Saturday, July 11, 2009

A columnist

We had a columnist in our local newspaper, Helsingborgs Dagblad, who was a woman. My mother and this columnist were good friends. I can imagine a conversation between these two women, probably in the afternoon, having coffee at Hogvakten Konditory. The conversation went like this. Mother: I am not looking forward to this summer. Gertrud will be out of school in June and she is so difficult to live with. Friend: Oh maybe I can help you out. George (not his name) doesn't like that I live here in the south. Can we send her up to Dalarna to help him out with cleaning and washing and fixing his meals? Mother: What a wonderful idea.

This happened in 1938 and before I knew it I was ensconced in a taxi, with mother's friend. She was going to show me what had to be done and how it was going to be done. Nobody had asked me if I wanted to do this. Mother just informed me that I was going to do it. I was 18 and it was time for me to live elsewhere. It was a lucky break for me, but I did not know it at the time. Our news papers were full of stories about Greta Garbo traveling around Europe with a Symphony director from Philadelphia. They had just crossed into Sweden from Denmark that morning, according to Dagbladet. I crept into the corner of the taxi hoping I could fool my fellow citizens that it was Garbo lurching in the cab.

We reached our destination in the afternoon. Mother's friend quickly showed me the guest room where I was to sleep. And also were I was to spend the evenings, For husband didn't want to socialize with hired help. He was a professor and needed his quiet time. She introduced me to the kitchen and told me what George wanted for breakfast and dinner. She also introduced me to the vacuum cleaner and when George arrived home, after a very cool greeting, she introduced me to him, who did not seem thrilled to have a person foisted on him. And then she said Good bye and escaped in the taxi she had asked to wait and returned to Skane.

They lived in an apartment near the college or university. I met some people who were like a substitute family for me. The work was easy. I had not yet heard what I was going to get paid for this adventure. It could have gone on and on but I made a mistake. One day I decided I should probably make an effort to do more of a cleaning than just dusting around the edges. I took down pictures and rolled up rugs and worked really hard. That was the day his highness decided to come home for lunch. He was met by a room totally messed up. He could not tolerate such a shock and phoned his better half in the south. She hired the same taxi and came the next day to take me back to Skane.

It was a quiet trip back and when I saw we had a visit by my favorite Aunt I was happy I had not missed her. She had asked my sister if she would like to go to America. She said no, she had health issues. So she asked me, and I said YES, and within a couple of weeks I had reservations and a permanent visa and off I went, and all of you know the rest of the story.


Anonymous said...

Life has a funny little way of putting you where you need to be. That was a lucky day for you as it turned out.

weecyn said...

"No good deed goes unpunished." This reminds me of my dad's story of his first job. He was hired as a dishwasher at a restaurant, and stayed late to scrub all the chef's blackened pans to a shiny like-new finish. Of course, the chef was livid when he came in the next day. He had to re-season all his pans. My dad was fired after only a day on the job for his effort.

Arinn said...

How fortunate for you that you were able to escape being a housekeeper for a grumpy old man whose wife didn't even want to live with him!

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

How fortuitous that you decided to do a bit of extra cleaning or you would have never been dismissed home in time to get your aunt's offer.

Haphazardkat said...

So your hard work paid off in a far better way then an extra coin to jingle in your pocket!!
If you hadn't been sent home--we would not have you on blogland :)

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