It seems appropriate that Mimi Johnson Sorensen was born on June 23rd, the week known as Midsummer’s Eve in the Scandinavian Countries; this is the summer solstice, and she was a “summer-child.” In the past when Mimi spoke about her family, she mostly spoke of her Swedish heritage. Just the word, Sweden, would conjure up all sorts of pleasant associations in my mind as a young child. So when I became a mother and an opportunity to visit Sweden with Howard’s sister, Carolyn, presented itself, it was a trip that I knew would change my perspective and enrich my family. It was arranged that we would meet Barbro Vennerholm, a Swedish acquaintance of Carolyn who agreed to show us her country, including Norway.
Sweden the magical land of trolls, hulder-maidens and gnomes; Midsummer’s Eve festivities; tall Maypoles festooned with ribbons, leaves and flowers; blond-haired maidens placing
bouquets freshly created from seven wild flowers under their pillows, dreaming of first love; smorgasbord tables groaning from the weight of lutfisk, rice pudding, gingersnaps, cheeses and fish; the legend of Santa Lucia and her crown of lit candles; and finally green valleys, azure lakes, golden aspen trees and red-washed timber homes and barns. The trip took place in May and June, 1985.
Midsummer’s Eve 2008, how better to celebrate than to read my red velvet covered journal from that trip, the journal that brings forth a thousand and one pictures into my mind. One evening Barbro. Carolyn and I, along with a group of elderly travelers from Stockholm, all staying at the Tallenburg resort in the heart of Dalarna, Sweden, gathered in a beautiful room—in my journal is the following:
“We all gathered in this beautiful room—paintings were all along the ceiling and walls, perhaps done first on cloth then pasted on, beautiful table linen, lit candles and highly waxed floors. We had a delightful evening of singing, Swedish folk fiddling, laughing, Swedish jokes, etc. Bert would try to translate as best he could for us—it didn’t matter, we felt the warm spirit of love and friendship. I was invited to share with this gathering of beautiful people, a little about myself and my American family. With an interpreter I spoke how I loved being with them and suggested that perhaps one of them was a distant relation due to my Swedish lineage. I shared my love for their old traditions—about our children—my painting, etc. Then I presented them with one of my books and a small painting. Everyone was touched—we all wept and laughed. What wonderful warmth in the room. I loved all their beautiful wrinkled faces. Later we were served coffee; we had warm milk with a lump of sugar in it along with delicious ginger cake. It was such a gracious feeling—the candles, linen, china cups, the music performed by these “antique” fiddlers. When the night drew to an end the three of us were by the door, all of the people came by, shook our hands and hugged us. They could feel our love for them. I will never forget their faces.
We went back to our cabin—after Carolyn and Barbro were tucked in bed I just had to sit and watch the coral, lavender and pink 'never-setting' sunset from our parlor window. The world is so beautiful why can’t there be peace for all? I love the folk traditions, costumes, caring ways, and reverence for the land, flowers, and animals. I hope it passes onto our family.”Eight years ago, these canvases were painted to commemorate this wonderful trip, so many years ago. Today they hang in our guest room with other sentimental objects.