In the end of November we gathered in Lahti, Finland, to celebrate my mother’s 90-year birthday. My son and his Moldovan wife flew all the way from Pennsylvania and my daughter flew from Denmark just for a weekend. Together we slept upstairs one night in the 3-bedroom “veteran house” where my mother has lived for almost 70 years, ever since she got married with my father.
Many things have changed in the house after we four children moved out in the 70s. In the end of the 70s my parents finally could afford installing drinking water and sewage pipes as well as extending the house to include a wood heated sauna. The residential area was also included in the municipal waste collection system: there was no longer need for composting and storing all unnecessary objects in the attic and garage. The latter has never been used for parking a car, since my parents never owned one.
Many decades of scarcity had made my parents some kind of hoarders. Not that they bought anything they absolutely did not need, but whatever they bought, was kept. With four kids that meant tens of pairs of ski equipment, hundreds of school books, thousands of letters and post cards, all our prizes from various sports competitions and much more.
This time spending the night upstairs, where I had slept 18 years with my siblings, I found my plastic Margareta-doll. I think it was the only doll I ever received from my parents. I may be wrong. “You had to make your own toys out of pine cones, sticks and other trash”, teases my husband, when I seldom tell him about my childhood. There is some truth to that, since toys were in fact not preponderant in my childhood.
I received Margareta in the beginning of the 60s at the local infectious disease hospital. I had had a high fever for several days. When my parents became afraid of loosing me to some unidentified illness, my father carried me to the hospital on the other side of town. There I was placed in an isolation room, while the doctors tried to figure out what I was suffering from.
All this is of course hearsay because I cannot remember anything else that one day I woke up in a totally white, strange room, entered sometimes by one or more people in white clothes. I was turned around and stuck in the buttock with a big needle that hurt. I tried to press my eyes shut and sleep, but it still hurt.
I was scared. What had I done wrong? Why had my parents abandoned me in this white room where strange people hurt me? Later when I was brought back home they told me that the doctor had forbidden all visits because it was a common belief that parental visits would agitate the child and worsen the course of the illness.
At some point, one of the white-dressed ghosts brought me a plastic doll, which was almost as long as my arm. It did not have hair or clothes. That was explained to me later to be due to fear of dangerous bacteria. A plastic doll was easy to sterilize.
With Margareta as my only companion I spent a child’s eternity at the hospital. Finally my parents brought me home, where everything was very much the same. All my siblings were at home and nobody else had gotten sick.