Parent(s)’ Lightness in Darkness

Parent(s)' Lightness in Darkness

The moment the clock on the steeple tower of the church, Annedalskyrkan, shows 7, Emmalee Lindau shows herself up at Linnéplatsen with her child in the pram.

The child is asleep, deeply, comfortably, warmth in coldness.

Turning the pram around, Emmalee looks around for Stefan Lilliehorn but he is not around. The commuters at the bus- and tram-stop are few possibly it is winter, possibly it is drizzly, possibly many advanced their outdoor activities, and possibly headed to their houses earlier. The kiosk that sells drinks, edibles and tobacco is also shut, anyway it is shut most of the time in the day and most of the days in a year.

Tram 1 arrives.

Stefan gets off from the tram and looks for Emmalee, and their child. He fails to find them. With his mobile phone in hand, he thinks to call Emmalee, but her earlier warnings preclude him from calling her: ‘Don’t call me unnecessarily.’ From the tram stop he walks towards the kiosk and the bus stop. Emmalee notices Stefan but keeps silent and motionless but keeps moving the pram with the child, to and fro, motioning the child to keep asleep, deeply lest if the child wakes up. And, she has a tryst this evening: night out, and she would not like to be late.

Without a hint of hurry, Stefan lingers by the kiosk.

Pushing the pram faster, Emmalee comes towards Stefan. ‘You’re late,’ she says. ‘I do not want this to be repeated again.’

‘It’s only three minutes past seven,’ he answers looking at the time on his mobile phone.

‘But it’s late. It’s okay,’ she states. ‘Milk and food is in the bag, when you return make sure you refill them. We meet here next week. I’ve to go.’

Emmalee wants to see her child, for one last time in this week. The child is asleep, deeply, wearing an almost unnoticeable smile but the mother notices the smile. She smiles at her asleep child, and unlocks her hands from the pram, and leaves.

Stefan wants to compliment her on her beauty, and to enquire about her evening but she is gone. With his unexpressed words, he holds the handle of the pram and peers at the child.

The child is asleep, deeply, comfortably, warmth in coldness but the child stirs in the pram. Something has disappeared: the familiar scent of the mother. The child opens the eyes, and sees a man in the place of a woman. The child shrieks out. The waiting commuters turn their heads in the direction of the father and the pram. Stefan lowers his head into the pram, and hisses to his child, ‘Pappa is here, we go to our home.’

The child mumbles, ‘Mamma.’

Stefan grasps the handle of the pram, and motions like the mother motioned. The first week of his fulltime parenting begins from this week. The child will be parented by the mother and the father, separately, every alternate week with a parent, the result of their separation. The child continues to cry. Stefan wakes up to the reality of the child’s unstoppable cry. With the crying child, he walks towards the tram stop, and the next Tram 1 is scheduled to arrive in 8 minutes. The eyes of the commuters are on the father and his child. Stefan moves the pram towards the entrance of the semi-forest Slottskogen.

Winter in roar.

Stefan places himself in a grassy patch closer to the tram stop, and searches for the bag of milk and food, and he extricates the milk bottle, and tries to feed the child.

The child mumbles, ‘Mamma.’

The silence in the darkness is punctuated rhythmically by the cries of the child. The wintry darkness in the vicinity is patchily interrupted by the light from the lampposts.


Stefan claps his hand to distract the child’s mind from the mother.


Unable to find a way, Stefan unloosens his hands from the pram, and claps his hand, moves back and moves forward to a leap. He leaps over to the other side of the pram. The child stops crying. Where is he? And Stefan leaps to the front again, and clasps his hand. The child’s cry slows down but mumbles, ‘Mamma.’

Stefan leaps and plays hide and seek. The child shifts between the fear of absence of father and the comfort of presence of father. The athletic and gymnastic in Stefan comes to the fore. The manoeuvres attract the child as his athleticism and gymnastics turn clownish. Stefan jumps and dances like he did not jumped in a decade.

The mumbles for mamma recedes from the child smiles.

Stefan feels a sliver of success, the perfume of parenthood: The lightness in darkness.

—Lucinda Palme