dry timber cracked when I climbed upstairs in the church bell tower.
As a child I often climbed up and down here and now on this early
summer day during a casual visit to my home village, I will once again
experience a glimpse into the world of my childhood. I remember the
dizzy feeling when I looked from the platform down at the abyss between
the coarse, crossed beams that formed the skeleton of the bell tower.
When the custodian rang the bell, the whole tower shook.
one had a creepy sensation while standing on the landing that led
out to the rotten wooden balcony. But in the company of other boys
it was not suitable to show anxiety. To the contrary, one gamely stepped
out on the balcony and turned around a few times. We had thought of
a way to manage if the rotten floor suddenly gave in under us. We
would stretch out our coats and easily sail down! To our good fortune,
we never needed to become acquainted with the parachute jumping profession
because the floor still holds up today. But now I have no inclination
to step out on the unsteady boards.
here inside the glass covered tower and see the buildings of Solv
as on a tray below me. So much is new and changed, but I remember
how it was before. Below my feet is the cemetery, now a fine cared-for
burial place with gravel walks, grass and family graves, but in olden
times a forgotten place, where tired wooden crosses leaned on thorny
rose bushes and mossy lilac bushes. I still remember the feeling of
absolute and undisturbed peace that prevailed, the air drowsy with
the scent of lilacs and roses, with butterflies fluttering over the
dazzling scenery. On Sunday morning dark-clad old women, with fringed
shawls over their heads and with hymnbooks, handkerchief and sprigs
of southernwood in their hands, wandered between the graves on their
way to church while the air vibrated with ringing bells.
west adjacent to the church yard was Herrbacken with large red-painted
farm houses, and behind them spread the Söderfjärd in a
wide green carpet, covered with countless barns. Presently an electric
pumping device now brings water from the bottom of the old lake, giving
a rich harvest of clover and timothy on the ground, where earlier
a scanty crop was harvested by haymakers who waded with scythe in
hand between the tufts of sedge and cottongrass. In the northeast
there's a similar change that occurred at Grynnan when they drained
the bottom of Söderfjärd where we as children ran barefoot
on the broiling hot clay soil that cracked in the sun, while startled
curlews and snipe flew up out of the reeds.
by Söderfjärd and Grynnan lie the villages of Solv, Öster-
and Västerfjärd, along the winding ribbon of the highway
for a stretch of more than 3 km with the church as a center and connecting
point. Side by side along the stretch of road lie the red cottages
with white corners and gaily colored porches, surrounded by long outhouses
and spreading yards. The houses give evidence of prosperity. Many
of them with roofs covered with galvanized sheet-metal or tile. In
my childhood, 30 years ago, the village also had poorer unpainted
buildings, with roofs of birch-bark or straw.
kilometers east is Mobacken with the buildings clustered together.
They are facing in different directions with only a little patch of
cultivated ground around the individual yards. The same impression
of prosperity that is seen outside the buildings is revealed inside
the cottages. One now sees pieces of furniture from furniture stores,
cooking stoves and linoleum flooring where earlier there were benches
fastened to the wall, sturdy homemade chairs and tables, open shelves
and high beds with handwoven bed curtains, while in the corner stood
a huge white-washed open fireplace and the floor was covered with
bright rag rugs in a row over highly polished floorboards. Previously
in the cottage there was a pole hanging between the roof edges from
which hung round disks of dry bread with a hole in the center. Daily
the mother in the house cut much bread from the pole for hungry young
children. Butter on the bread was used only on holy days. Wheat was
not universal at the time, so white bread was an unusual delicacy.
bread, barley meal porridge and potatoes were the framework of their
daily diet. Many sound old men and women lived to be close to 100
years of age. Those old folks could tell about olden times when there
were unruly and uncontrolled people. A time when neither schools nor
associations were available that could improve the mind; when there
were wild fights and people running amok burning houses, inspired
by schnapps that was brewed in all the homes. As a memory of this
burning time, there are many who in my childhood burned the cottages
at many farms in the village.
on Christmas morning the dark journey with the way lined by hundreds
of blinking candles in the farmhouse windows, while people in sleds
glided along with jingling sleigh bells on their way to the radiant
Christmas church. I remember the summers when happy wedding parties
wandered along the birch-lined roads with outriders and musicians
and the bridal couple, who sometimes stopped and solemnly bowed to
the spectators on the edge of the road. A picture that remains the
same through the times, though the years and seasons change. One picture
that is especially etched in my mind relates to Walpurgis Day in the
summer when lively flocks of very happy children leaped around with
meadow path to Långmossen is a memory connected with the daily
trek of 5 km from the village to the pasture behind a herd of cows.
Herd after herd the cows came along the way from the village or Mobacken
with the children who drove them. It was a problem to make sure that
no strange cow came in among ones own because everyone became upset,
and it was not good for children of 10 years of age to be involved
in fights. The procession of cows and children was enlivened by Gubbin
and Brita, two "original" old folks, who could not do much work other
than to drive the cows to pasture.
shiny bald head gleamed in the distance. The children were afraid
of him. He went barefoot with ski boots hanging from the handle of
an axe that he carried on his shoulder. The crazy old man was an effective
scavenger; he would poke all the spoor the cows left on the path down
into the ditch with a stick. During this state of affairs his herd
of cows stopped alongside, to the hindrance of the young herdsmen
who came after and dared not hurry the old man along. Brita was a
little bent, white-haired creature for whom neither cows nor children
had any respect. She screamed and shouted blue murder at her cows
but the cows were so accustomed to the noise that they did not mind
in the least.
of the farms in Långmossen had animal sheds where the women
went to milk in the evening. In the morning the milk was taken to
the village. The children would be left during the day out in the
cow sheds where they fed themselves with hard bread and milk from
the cool dark milk room. Days were spent mostly in the woods where
the young trotted around, filled with the dread of seeing the wood
spirit, or that a big goblin would peep out from behind a large stone.
In the deep thicket the air was filled with the suffocating scent
of bag myrtle and the black eyes of chickweed wintergreen shone with
a splash of gold. The woods crawled and swarmed with small life. By
evening every spot on the body was full of itching insect bites. But
sleeping in a bed of straw was, nevertheless, good.
this excursion along the roadway we glance back to the village that
lies so peacefully embedded in the early summer greenery, hoping that
evil and anxiety would not come there. The line of white markers down
in the cemetery speak their silent message of the hard grip of war
on parish life. Despite everything, changes are made in ingrained
customs and progress advances step by step. But much of the old and
bygone days lingers in the memory with a feeling of sadness. It is
true that childhood experiences of one's memory are bathed by a shimmer
of lost paradise and a gleam that, with time and distance, increases
in warmth and brilliance.