We lived in a tiny flat on the outskirts of
. From our living room there was a view of the large cemetery with its imposing statues. A solid red brick wall sheltered the dead from the road between us, and the tree-lined rows of headstones. There was one bedroom and a kitchenette, separated from the living room by a stripy yellow and red curtain. Both the rooms had large windows. The flat occupied a corner of the house and had two aspects: one to the road and the cemetery, one to the children’s play area between our block and the next. These were flats built after the war; made of solid stone, made to house the new generation. Three of them stood side by side, guarding the cemetery and the road, with young families, like us, inside. Tampere, Finland
My sister Anja was two and a half when I emerged quietly and with little pain to my mother. She’d walked two kilometres to the maternity hospital, Naistenklinikka, past the cemetery to the centre of town. Pappa and Anja were still asleep when the phone call came that another little girl had been born prematurely. There was disappointment in Pappa’s voice, I was told later. He'd been desperate for a son, but when Mamma came home with me, and Pappa held me for the first time he said: ‘This little girl I like! We'll call her Lisa, after Mona Lisa with the mysterious smile.’ From that moment on Pappa was my hero and I could do no wrong.
Pappa was a big man with blue eyes but delicate feet and hands. Those hands could fix anything: a broken vase, a punctured bicycle tyre, a creaky door. His mouth was curved, and when he smiled his eyes had a kind look, instead of the sad one he usually wore. When times were good, he’d joke and make up stories whilst I sat on his lap, tugging his flabby earlobe between my thumb and forefinger. The softness of Pappa’s earlobe made me dreamy, the silky feeling of it comforted my whole being as I rested my wispy blonde hair against his strong chest. I believe we were both happy then.
everything changed. Stockholm
Picture source: R. Branthin 22.1.1957, Tampereen museoiden kuva-arkisto.