This really great show just aired in Sweden and I was lucky to be able to watch it. Sometimes I can't watch certain things since I am in another country. It's called "Bye Bye Sverige (Sweden)" and it tells the story of the great immigration to America that happened between 1840 and 1914. I love how the actors tell the stories in a very amusing and yet sympathetic way. Because immigrating is not easy no matter when you do it, but 150 years ago it was basically hell. In total 50 million Europeans moved here. Of course the government had decided to forcefully remove the Native Americans to make room for white people who were considered "better". Because we couldn't just all live peacefully next to one another... no, that would be a crazy idea apparently. At the time Swedes was going through a rough patch. There was a drought, people were very poor and only had one religion to choose from. Their families and friends who had already moved were bragging about how amazing this new country was. After all, it wasn't easy to leave everything you have ever know, sit on a boat for two months and then realizing it wasn't a whole lot better. Their pride must have taken a hard hit since Swedes were considered the lowest on the social scale in America. It wasn't until the Italians started immigrating too that we were bumped up a little bit at a time, to where we are today. But after a few generations, the Americans with Swedish heritage have adjusted, learned the English language and feel at home here. 1/4 of the Swedish population left their home country since their lives were so bad. Some went back to Sweden after a few years of hardship but the others tried to make it work. A lot of relatives on my grandfather's side moved to America which is interesting. I am right now trying to figure out what happened to them by speaking to distant relatives online. It's nice in a way to know that I am surrounded by relatives all over this country.
Despite that so many years have flown by since then, I recognized myself in their stories a lot. That feeling of being restless, wanting to see the world and not just live in the same old place. Some of those farmers had never even seen what was beyond their village. The sons would inherit the farms that their grandfather's and father's had worked on. And the women did the same old chores that they always had. When they were told that America was all about freedom, finding gold, equality and wearing fancy hats... they didn't have much to lose. But it came with a prize. Which was to leave everyone they had ever known, to probably never see them again. It wasn't as easy to travel back and forth as it is now. But I know that feeling of wanting to go back for a visit and not having the money for it. It's an important thing to do because time flies by fast, but then another bill comes and then another one.
In the TV-program they talked about how common the Nostalgia syndrome was among Swedish immigrants. That feeling of trying to fit in even though you don't speak the language perfectly or even at all, missing Sweden, not being able to show your children the places where you used to play, the safety net around you of family and friends, the sense of humor that you are used to. It's hard because you leave the place where certain things are taken for granted. Who you are, what your city is like, everyone speaks the same language, everyone have the same traditions. Your identity is strongly connected to your daily life. Big holidays become very important. It's not longer just something that you do a few times a year. It's represents who you are and old nostalgic memories. It's important that the food is the same. And that the people around the table understands your feelings around that time of year. A lot of Swedes who had immigrated used to gather at someone's house for Christmas and for a few hours they created the illusion of being back home again. That is an illusion that I don't have right now since we can't even afford a visit to IKEA this Christmas. Normally I can somehow fake it a bit by buying some Swedish treats there. I am looking forward to the time when we can decorate our own home and celebrate our traditions in a way that fits both me and Nick. But I do worry that our holidays will be quite empty since we won't have family close by and our friends will be celebrating with their families of course.
Things change a lot when you move to another country. Things get harder. But I want this. So now it's all about choosing the right words to keep going. I am not going to hope to get what I want, I will get it. I am getting it. I don't want doubts in my head because that is useless. I will have a Christmas one day that feels complete with me, Nick and our future kids. And our families and friends will come and go throughout the years depending on who can afford the trip. But Christmas shouldn't be ruined just because everyone can't be together.