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Long Days in the Summerhouse

After her birth, Maria's family lived for a few years in a high-rise apartment in Stockholm in the south of Sweden. Her mother Greta was a nurse; her father Olle an engineer. Ultimately, at the age of 42, Maria would herself become a nurse, although a much different type than her mother. However, it was with her father, whom Maria idealized, that she had the strongest bond, one that would last a lifetime.

While living in the Stockholm apartment Maria, at the age of 5, met another young girl named Ann-Kristin who lived in the same building. The two young girls formed a close friendship. Soon afterwards, Maria's family moved back to Sundsvall in the far north, where Maria was born, while Ann-Kristin stayed in Stockholm. Nevertheless, the two girls stayed in touch and spent their summers together.

For most of Maria's childhood, her family owned what the Swedish call a sommarstuga, or summerhouse, where Maria spent her summers. (This is very common in Sweden.) At first, the family had a summerhouse in Gotland, a large island in southern Sweden in the Baltic Sea. Later, after the family moved back to Sundsvall, they bought a summerhouse close to home. In both places, every year, Ann-Kristin would come from Stockholm to visit and the two girls would spend the whole summer together, remaining best friends for many years, even after Maria had moved to the U.S.

Maria and Ann-Kristin loved being together and, like many Swedish people on vacation, would spend most of their hours outside: playing in the nearby fields and forests, exploring, and gathering leaves and flowers. (Summer days in Sweden are very long.) One of Maria's fondest memories was of her and Ann-Kristin collecting wildflowers to take to the wife of a nearby farmer, who would then give the girls homemade cake.

It was during these summers, in the company of Ann-Kristin, that Maria would demonstrate the first evidence of her unusual creativity, as well as a natural talent for organization. As a young girl, Maria would write poems and, once in a while, a play which would feature her and Ann-Kristin. She would direct the play and produce it with such materials that were on hand. The two girls would then put on a performance for her family and such friends and relatives who might be visiting.

At times, Maria would also use her creativity to conjure up imaginative practical jokes, which the two girls would then play on unsuspecting adults. Sometimes they would end up scaring the old people and then laughing about it afterwards (all in good fun, of course).

meet me back in the summertime,
forest wide and open 
for exploring, with wildflowers 
bright in our hands. 

                    oh long-day magic,

make space for our play -
for a homemade taste,
sweet on our tongues.

Poem by Zoe Branch. 

[left] Maria as a young girl, enjoying Click the picture to display a larger image.
nature at her family's summerhouse
on the island of Gotland in Sweden.
(Notice Maria is holding a cat.)
[right] March 3, 2016.
Maria at 56 years old, enjoying
nature at Cold Springs Trail
in Santa Barbara.

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