Wintriest month. Darkest month. Sunless month. December. Christmas and New Year are three weeks away. Festive sparks are all around in and around Gothenburg even if someone wants to keep away from those festive sparks of sights and sounds.
Coloured lights on streets. Sounds of choir seeping out through the pores of a church. Psalms battling to get out of an apartment. Songs seeping out from earphones of a passer-by. Music streaming out through a chink restaurant.
Windows of many houses show candles glowing lightly gracefully. The lights hinting vaguely to this light in living beings and to that light above and beyond the imagined and unimaginable worlds.
The light that lights the life.
The spirit of festivity diffuses. The time when dormant humaneness in human beings stirs or swells or sprouts for a fellow creature known or unknown to show that inherent humaneness.
Helga Lindenbaum sits in her majestic sofa chair and makes a list of gifts to give and list of cards to write. At any time two or three cousins from a Carolina state in the Bible Belt of USA can send her a card. She is neither religious nor anti-religious nor secular saving for embracing the festive time. Her cousins on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in the USA have become more and more religious while Sweden, she and her extended family on this side of Pacific Ocean have become either more and more secular or more irreligious. Or keeping their hearts on matters of religion deeply buried among themselves for social-political correctness or for a reason related to assertive individualism.
Neatly couched in comfort, Helga presses a button on the remote-controller to switch a channel on television to watch a period drama. In the transition, she passes a channel and a word catches her attention: forgiving. This is the seventh time she hears the word ‘forgiving’ in less than a week. She came across ‘forgiving’ on an advert from her smartphone, listening to the radio when she drove, overheard a conversation from a man in front of her when she stood in the queue at a Systembolaget, a car driver uttering it to another driver in a parking lot at Nordstan, from a friend who used the word during a casual conversation, and from a brochure dropped into her mailbox.
Life is wonderful, and its wonders can only be more and more if not less and less, Helga thinks while she writes her lists. She switches the channel to know about ‘what is happening’. There is a news report about Kiruna’s weather!
Born and raised in southwestern Sweden, she surmised who would go up and up of Sweden. And, Kiruna is the far north of Sweden’s Lappland. Unless, someone is like her elder brother.
The siblings are estranged for more than a decade. Helga was angry with him for he extracted, or, nicked money and materials from his widowed mother and disappeared from her when she needed some attention. Helga the daughter demonstrated devotional attention to her mother with her visits to the care home in Varberg. The estranged siblings saw each other during their mother’s funeral but ignored one another.
Her brother did not figure in her list of gifts to give and list of cards to write, or to make a phone call. She doesn’t know whether he is single or has a woman or has managed to raise a family. And, Kiruna is far away not only from Stockholm, but further away from Gothenburg.
Helga has her younger brother’s mobile number with whom the relation continues. Every year the youngest of the three siblings, sends the elder brother’s number to his elder sister and sends his elder sister’s number to his elder brother hoping one or the other would call each other.
‘Forgiving’ echoes but anger over her brother’s past behaviour further angers her. But who is she to judge? Doesn’t he has the right to his mother’s money and materials? Humans make mistakes. Elder brother behaved lowly, meanly but?
Whether to call or not to call, weighs on her mind but ‘forgiving’ continues to echo on her mind as she sits comfortably: legs stretched out. Her stubbornness to severe relations with her elder brother relaxes. She calls him. His phone rings. He answers, “Who is …”
“Gustav,” Helga says.
The voice on the other side changes to a cry, “I want to call you but afraid you may not answer…” and the crying voice continues “…”.
The siblings speak endlessly into the wintriest night in the warmth of siblings’ re-connection amidst spirit of festivity.
Christmastime: time for forgiveness.