Two swallows flew high in the sky. The forest was full of birds’ chatter. All the migrating birds had returned home and were busy with their young. I got a glimpse of a white two-storied house behind a dark spruce fence. A white picket gate stood open.
“This is where we go in,” said Mother. Purple and white lilacs filled the air with their scent. Scarlet roses surrounded by blue and yellow pansies stretched their stems to welcome us. Grandma was in the kitchen where she had just taken a sheet of golden brown cinnamon rolls from the oven. After giving me a welcoming hug, she let me taste one of the warm rolls. The crunchy crushed almond on top and the sweet, spicy filling just melted in my mouth. A glass of juice – made of Grandma’s apples from the tree just outside the kitchen window – made me feel like a fairy tale was coming true: a story Mother had told me over and over again.
A fire was burning in the large kitchen stove where Grandma fried meatballs in a big black frying pan. The savory smells from the kitchen made me hungry. Grandma said, “I’ll need some more potatoes from the vegetable garden and some sprigs of dill to go with them.”
Aunt Elna said, “I’ll get them,” as she took a black enameled bucket which stood by the door.
I noticed the buckets in the kitchen. My mother explained: “This white one with a lid is only for clean water from the well outside. That brown pail is for dish-water. The black one is for leftovers.”
Grandma asked Mother, “Anni, do you remember where we used to keep the lingonberry jam in the cellar? That goes well with the meatballs. Could you get me a jar of it and bring in some milk too. Take Lisa with you. Oh, I almost forgot. We must have the pickled herring to go with the new potatoes. There are some jars at the back of the cellar which I prepared just for Midsummer .”
I went along with Mother out the front door and around the house to the steps which led down to the cellar door. A big rusty key sat in the lock. She let me turn the huge key. As the door creaked open, a musty smell rushed out, along with a blast of cold air. Mother switched on a lamp. The dim light revealed rows of labeled jam jars from last summer, 1952, the year Grandpa had died. There was strawberry, raspberry, red and blackcurrant, and of course the dark red lingonberry jam, which we had come for.
Mother showed me the jars of herring. I went to get one. A new experience was waiting for me – to taste the pickled fish. The milk cans stood on the floor under the shelves. Mother took one of them. We were ready to leave the cellar.
I ran out to see where Aunt Elna was digging the ground. She had the bucket half-full of small pale baby potatoes. They were the first potatoes of this summer, enough to cook for our arrival. Elna asked me, “Could you take a few sprigs of dill over there.” I was not sure what she meant. I had never seen any dill plants before. She came over to me and said, “Here it is. It tastes lovely with fresh new potatoes.” A new fragrance rubbed itself into my hands when I broke a few green sprigs.