Flash! Friday’s weekly writing challenge gives you two items that must be in your short story – short in that it has to be within 190-210 words. The challenge for this week is that you need to feature a construction reference along with the theme of being ‘defeated’.
This story didn’t immediately come to me. I started a few different stories before coming across this idea. It’s something that I think about a lot actually. My grandfather, who I never met, came to the U.S. from Sweden. My family owns a cottage at a Swedish club in Southeast Michigan that he had after he moved to the States. So, in a way we still are able to honor our Swedish heritage – and that has always been important to me. On numerous occasions I’ve tried to learn Swedish for myself even though no one else wants to learn it. (It’s hard to retain the words when their isn’t anyone to talk to.) I cook Swedish foods, listen to the music, read about the history, traditions and customs. I love Sweden.
But why? Like the son says in the story, “What’s the point?”
Why learn the language when more than likely I’ll never make it to Sweden? Besides our cottage and the summer get togethers they hold, the closest I get to Sweden is the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago or our nearby IKEA. You don’t need Svenska to order the meatballs.
This is the identity crisis I’ve had with my food blog. It is mainly about the food of New Orleans. I’ve shared some great Creole and Cajun recipes while trying to get across my love of Southern Louisiana. But I don’t live there. I’ve only been there a couple of times. No matter what I think – I’m not a New Orleanian. It doesn’t matter how many hurricane drinks I’ve had, I’ve never been through a hurricane, or a dry, muggy summer, a secondline, or a Jazz Fest. And that has slowed me down writing about the area. Even though it is a popular blog, and I’ve had it going since 2011, I always wonder: Who wants to hear what I have to say about NOLA?
Same goes with my interest in Sweden. My whole name is Swedish. But I’m not really Swedish. Like with New Orleans: it doesn’t matter how many meatballs I make, how many open-faced herring sandwiches I eat, or that lingonberries goes on almost everything. Not that I need a certificate that claims me as an honorary Swede, it’s just something that always crosses my mind.
I want to keep that connection to Sweden. I want my kids to want that connection and be proud that their last name is Swedish. But, like the narrator of the story, I fear the same thing – my kids won’t care about their heritage – whether on my side or on my wife’s side.
Are you connected to your heritage? Do you care where your ancestors came from? Or, do you love your family heritage and others wonder why? Leave your comment below.
Here is the link to my story on the Flash!Friday website. You can read the comments that were left for my story. Be sure to follow Flash!Friday while you are there!
Johan’s funeral was small – just me and a couple of his closest friends. Most of his family had already died or still lived in northern Sweden. He looked peaceful in the casket. I whispered a final goodbye to him in Swedish. He had taught me the language after my father died in a construction accident when I was a boy. Johan and my father came over from Sweden together and began building many of the structures in our area together. Johan always had a story to tell while I drove him around on his errands, and it was always in Swedish.
We gave each other a connection to the way life was when my father was alive. He was able to share stories of his homeland while I could get a sense of my heritage. As they lowered him into the earth, a part of me was buried along with him – the words and memories would fade away.
I asked my son to learn Swedish. I told him I would teach him. He would have fun learning the traditions as we practiced together.
“What’s the point? We live in America. Most of them speak English anyway,” he told me.
Now, I sit here as it all långsamt blekna.
Copyright © 2015 E.F. Olsson. All rights reserved.
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