Ladies, and some exceptional gentleman, I recently fulfilled a childhood dream. Are you sitting down?
I picked wild flowers, fashioned them into a crown and frolicked in the countryside on a midsummer’s day; exactly like a storybook princess.
Now that you’ve stopped weeping gleefully, here’s what happened.
Once upon a time, I studied abroad for 10 months in Uppsala, Sweden, where I learned many life-lessons and came away with some very solid friends. This summer, my friend Katie, whom I met there, and I re-visited those lessons and friends, and my heart exploded all over the place. I cried when we landed, I cried when we left, but the highlight of our two-week stay was Midsummer.
Midsummer is the celebration of summer solstice, the second most-observed holiday in Scandinavia behind Christmas, which exists to appreciate the minimal months of warmth and sunshine.
On our third day in Sweden my two dearest Swedish friends, Tobes and Po, took us to a brick-red farmhouse surrounded by lush greenery and colorful blooms. Behind the house was a clothesline, because of course there was, and a herd of sheep grazed in the shade. Coolers filled with ice and beer sat on the front stoop where about 80 guys named Daniel and two sisters named Anette and Ann-Sofie welcomed us with open arms — literally. Hugs all around.
Before we knew it, we were at a park with beers in-hand standing before the midsummer maypole, which is essentially a giant staff covered in foliage, topped by a huge triangle with two wreaths dangling from the bottom corners. Children and seniors dressed in old-timey Swedish get-ups danced around the big, green phallus to the heaves of an accordion. People frolicked through the park wearing crowns made of flowers and I never wanted for anything so badly in my life.
My desire turned into quite a shameful American moment when I actually scoured the park for someone selling ready-made crowns. They’d make a killing off those things, so of course they’d have them for what? 150 kronor? But they weren’t for sale, and do you know why? People actually made the effort to pick flowers in the sunshine with their families, probably while holding hands, without entrepreneurial motives. Imagine that! Feeling like an asshole, I took a swig off my 7.5% tall boy and accepted my childhood wish would not come true.
Back at the red farmhouse, Anette handed Katie and I clear cups filled with assorted berries and vodka, and led us out to the country road lined by vast, green fields dotted with flowers. Does this mean what I think it means? Are we going to pick flowers in the countryside beneath the sun that never sets, to then be worn in our hair? Can everyone see the cardiovascular tissue being forced through my ribs from the overflow of happiness in my heart? It doesn’t hurt at all! Is this what dying feels like? I hope so!
The ladies set out into the fields while the Daniels and the other men readied the table to dine al fresco on pickled herring, or sill in Swedish. Katie and I skipped down the road like champions and the Swedish girls definitely thought we were idiots, but to be fair, we were. Flower picking to them is like finding syringes in the sandbox for us — no big deal. We collected blossoms with names like “priests collar” and “bitch tooth,” and were eaten alive by mosquitoes. “Check for tics!” the sisters reminded us. My cheeks ached from smiling.
Once we collected our flowers, we made our way back to the house and found the table covered in jars of sill, bottles of snaps (not to be confused with schnapps), a large pot of boiled potatoes and assorted condiments, so we placed our bushels on the grass and took our seats. As charcoal grills cooked steaks and slabs of Halloumi cheese, we sang songs and shot snaps chased by forkfuls of potatoes and sill. Taking snaps is like pouring Drano down your throat for shits and giggles, and not just figuratively.
Several rounds of songs and snaps and we were ready to make our crowns. Ann-Sofie materialized with a handful of birch branches to use as a base. Everyone knows birch branches are flexible enough to wrap around your skull, right? Totally.
As focused as we all could be after six hours of drinking, we wound white string tightly around our fistfuls of nature, then tried them on our heads. Once we found the right fit, we snipped off loose branches and helped each other fasten them with knots. My dream had come true. The swallows and fawns would appear any second to join me in a song I’d made up on the spot. My voice would sound as delicate as a butterfly’s wings and as sweet as the sap that drips from an enchanted willow tree.
Regardless of how I appeared, it was some of the greatest fun I’d ever had. While sporting our floral hats, we stuffed delicious meat in our mouths, sang more songs and broke into teams to play music trivia — Swedes really know their music. Later on we danced beneath the dusky sky to European club music, then crammed into a sauna in our bathing suits. I tried to stick out the suffocation, but left for fear of dying. Next thing I know everyone’s inside the house, waiting to play their favorite song on Spotify and I’m having a drunken heart to heart with Tobes.
The following morning I awoke to a room packed with snoring Swedes and a violent urge to vomit. I spent a good two hours eroding the walls of my esophagus, then discovered that my magical crown of daisies had turned into a bundle of shriveled petals and twigs. The spell was broken, but as any princess would advise her forest friends, all good things must come to an end. SkÃ¥l!