I recently found an old photograph of me as a three-year-old in our cabin by the lake. The wallpaper behind me is blue and flowery, and the coffee cups on the table are small and flowery too. I am wearing a silly wig. Next to me is my granddad, tanned and lean, and my great-granny in her orange ‘70s polyester number.

Everyone is laughing. But not at me and my silly wig. We are laughing together. I look happy but unaware of how lucky I am to be sitting by a lake in the Swedish countryside, feasting on buns. I can almost hear the birds over the water and smell the petrol from the mower now – familiar senses from my childhood.

Sometimes I forget that I was once surrounded by several generations of loving family. What a beautiful gift. When you don’t live where you grew up, you can feel a little rootless at times, a little lost. Sometimes I envy people who live near their old haunts, memories present in their daily life. I am sure that can be claustrophobic too, but when you miss having family around you, it seems really lovely, and safe.

I know my exile is a choice, and therefore a luxury in itself, but I don’t know what you do when you feel far away. Maybe you FaceTime a lot or celebrate every cultural highlight with fervor. This spring, I think I might just throw on a silly wig, drive out to a Scottish loch with a bag of buns and remember that my memories of family and childhood can live on here. And, most of all, that it is OK to sometimes wish you were still three years old and back in Sweden with your grandad.

Gabi Froden

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