food chowder (for which Jan is famous) on Christmas eve instead of Karelian pies (which require rolling out dough,not something for weak and shaky hands,) to substitute a pre-sliced ham for a turkey with scalloped potatoes from a box for turkey and the trimmings on Christmas Day. Not knowing exactly when everyone got off work to come here, I roasted a fifteen or so pound boston butt that I had in the freezer for “in between eating”. I should mention that I love boston butt pork roasts. I rub the outside with extra virgin olive oil, Cajun gunpowder and Tones spagettu spices, put it in the oven, in the evening, at five hundred degrees for half and hour, turn the oven down to about two hundred or two hundred twenty five degrees and forget it till morning. (I do score the fat part in half inch diamond shapes in order to get better snack food (I can’t remember what “Redneck “ calls it.—Heck, I can’t really remember anything precisely).

For Friday evening I got out the roast, pulled some of the pork (southerners understand) and stuck it in a beanpot with two cans of red beans, a large can of pinto beans, and a can of Trappy’s pinto beans with Jalapeno peppers (If you haven’t tried them you should). I added a cup of drippings from the roast and another tablespoon of Cajun gunpowder. I then put the whole mess in the oven at 225 degrees for a few hours. No work at all. I pulled the pork from about half of the remainder of the roast, heated it in the oven under foil then dowsed it with “Vandy’s” southern barbeque sauce. (For you poor souls whose experience with barbeque sauce is limited to the stuff produced north of the Mason Dixon line I can’t explain, I can only sympathize, though there IS some marginal stuff available in Kansas City. Northern barbeque sauces have things like tomatoes and ketchuppy stuff in them, sigh.) Every body sat down to eat, and even with store-bought bread, it went fast and furious.

For Christmas Eve, the fish chowder was exxed because of the amount of labor involved and we had a large Stauffer’s frozen lasagna, with toasted sourdough bread from a local bakery and some whole wheat submarine rolls sliced and covered with garlic butter (with a little hand squeezed garlic to make it real.) No one complained about lack of pulla, Karelian pies, or even sima (well, I griped a bit about sima). Our usual family talent show was limited to the reading of Luke, a family prayer, and the conclusion that enough folks had brought things for stockings that one of the younger folks would dig out some of our traditional Stockings and everyone would put something in. I forgot to mention that instead of getting out the Christmas tree and all the decorations, I went to Wally World and bought a 32 inch tree with optical fiber that glows in multiple colors on the ends of the leaves. When Chistmas is over, so is it. None of Jan’s hundred plus nativity sets from all around the world appeared, no balls, no tinsel no clean up.

In the morning I arose and put on my semi-traditional T-shirt, one that I bought in Yellowstoned Park about fifteen years ago, that says on the front " IF A MAN SPEAKS IN THE FOREST WHERE NO WOMAN CAN HEAR, IS HE STILL WRONG??", we had breakfast (I voted for oatmeal, but we had fried eggs.) opened presents said thankyou to each other, laughed at the number of things I had brought home from Finland that Jan was totally unaware of, then watched some new DVD’s that we had given each other. ( I have not jumped in enthusiasm yet at Bubba Ho-tep, Elvis’s adventures with the mummy, but we will see.) Our Christmas dinner is the pre-sliced ham (I was not sure what to do with it, but it came out all right) scalloped potatoes, some blue cheese cake (provided by daughter, and really pretty good) and salad. We DID have sima. When one is a coot and drops traditions, who knows, maybe new ones will form.

We did do one thing that will not become a tradition, but was fun. Jan had collected a few Fitz and Floyd Santa Claus cookie jars over the years, that had fallen under our "we are going to cut back and simplify mode". WE decided to give one, filled with cookies, to each of the children who were here. Of course we had three cookie jars and four kids but my daughter has been lusting after a fifty year old Finnish Lieki cooking pot (Look it up) for a while so it became an ex-officio cookie jar. I was supposed to bake raisin oatmeal cookies for this purpose, but I just didn't get it done. Instead we used cookies that had been donated by some of the members of the church. This will not become a tradition because no family can afford a new generation of Fitz and Floyd anythings every year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Last Saturday

The Last Saturday.

I can't make blogger put the labels by the pictures, but the top one is our cottage in Isnas, next is the entrance to Meilahti (Helsinki University) hospital, the next is the Emergency Room Entrance at Porvoo hospital and the final one is the entrance to the Helsinki Mormon Temple.

We had discussed a lot of projects for today. Janet wanted to really do some Christmas shopping, especially for the grandchildren; she didn’t really remember anything about the wild trips to the hospitals, or even really about
Left, the Helsinki Mormon Temple entrance
the cabin where we stayed the first days in Finland. She also wanted to return to downtown Helsinki, about which she didn’t remember much, but she remembered a little. We finally decided to go to Porvoo, to see the cabin, to see the first hospital, and to shop around Old Porvoo (a restored and preserved section of Porvoo, which is the second oldest city in Finland) where, I told her, they had some wonderful shops.

I had not really paid attention to how quickly she tired. The road to Porvoo is about 54 kilometers and, with a 120 speed limit we got there rather quickly but she was almost exhausted by the time we arrived. The sight of Old Porvoo reinvigorated her, though I became a little discouraged when I looked at the narrow doors and many steps we would have to consider in getting her wheel chair up and down. I suggested that we go see the hospital, then drive out to see the cottage, then we could explore Old Porvoo on the way back. Janet and Alex, somewhat reluctantly, agreed.

I first drove down through the city, passing the tori (marketplace) and passing some of the architecture that is not included in the old city, but is really fascinating. As I returned, I took a wrong turn (of course) and ended up at a small parking lot at the dead end of the street. As we were entering the parking lot, Jan noticed a small jewelry and silver smith store at the end of the road. I parked the car, escorted Jan into her wheelchair and we went to the store. The store advertised Kalevela jewelry (jewelry based on the patterns in Finland’s national folk epoch collected by Elias Lenroot) in it’s window. We went to the display case, and before she was done, every piece of silver, bronze and gold Kalevela stuff had been brought out for display. They were a little shocked, but Jan had her list and took two of those and three of those etc. A young man behind the counter, not knowing I spoke Finnish, whispered to one of the girls “All of those”, “All”, she replied. He gulped, his eyes went wide and he began to ring up totals. Before we were done, they had begun discounting everything by about 20 percent, and the owner came out and presented us with stick pins of the Porvoo county emblem. For all of that, we got out of there for just over 300 Euros, which surprised me a lot. Alex had found a hand made leuku (a type of Finnish knife – Finnish steel is some of the best in the world—owners of Fiskar scissors know what I mean) that by itself cost well over 100 euros, but he chickened out before we left.

As we departed sharing mutual smiles with all, I got the car on the right road and we went to the hospital which was Jan’s first stop on the surgery road. I confess that it was a bit smaller than I remembered, but I took a picture or two. Jan didn’t remember it at all. Almost the first thing she really recognized was the big Volvo dealership on the outskirts of town. “There is the place where that young man taught you how to use the reverse gear on the other car.” She chirped with delight. (I wasn’t sure that this was the most important memory, but every bit helps.)

As we continued on this road the initial reaction was wonder that I had driven it at such speeds on the night of her attack. The second reaction was that it seemed long, and they all would have preferred to be at Old Porvoo looking through the antique shops. The scenery is beautiful, but it seemed that we had been there a long time. When we finally reached Isnas, memories began to come back to Jan as we passed the fire station then took more emphasis as she noted that it was the Kings Highway (I hope I have already talked about the Kings Highway before) where we had planned to travel for a hundred kilometers or so and retrace the route that the Swedish and Russian monarchs had used to transit southern Finland. Jan had some twinges that we had not been able to do it. As we turned up the road that led to the golf course by our cottage, she remembered some of the bus stops we had used to turn the car around before we could go in reverse, and we laughed anew as we came to a group of signs just before our turn off. Two of the signs are in Finnish (as they should be) but one anachronistic sign points off in the distance to “Honey Hollow”. Soon we came to the cottage, drove up close to it and reflected on the fact that the last time we had been there it was a beautiful red cottage surrounded by fall foliage, and now it was a beautiful red cottage with snow on the roof, and all around it.

We left rather quickly since there was a black car parked in the drive, and the inhabitants might wonder who was taking their pictures. Instead of returning the way we came, we drove up the Kings Highway to the intersection where we had left the “interstate”. (A side mention is that it is fun to drive up a road with a casual sign at it’s side “St. Petersburg 365 kilometers”) Even then, Jan regretted, with us all, that there was no time to take the drive. The connection at Highway 7 the Helsinki Highway was marked by a large Esso truck stop type place and two other large buildings which had been closed when we arrived. Since both were now open and surrounded with cars we decided to look inside. One was a candy company and souvenir factory story which wasn’t very impressive. The other was a large outlet which resembled, on the inside, a smallish Wal-Mart. When we looked closer it had a sign identifying it (I can’t translate this well) as “Robin Hood’s Center for Giving to the Poor”. It appeared to be, more or less, an outlet for overstocks and remainders etc. Big buses with Russian Names were parked in the lot, and bunches of people were rushing out (no pun intended) of the store with small appliances, new luggage, etc. The people exiting the busses were most notable by one of them, standing in a group of other passengers who was urinating in the parking lot. (I am not sure if this is a tradition with these folks, I doubt it, but no one seemed disturbed by it either).

We took the Helsinki Highway back to Porvoo and went immediately to the Old City where, after parking in a parking lot where I paid for three hours, we pushed Jan’s wheelchair down the street to discover that almost all of the stores were in the process of closing. Those that were not were either liquor stores or had several steps up to the door.

Janet and Alex proposed that I should go get the car, and come down and pick them up. Of course, to do this, I had to negotiate one-way streets and go away before I could come back. I finally just drove the wrong way up one narrow street, hoping not to meet traffic. I ended up at a turn-around spot near the cathedral, then went down the road to pick up Janet and Alex who had been standing (sitting in the wheelchair in the case of Janet) around in the cold for what seemed like a long time. I discovered that, in my absence, they had decided that it was dinner time, so they asked a number of the English speaking locals where was the best place to eat. They were told to go to the Cathedral. Assuming that it was a restaurant near the Cathedral, and since I had just come from there, I zipped them back up the hill. (This time using a one way road that was pointed in the appropriate direction.) When we go there Alex went up to the restaurant to check it out. He came back, reported that they were serving good Finnish food and that dinners started at about thirty euros per percent and went up from there. The problem was that there were about fifteen steps up to a courtyard and about a ten yard walk from there to the restaurant door. Jan had been walking up an down a few steps getting into and out of the house, and she decided that, with Alex supporting her, she could do that. It would be good to eat in a real Finnish restaurant before she went home. I left her and Alex at the base of the stair, and drove down the street about half a block to a parking place. When I walked back, Alex came down the stair shaking his head, and Jan was sitting on the top stair in tears. I helped Alex help her down then went back to get the car. They were still hungry when we got loaded back in the car, but decided to go back to the McDonalds, or the Esso truck stop at the edge of town and have a bite. I don’t exactly remember which we chose. Probably the Esso. I don’t mind McDonald’s generally, though eating there when you are in a foreign country seems weird, but the McDonalds I tried in Finland seemed to serve EVERYTHING swimming in Mayonnaise. It must be a Finnish favorite that I had never discovered. We then went back to Helsinki . We had planned to go on one of the secondary highways, but Jan was, by this time, pretty tired so we jumped on the expressway and took advantage of the 120 kilometer speed limits (really sounds fast till you do the math)

As we zipped down the thruway to the place where we were staying (just off Circle 3, the third circular bypass around Helsinki we approached the JUMBO Mall. (pronounced Youmbo by Finns) and offered to wheel Janet in for a moment just so that she could ride up the escalators that are designed for Shopping carts as well a feet. She declined, in part because we had told her about the malls. The Finns have taken the Mall experience to its extremes. Malls are usually three to six floors tall with networks of escalators and elevators, and everything from jewelry to groceries, frequently with two or three layers of parking below the stores. Think of the most manic mall you have ever been in the day before Christmas, and that is the average Finnish Mall on any given day.

We went back to the house, where Janet and I visited with our hosts and had a snack before bedtime, and Alex took the car and went out to photograph Helsinki after dark.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I'm amazed at how difficult it sometimes is to write about relatively simple things. I sat down almost two weeks ago to write about the last weekend in Finland. I figured I could do that in about an hour, but it seems that details keep creeping up that NEED to be told (I don't know why they NEED to be told, ask them), and as a result, I have the events of one day posted and another getting close. I promise one thing, as I get into the time in Helsinki I will NOT do a day by day , but will clump things in categories and get them over. Part of me wants to skip the whole Finland experience and start writing about things that interest me right now, the other part wants to document what happened over there if no one reads it but my children and grandchildren (and brothers and sisters -- and cousins--- and---oh well!) . Right now, we have been home for a month, Jan is getting better every day. Some times she goes wandering around the house without her walker (though sometimes she has to "holler me up" from the other room to bring it to her). Trying to get organized to "do" anything is a pain. Wrapping Christmas presents has come to feel like a full time job, and we don't even have very many. (Most of them came in suitcases from Finland). Part of that is because neither of us has a very lengthy span of attention. I'll sit down to wrap a present which reminds me of something else and I find myself in the other room, not remembering why I am there, and the doggone package just sits there half-wrapped.

The pride of feral cats in the back yard is growing, but I feed them anyway. I originally allowed them to come around to control the squirrels in my back yard that were eating all my pecans. About a week ago, a couple of guys came along offering to rake my yard (which had reached a "looks like hell" stage,) so I paid them to rake the yard, haul everything out to the side of the road etc. etc. It wasn't till they had finished the job and the city truck had come along and picked up the debris when I realized that in that debris was all of this year's pecans which I had been protecting from the squirrels. Oh well, that means that somewhere in a refuse pit or other site little pecan trees will sprout in futility, and that none of my relatives will receive candied pecans for Christmas. At least when I left them to the squirrels, the squirrels would plant them in the flower pots under the window but these will all be somewhere else. Well, back to writing about the adventure, but I think I will rip off some "by the ways" in between. To those of you who have hung on through the dry spell, Happy Christmas, Glorious New Year, and to those who live it, happy politics. (I probably will still drop caustic comments or flattering nuggets into your comment column.) By the way, have any of you tried the new beta program (I guess it is just the new program now) I have been tempted, but have a gut feeling that everything I have written is going to evaporated into the ethos-- or ether or something.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Last not LOST weekend

The  Last (not LOST, LAST) Weekend

As a prelim to this post, I need to draw your attention to one of my early posts on Finland.  When we arrived here the trees were just beginning to yellow.  The birches seemed to have little crowns of gold on top, but farmers were still baling hay in the fields, some fields (I presume, of rye) were just being planted and the weather, except for a tendency to rain every afternoon, was really beautiful.  As I slipped Jan out the entrance door in her crippled wheelchair, it had snowed for several days.  We had developed the pattern of leaving soft drinks in the car to cool to avoid clutter in the refrigerator of our hosts.  At the moment of exit, the snow had ended and the sky was beautiful, but the wind was biting cold.  I was glad that I had bought her a purple knitted muffler and cap to wear as she left the hospital. (But we all imbibed some icy diet Coke.)

As it turned November, on one of my frequent trips to Avis to extend my contract for another week, they had informed me that I had to return my little Chevrolet Kala with the mystic reverse gear to exchange it for a car with snow tires.  The replacement (for the same price, nice Avis) was a Subaru Forester with studded tires and four wheel drive.
As Alex pulled the car up the drive to the hospital door I was grateful.  The drive, and the sidewalk around it were icy from the recent snow. I popped Janet into the front seat, Alex in the back and drove away, with relief, from the hospital where Jan’s life was returned to her, and with anticipation, not just of returning home, but of giving her another glance  at the Finland that she had so enjoyed for four days before her illness. (illness sounds like a wimpy word for the experience, but I couldn’t think of a better one.)

I had expected an immediate request to go Christmas shopping, but once she was in the car, she made it clear that she was very tired (from sitting in the chair tapping her foot while waiting for us to arrive) and that, since she had put on her traveling clothes before she went to bed, she felt that they were getting a bit gamy smelling, and wanted to change clothes.  We went back to the Stromberg house, where she disrobed, got into her new bed and fell almost immediately to sleep.  Pirkko (Ms. Stromberg) and I went to the county social agency to pick up the wheel chair.  After the rickety crippled chair at the hospital it was nice to get what appeared to be a brand new chair, then we went back to the house.   Jan only slept an hour or two, and when she awoke she was ready to go into the world.  Pirkko had gone to see Jan in the hospital, but it was like a meeting of new friends (even though Pirkko spoke very little English (she understood a lot more than she spoke) and Jan spoke almost no Finnish.  We had a little lunch (of, guess what? Good Finnish bread and cheese) then loaded a Jan into the chair and went out to see the snowy world.

Jan really remembered very little of the trip preceding the attack, but since one of our major reasons for making the trip had been to seen the new  Helsinki, Finland LDS temple, and that had been one of our last experiences before she woke up screaming in the night, we concluded that a return to the Temple Site was in order.  We knew that the temple had now been dedicated and become a “working” temple so that we couldn’t tour the inside, but just going to the exterior would be a good return of memories.  The temple itself is relatively small, but the design is very different from most others.  The steeple is very tall, and the walls are of polished marble or granite that, when the light is right have a multiple mirror effect.  We drove up to the terrace that serves as one parking lot, and Jan exclaimed multiple times, “Oh yes, I remember this.”  She even remembered the monster mall that is on the corner of bypass 2 and the Turku highway, about four or five miles from the mall.  (The Finns have carried the mall concept to absolute extremes, and this mall has its own train and bus station).  

By the time we had wheeled her chair in a circle around the temple we were all three emotional, and tired.  Alex asked me if I thought anyone would object if he just peered in the foyer. I told him that I thought he was much too casually dressed, but he opened the door and looked in for a moment.  The temple workers (who had come in a group only a couple of days before to see Jan in the hospital) spotted him, recognized him, and came to the door to see Janet.  They were as thrilled to see her out of the hospital as we were thrilled to see her enjoying the temple again.  One of the workers asked if we all had temple recommends.  Coincidentally we not only had them but had them with us. (A temple recommend is a document that verifies that one has met with his local ecclesiastical authorities, and  pledged that a sincere attempt is being made to live in concert with the Gospel of Christ. Having this document is a pre-requisite to entering a working temple.)  Seeing that we had them, they brought us in and showed Alex and Janet (again) around some of the rooms of the temple that were not in use at that time.  It was a very powerful moment.

As we bid our goodbyes to the elders and sisters in the temple and went out into the car, We talked about where to go next, but Jan was very tired again so we slipped her wheelchair into the back of the car and set off for bed.  When we arrived at the Stromberg’s Pirkko, in what must have been prescience was setting out voileippia (smorgasbord, or a lot of open faced sandwiches) so we ate and  had a really nice visit.  When Jan discovered that Pirkko loved Italy she invited her to go on a trip to Italy that she, her friend Kathy, and Kathy’s daughter Elizabeth had been planning for a long time.
(without me???????). It wasn’t long before Jan asked to go to bed, and she was tucked in, prayed with, and asleep before six thirty.  As she went of to sleep, we noticed that snow was falling in abundance so we were interested in how much travel we would do on Saturday.