My mother is currently at the North Pole with her boyfriend. That is, her grandchildren think so. It is a perfect VPRO children’s fantasy, ‘Grandma Iglo.’ One of those Sunday morning series where the dreamy six-year-old protagonist receives weekly postcards showing Grandma posing armed with a polar bear or sliding down a glacier, all of which he hangs above the bed in his hysterical, yet carefully curated circus room, and which come to life. if he can’t sleep. Until, of course, one day he decides to visit her and while hitchhiking he meets all kinds of strange people with swishing coat tails or bird’s nests on their heads, who teach him that life is tragic and long and you better be super eccentric.
But I digress.
In fact, my mother, who has just retired and been widowed for several years, has tugged her brand new red bumper car to the North Cape, with cans of duck liver pâté in the trunk in case of an emergency that prevents her from making it to the hand-picked hotels for would end up in transit. Her boyfriend, by the way very tall, wanted to bring along a modest gas stove so he could heat up a can of sausages along the way, with a view of the fjords, but she didn’t want to hear about that kind of camping stuff. She had to, and that was bad enough, a backpack. Of course she found an elegant rust-colored and modest specimen, but still.
The last time I saw her before the big trip, she dragged me in with a cheap white fan that she’d bought when we came to stay with her during the heat.
The messages we received via app after her departure were short and businesslike
Doesn’t fit in her Marie Kondo house, while such a bulky device immediately disappears into our mountain of plastic farm animals and thrift vases. After dumping the thing in a corner, she meticulously instructed me which carefully kept files of administration I should have in case something happened along the way.
The messages we received via app after her departure were short and businesslike. ‘Another 350 kilometers today’, ‘On the way to Alta near the Lofoten through a Lord of The Rings landscape’, or ‘Tonight hotel with a bunk bed, I had to improvise’.
A trip to the North Cape is no small feat for someone who spends a week packing her suitcase for a weekend in Paris.
But then I was sent a video, for the children. We heard a frivolous flute and bell version of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. Then: a hallway, with wrapped presents everywhere. A row of fairy chairs. A baby reindeer’s bed. Suddenly the rusty backpack in the picture and then the face of my mother, who says into the camera: “I think they are sleeping.” An office, “here he works”, a magic clock that can stop time, a large staircase to the top. “Go on,” says her huge friend and we see her climbing the steps. “He’s going to receive us up here.”
At home, my children scream ‘WAAAAAT’ when they see my mother, her backpack and her towering friend visiting Santa. “The REAL Santa Claus,” my six-year-old son hyperventilates. “And how cool does grandma look.”
In their eyes, and increasingly in mine, she is a great adventurer. And super eccentric too.