Sweden

Wandering through Stockholm on a bright fall day, the sky blazed blue over autumn breezes that shivered in from the Baltic Sea. I did not expect to be visiting Sweden this year with Jake and Eli for their fall break. This was one last Mommy Trip, while they’re still young enough to go along with me and think my ideas are (sort of) fun. Fourteen-year olds are a slowly slipping treasure, but for now, they are still mine.

I also did not expect all these grand palaces and majestic ships, or the horsedrawn carriage with a crown on top, or the cavalry and rows of ceremonial soldiers escorting the King. I did not expect to teach my kids about the Nobel Prize, or the story of a painful ego that led to the sinking of the most expensive ship ever built, or that we would spend a morning immersed in the electric energy of Avicii. It was all sort of dreamlike, except that it happened, and I feel like the luckiest mom on earth.

When the wind got too cold, we found a cafe with outdoor heaters and blankets that sold giant bowls of hot chocolate. We split soup and Swedish smorgas with brown bread piled high with sprouts, and spent hours walking first to Storterget Square, then all over Stockholm’s islands. We heard the crazy story of the Vasa and saw the wreckage pulled from the sea, intact after over 300 years under water. Even crazier was our decision to rent electric scooters and ride them home through rush hour traffic! But with the sun shining and the wind in our hair, we all loved it.

At night we walked again, because Stockholm was so beautiful at night. We took a Ghost Tour and ordered Italian food in Swedish, and marveled at the Nobel tradition that shuts the city down with glamorous banquets and family parties at home in front of the TV. The city at twilight was a bustle of people, riding bikes and coming home from work on the Metro, and it reminded us of Paris, both busy and peaceful at the same time. The sidewalk was littered with golden leaves, someone was playing music, and a flyer for a Sigur Ros concert was taped to a light post. “I could live here.” Jake said it, but we all agreed. With the seasonal weather and beautiful buildings and all the tall people; yes, we could live here.

Back in our room, we took a break with snacks and Sneaky Sasquatch, and tried the local chocolate. Our Ibis hotel was in a nice location, across from an old church on a tree-lined street with giant windows, just like Vienna. The train was nearby and we magically navigated the schedule every time, I think even well enough that the boys stopped being embarrassed by their Mom Asking Dumb Questions. It’s a fine line between being competent and embarrassing, isn’t it? It was okay to ask if we were buying tickets for the right train, but at breakfast when I asked what was in the juice shots, that was a step too far. I also learned, after trying everything on the buffet, that I don’t really like cardamom bread.

On our last morning, Jake saw a metro sign advertising the Avicii Experience. Grand, inspiring, pulsing with life, an educational insight on the highs of fame alongside the lows of mental illness, it was maybe the best thing we did. Looking at these pictures I feel the energy again and am so glad Jake and Eli felt it too.

Eli and Jake have a lifetime left of new experiences beyond what I will ever know. This window I have to do life with them is closing fast, and since we’re actually Swedish, I want this memory to be included in their Forever. The memory that they were worth it, will always be worth it, all the way to the Arctic Circle and back.