So much has happened this week while Leif's family visited. I will try to give you the highlights, but once in awhile a little detail is bound to creep in. Bear with me...
Quick trip to IKEA for breakfast food for his dad, who will be sleeping on our couch. IKEA sadly lacking in the caviar department, which is apparently the cornerstone of his breakfast. Quick call to the sister insures breakfast will include his favorite things. Whew. Making out said couch into a completely uncomfortable bed. If he keeps to one side of the bed and on top of the extra air mattress he should at least be able to keep from falling off or through the bed. Oh, I wish I was kidding.
Monday: The arrival
Actually, their arrival is far less interesting than what happened directly before it. I took the train to catch the bus to meet them at the airport (no car, remember) and while I was at the train station a man proposed marriage to me. This is significant because I have never been asked before. My first husband told me we were getting married and my second threw the ring box on the dashboard and said "So how 'bout it?" I only wish the first time someone asked me to marry them that it wasn't a complete stranger at a train station. Looking like a young George Clooney does not guarantee a good relationship, even with the totally sexy accent. I said no.
We got everyone to the hotel and his dad to our living room safely. I told you the first part was more interesting.
Tuesday: Getting familiar with Florence
We spent some time walking around town finding the places they would need like a grocery store and gelato and markets. His two nieces are kind of picky eaters and were horrified to discover that I didn't have ketchup in my refrigerator. What were they supposed to eat on their spaghetti? So when we went to the store they presented me with my very own bottle of ketchup (for their dining pleasure) which I will probably never use now that they are gone.
We fed them all lunch in our apartment. All nine of us stuffed into our little kitchen. The girls only like plain pasta (with ketchup) and his dad can't eat garlic or onions (which is all I cook with so I was a little stymied as to how to cook for this group) so we creatively used every pan and dish in the place and everyone managed to eat what they liked. Whew.
We had dinner out. I didn't get the message that I should bring the ketchup with and there were some long faces at the table. Ketchup is an ingredient here, not a condiment. Asking for it is, well, not done.
Tuesday was brought to you by the word smör. Butter, for you English speakers...yes, this is "teach Michele Swedish" week.
Wednesday: Exhaustion sets in
I personally took two naps this day. I'm sure the rest of the group did too. But in between naps we managed to see the city from the overlook at Piazzale Michelangelo and eat yet more gelato.
One note about gelato. It is typical to get more than one flavor in your cup/cone. Even the small ones. And when you buy a big one like Leif's dad always did, well, the more flavors the merrier. Your server will be confused if you don't want at least two flavors (because they certainly would!) His dad wanted only one flavor in the biggest cup. I got used to saying YES, he only wants one flavor, everywhere we went. They were baffled and amused. So much banana, or cafe, or passion fruit in one cup. I don't know how he did it.
Wednesday was brought to you by the words Tack så mycket. Thanks alot, in English.
Thursday: The big birthday
Leif's brother had a birthday this day and the whole day was dedicated to celebrating. First we surprised him at the hotel. When my family plans a surprise there is always noise and possibly water involved. Something unexpected. We knocked on their hotel door and when he opened the door we all stood there. I don't know how to say surprise in Swedish so I understood why I wasn't making noise, but I didn't understand why the rest of them were so quiet. He said "Oy" or something similar, Rebecka handed him the flowers and we all trooped into their room single file to sing happy birthday. I think there is a cultural gulf between what his family considers surprising and what mine does. Mine would agree to show up at noon and then show up at 7am, talk the hotel into giving them a key and enter the room singing happy birthday in 4 parts, ending with a group hug on the bed.
We ate lunch on the roof of a store downtown with a view of the dome. I forgot my ketchup. They survived.
His brother got a massage while we ate gelato. Win-win. But after this week I would kill for a massage.
Then we took the whole family on the city bus across town for drinks with a Swedish couple Leif knows here in Florence. Naturally, Swedish was the official language at this event. I kind of sat to one side and tried to look not too lost. At one point Mariann waved a bottle at me and asked something in Swedish. I naturally replied, "No, tack." In Italian she said that I understood Swedish pretty good. I'm pretty sure I just got lucky there.
They all wanted to go to Pisa to see the tower and then to Viareggio to swim in the ocean. Leif and I both had to work a little so we stayed in Florence and sent them off on their own. I went with them to the train station and rode with them to the first stop to make sure they got going all right and that they understood how to read a train schedule. Leif's sister, his brother's fiance and I were standing in the door of the train while everyone got on. They were talking as I was counting heads and I said, "It's OK, we have all nine of us." They just looked at me and Karin said, "You do understand Swedish." No, I don't. I am just too absurdly lucky.
They headed off for the beach and I went back home. A little disappointed, I have to say. Two different train stations and not one proposal of marriage...
We took the city bus with Leif's dad up to Fiesole so he could see the whole valley. I think (although I can't say for certain, since Tord only speaks Swedish) that he is starting to understand a little better what drew Leif here and what his life is like now.
We had the birthday dinner tonight at a little seafood restaurant by our house. We don't live in a tourist area, so the server didn't understand Swedish or English, and quite frankly didn't want to even try. Eventually everyone found something they liked and Leif got our order placed. None of that American, namby-pamby stuff when the pasta with lobster has little bits of meat in the sauce. Oh no, not here. Here your lobster comes in it's shell, on top of the spaghetti. Too much fun. No one even asked me for ketchup. They were so sweet to celebrate my birthday also, since they were here with us. I got a giant pasta pot for when we have company. It must have been painful to watch us boiling water in two different pots just to feed 9 people.
Saturday was brought to you by the words (phonetically spelled, and poorly at that) vair-so-guut. All my Swedish friends are rolling their eyes right now. I feel it. You're welcome (I think) in English. Leif's dad practiced his "thank you" with me a lot today. Showing off. I can't say vair-so-guut so good.
Sunday: Game day
Most of the group was ready to watch a football (soccer) game this afternoon at the stadium by our house. Through a strange set of circumstances I had an appointment to meet some American tourists and show them a little of Florence for the afternoon.
They just wanted me to take them around Florence without going to all the usual places. So I took them somewhere for lunch and then we walked little streets to gelato and then more little streets back to their meeting point for the group they were traveling with. They brought me ziploc bags (I asked for them, it's not some weird black market kind of thing), bought me lunch and gelato and then (unexpectedly) they paid me for my time. Weird.
We made a final supper for the family at our house. Ketchup was consumed. Rebecka said that Leif's spaghetti was the best, even better than at home. That's a strong statement coming from a 6 year old. We said good-bye to his sister's family then, because she thought it would be easier for the girls than if we came to the hotel in the morning.
Sunday was Swedish word review day...I barely got passing grades.
Monday: The vikings return to their homeland
We walked Leif's dad (and his suitcase, and my suitcase filled with wine) to the hotel so his brother, fiance and dad could take a taxi together to the airport. His sister left earlier that morning. One more gelato, because you can't have too much gelato, and we packed them into the taxi and waved good bye.
When we got home it was very quiet. They aren't my family, but they kind of feel like family. Don't tell anyone, but I think I miss hearing Swedish.