A wandering bird's-eye overview of most things even vaguely related to travel, and an opportunity for writers, artists and photographers to contribute the historical, the hysterical, the quirky and quixotic... anything with heart.

aboreson4
3 years ago
Traveling brides
Traveling brides

It is the summer of 1979. I’m on route to Norway to visit my fiancé. On the flight I meet a young woman from Boston, engaged to an Iranian man. He is waiting for his soon-to-be bride in Copenhagen where they will continue on to Tehran for a traditional wedding. I am surprised to hear that her family will not be attending.

“Not worth the risk,” she says, “My parents are Yale graduates. Let’s just say they have a lot of opinions and aren’t afraid to share them. It will be much better if they wait until after the wedding.”

She is full of excitement, convinced that her love will defy all foreseeable barriers…language, culture, country, and a new role as wife and hopefully soon, a mother. 

Five years later, I stare out the window through the falling snow at the castle across the fjord. The sky, the earth, everything is perfectly white. Heaven and hell masked by icy stillness.

On the sofa, an assortment of colored yarn and needles lie in a heap. I have graduated to knitting washcloths. A scratchy woolen washrag that no one will use, even though I weave dozens a day.

Our apartment, in the center of Oslo is big and barnlike, filled with Tunisian carpets, fine china and 18th century antiques. Beautiful things handed down from branches of his family tree. They are his. All his.

After a few years, our children speak without an accent. Born of this land, no one would guess they have an American mother who has become needy and sad. My husband, my only lifeline, has returned to his place of birth and is thriving. I am not faring as well…the culture so deep and regimented that I feel unable to breath. I am like a potted plant that needs more earth to expand…more sunlight…more touch.

I spend my days alone with the children, who seem unaware their mother is imperfect. Each day I dress the girls in woolen suits and take them outdoors to play. Through meters of fresh snow I push the pram to the park, the bag of knitting in the basket below. Brushing away the snow from a bench, I watch the girls move mounds of white from swing and slide. They pause only for a quick change of gloves or clean diaper. Snow suits on. Snow suits off. Repeat. A deepening well of solitude consumes me. 

When my husband returns from work, I follow him around the apartment, eager for the sound of his voice. But he is too tired to speak English, shaking his head in frustration.

I weep, deep dragging uncontrollable sobs. He does nothing to comfort, as he does not understand this pitiful sad sack that I’ve become. Every evening he repeats the same mantra. We live in a beautiful country and have two healthy kids. There is a car at your disposal.  Any woman should be happy to have all of this. I tell him I am grateful, but that somehow I’ve lost myself. I can’t remember when I last smiled or laughed hard. The woman he fell in love with is gone. I have become like my silly washcloths, with no meaning or purpose in life. My declaration of loneliness only makes him draw further away, leaving me in exile.

Once more, my eyes rest on the pink castle across the fjord, the endless falling snow. My voice shakes in apology. I turn to look at him. In the florescent light there is something in his face. He averts my stare, but not before I see the contempt in his eyes. Immense anger directed at the very person he sculpted to fit his world.

At this moment I ask to go home. To my surprise, he’s prepared for this conversation. Pack your bags anytime, but the kids are Norwegian citizens and their U.S. passports are no longer available.

The next day I drag the pram to the American Embassy and stand in a long queue. It’s snowing hard and the air is so cold it hurts to inhale. After a few hours I am escorted into an office where a middle-aged woman wearing a blue suit with a jeweled American flag pendant informs me they are unable to reissue passports without my husband’s signature.

“Hadn’t you thought about this scenario when giving birth on foreign soil?” She asked.

No, I can honestly say it never crossed my mind.

Today, some thirty-six years later, I recall that plane ride with the beautiful Bostonian woman full of hope and dizzy in love. I remember how she covered her head, barring only her eyes before our arrival in Copenhagen; the way she justified being accompanied by a bodyguard as a sign that her husband loved her. I had the distinct impression she found the prospect of protection invigorating, actually somewhat of a luxury.

I can still hear her giggle when she described their modest house in Tehran. Her husband’s wealth reserved for their lavish bedroom, a place free of restraint that only they would see. I pray she is okay.

  1. uspandeyz 

    I do not know what to say about the 'heaven and hell masked by icy stillness', I have read it twice since. How far would one travel for that mirage called love? How many oceans of religions, cultures, customs, mores and expectations one sets forth to cross in vain? What is happiness and what is contentment? What weighs more at the end of day —reason, logic or unbridled passion?

    I love the motifs of ice and knitting that seem to be the journey as well as the end, beautifully useless in their perfection and monotonous abundance.

    6/24/15

    1. aboreson4 

      Your comment is very thought-provoking. You mention how far one would travel for that mirage called love. I remember sitting next to an older woman at a sushi bar who had recently lost her husband after sixty years. She told me "I didn't know a thing about him when we married but he promised to take me to Japan on our honeymoon. Well, I had to marry him. It was Japan, for goodness sakes!" That is all it took for her to muster love. I guess why I'm mentioning this is because everyone feels love in a different way, sacrificing homeland, customs and mores for a chance at true happiness. Sometimes I think back on those days in Norway and the person I must have been. I believe I cared as deeply as I knew how...or as deep as my well ran, but I had never really seen true love in action and my expectations were too high. I thought when a couple was in love they would do anything for the other to secure that happiness. What I have learned is that it doesn't matter what one does or has...that is not what you fall in love with. You fall in love with the essence, the kindness, the warmth and beauty of their soul. The incredible sense of rest and release you find when you are with them. I still believe that love is one of the great colors of life...not the only shade but certainly an abundance in the landscape. You asked, "What weighs more at the end of the day-reason, logic or unbridled passion?" I am going to refer back to a passage I read somewhere. "Why do people fall in love and marry? Because we need a witness to our life so it won't go unnoticed. A lover and friend who takes a vow to watch. There are billions of people on the planet but in a marriage there is only one who promises to care about everything...the good things, the bad, even the small and mundane. All of it."

      6/24/15

  2. mads2cents 

    Beautifully written and heartbreakingly sad, Annie. There is a striking contrast between the young brides in love going off to a foreign land and the reality of what later happened. I hope too that the Bostonian going to Tehran fared OK. I can only imagine all the heartache you must have gone through making your decision and what happened with the children. One of the saddest things, I think, is the way your husband so completely turned away from you and was unable to even try to understand what you were feeling. Spending all your time away from everything you knew knitting silly washcloths, that was no life for someone vibrant and creative. If only he could have comforted you, tried to understand. While I have no exact parallel, I can relate to reaching out to a husband who only turns away rather than trying to understand or comfort (in my case the issue was having a family). Years later, I still cry alone by myself. It’s a terribly cold experience to have that happen, and in your case that was further emphasized by the endlessly cold climate. Very moving post, Annie.

    6/24/15

    1. aboreson4 

      Thanks so much, Madilyn. All of us have a story to tell about lost love. It's almost a rite of passage. I eventually returned to my hometown with my kids where there were more lessons to learn and wounds to lick. I wouldn't change any of it. Those lost loves helped shape me. It is actually where life began. I finally gave up on the dream and grew up. Life has a way of humbling you...reminding you what's important. Now I just write from the seat of my pants and hold fast to the life that feels good. Thanks for your wonderful comment. I am sorry for your loss as well. We have both shed too many tears.

      6/24/15

  3. lostboys 

    A beautiful piece.
    Pointedly poignant.

    6/25/15

    1. aboreson4 

      Thank you, Ian. I appreciate the support immensely...not to mention your top notch editing skills!

      6/25/15