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Normal.

10 April 2012

Before anyone else in the house stirred I sat at the table with my morning coffee, groggy, but relieved that today had finally come. We made it – we survived Easter 2012.

Through the kitchen window I watched the rain splattering into the puddles where the grass should be, and I realized that for the first time in four days a damp newspaper awaited me in the little black box by our drive. Still in my bathrobe I donned my knee-high rubber boots, grabbed an umbrella and hopped outside.

Of course absolutely nothing had happened in Norway over the past ten days, but I cuddled the warmth of my coffee cup against my chest and flipped through the pages of Aftenposten because this is what I always do in the morning before anyone else wakes up.

Today’s cover story: a factory in Røros produces office chairs that are shipped as far away as Asia! and America! Page 2: the traditional reindeer-driving race is underway in Karasjok. Nestled all the way back on page 14: the usual diagram concerning what exactly did happen and where and when on 22 July (today comprising a full two-page spread). Nothing has changed. All is back to normal. Predictable. Comforting.

Today will be the first day of my vacation, I think. And I smile.

Squawking sea gulls swarm over the street outside, apparently having also returned from their cabins late last night. They remind me that today is trash day. School children gather under brightly colored dots of umbrellas at the end of the street. Today I will go down to my office as I always do after dropping the kids off at school and daycare, and return to the work that I have neglected for a week.

Ah, normal life. I take a deep breath and loosen my shoulders. Normal is good.

My son has Asperger Syndrome and he, too, knows it’s going to be a good day. He counts the kitchen tiles on the wall as he does each morning before school: one tile up for each good class on the schedule, one down for every one he doesn’t like. He has Norwegian today (one down), but with gym and nature class he can count two back up and finish up. “I am excited to go back to school today,” he told me.

I make his lunch exactly as I have every day for the past five years: one slice of Jarlsberg cheese on Pågen lantgoda bread with the butter that comes in the white and yellow pack; five red pepper slices – cut into long sticks and not circles; and one yellow apple sliced down the middle and wrapped in paper so it doesn’t taste like the other food in the lunch box.

These are the things that make him feel good about his day.

Even though I hate the noisy seagulls that leave dirty white streaks on our car and terrace (one tile down), there they are, circling our street because it is Tuesday – trash day (one tile up!), and the stores are open today (another up!) and the mail will come again (one more up!) and the rain is falling even harder now, but I know this rain. This rain is normal. These are the things that make me feel good about my day.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 April 2012 11:49

    Having just returned to Hungary after a weekend in Vienna, I heartily appreciate this salute to the Normal.

    Also: my boyfriend and I have started booking our Norwegian road trip around syttende mai, and we WILL be in Bergen for a couple of days! I’d love to shoot you an email about it!

  2. Goodness and Grit permalink
    10 April 2012 13:16

    There really is something as simple as tile counting about normalcy. We had a wonderful guest from the states that could not believe how things and people STOP for such a long period of time during Easter.

    `You have to be well planned! I´m a fly by the seat of your pants kinda person for meals, I´d NEVER survive in Norway´, he said.

    I responded with, `You learn to relax. If you forget to buy eggs for Easter, just have the kids paint a potato.´

    Now to put the groceries away (one tile up) and tend the pile of laundry from the cabin (two tiles down) 😉 I count tiles happily today for normal is good.
    Klem,
    Kimberly

    • 10 April 2012 13:30

      I’m glad you like the tile counting! 🙂 I realized that my need to have a coffee and get the newspaper was not so very different in terms of securing a good day for myself.

      You are absolutely right about learning to relax. On day 2 we realized we were out of toothpaste. Oh well. I think often of how conditioned we are in the US to keep buying rather than using what we have. Easter forces us to deal with it! Actually, I think my next year’s post should be on how Easter shuts down the shopper instinct. When we lived in Toronto I would shop every day. What did we feel like having for dinner tonight? It’s exciting, but I certainly waste less here by creating a shopping list for the whole week and trying to re-use ingredients several nights in a row. And to think: up until 20, 30 years ago, that was just how everyone got by!

    • 10 April 2012 13:30

      Oh ya, and I’m with you on the laundry. I would rather clean behind the toilet than wash, dry and fold laundry!

  3. 10 April 2012 14:40

    Good day Tweedledee,

    We could have changed houses and never even noticed, except I drink tea, otherwise our mornings was unbelievable identical!

    Your friend Tweedledum

    • 11 April 2012 04:32

      🙂 I’m glad this resonanted! Thanks for your post on World Autism Day — that got me thinking!

      • 11 April 2012 15:17

        I can see that, and now you opened up and wrote a beautiful post.
        All the best to you…

  4. 10 April 2012 14:59

    What may look dull and boring to some can be very comforting to others. I think I have used up most of my lifetime supply of adrenalin and find calm and relaxed to be a much better state of being. If I don’t do things as a routine I tend to forget them entirely. Tile counting seems like a good way to keep track.

    • 11 April 2012 04:36

      Hi Jon! One thing I think about _ a lot _ is how much the old Protestant work ethic has been engrained into me. So much so that I don’t even know how to relax (which might actually be genetic as well: all my relatives are Swiss. I don’t think its a very relaxed nation … you know, with the watches and all.) But vacation is actually hard for me to do. So I get what you mean by lifetime supply of adrenalin and so I am trying my darnedest to learn to be calm. Or to just BE. I find Norwegians are pretty good at just being. No stress, no “HAVE TO HAVE IT TODAY!!!”. (I worked in marketing for a major international toy company in Toronto and I used to laugh when people sent me memos that were marked “Urgent!!!!” …. is someone dying here?)

      Anyway, I am trying to appreciate the dull and boring and calm, because there is worth in those moments, too!

  5. Anita permalink
    10 April 2012 15:28

    Hi jena. This is one of your best. And why does a cup of coffee feel so good in our hands? I’ve always wondered. Luv ya, mom

    • 11 April 2012 04:32

      Looking forward to having coffee with you soon here, Mom! Love you.

  6. Heidi permalink
    10 April 2012 20:12

    Hi Jena loved the blogg! Thanks for inspiring me to look for the positive in a “normal day” … especially today when the car didn’t start and i had to sit in traffic (for what felt like years) before i got to work – two tiles down. Got home made a cup of tea and read your blogg (ten tiles up!!). I love tile counting ;)))

  7. 4 May 2012 19:15

    Yes! I have a No Change–No Disruptions policy. I was the ONLY schoolkid who hated summer vacation. Some time around third grade, my mom switched us to year-round school and I was ecstatic. Seriously, that’s how schedule oriented I am:)

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