It's all relative
My wife used to think I was a little goofy.
She now thinks everyone related to me is a little goofy and that perhaps every Norwegian fits that category.
Personally, I don't get it.
Here's the deal. We were driving through the Norwegian countryside, looking for the place my great-grandparents had come from. It was kind of cool seeing road signs with names from my past -- the family names of the farms where my great-grandparents grew up. We even stopped for a long time at a little country church called "Eidskog," which is the name of the church that my ancestors helped build when they first settled in Big Stone County.
In the little town of Skotterud, we wandered through the supermarket, checked out the "Eidskog" brand moose sausage and discovered that a distant cousin ran a shop in the village. We walked in and introduced ourselves. He smiled and nodded, we shook hands, chatted a bit, I gave him some of my books, and then we got back on the road.
I was driving along, enjoying the moment, when I noticed an odd look from my wife -- one might even describe it as disapproving.
You see, a few years ago she hooked up with a long lost cousin. They hugged, kissed, exchanged life stories and made a luncheon date, all in the first five minutes. They e-mail regularly now and we have baby pictures all over our house, of babies weâ€šve never met.
I think she was expecting something similar from my side of the family. What was she thinking?
First of all, I wasn't really at my best as far as relaxation. I was driving a rental car with the minimum amount of insurance (I was trying to save money) in a country that I knew nothing about AND I couldn't read the road signs.
Okay, I could read the highway signs and the arrows pointing towards towns, but when we'd come across a big billboard-sized sign saying something like "BJORNFESTIKIRKENED ATTAHUSE DUK!!!!" I did not have a real clear idea what was being said, and more importantly, whether it mattered to me.
Plus, of course, Norway is pretty much all mountains. They think they have a lot of farmland, but, you know, they don't. I think they're all in denial. Just because in the year 986 some Viking planted wheat seed on the side of a cliff, that doesn't mean it's really a farm. Some farm fields go straight up and down -- they can just put a bushel basket on the headlands and catch the barley as the mountain goats shell it out.
All of this doesn't make for easy driving, at least not for me. Where I live you can stand on top of a five gallon pail and see a hundred miles. There's not much verticality of any sort, certainly no hairpin curves and even a steep road ditch has guard rails. I admit I was a little tense.
To make things worse, it was in the middle of the work day when we met my cousin. He was trying to sell someone a soccer uniform. I couldn't expect him to interrupt that just because I wander in off the street and tell him our great-grandfathers were brothers.
My wife watched in amazement as I gathered all my nerve just to walk into the store to say hello. She was even more amazed when we, my cousin and I, blushed and stammered through the introductions, then gingerly shook hands. We visited for a decent length of time, almost four minutes, and then with a sigh of relief I ran to the car and he went back to selling the soccer uniform.