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The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories (NYRB Classics) by Tove Jansson (2014-10-21) by Tove Jansson

The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories (NYRB Classics) by Tove Jansson (2014-10-21) by Tove Jansson

Author:Tove Jansson [Jansson, Tove]
Language: swe
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781590177938
Amazon: B019L4UQN6
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Published: 1656-04-15T00:00:00+00:00


AN EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY

WHEN WE arrived and Jonny caught sight of the big cars parked outside Grandma’s building, he said right away that he should have worn a dark suit.

“Don’t be silly, sweetheart,” I said. “Relax. Grandma isn’t like that. People pop in and out in corduroy trousers and all sorts of stuff. She likes bohemians.”

“But that’s just it,” he said. “I’m no bohemian, I’m ordinary. I’ve no right to wear corduroys to an eightieth birthday party. And I’ve never even met her before.”

I said, “We’ll unwrap it before we go in, it’s more polite. Grandma doesn’t like opening parcels, except at Christmas.”

Choosing the present hadn’t been easy. Grandma rang up and said, “Dear child, make sure you bring your young man so I can have a look at him, but don’t go buying some expensive and unnecessary gift. At my age, I’ve got pretty much everything I want, plus better taste than most of my progeny. And I don’t want to leave a load of rubbish for others to clean up after I’m gone. Just pick out something simple and affectionate. And don’t go bringing art into it—you’ll only mess it up.”

We racked our brains. Grandma thinks of herself as so broad-minded and easygoing, but in fact she’s forever burdening the family with modest requests which, in all their simplicity, can be a real pain. It would have been easy, for example, to choose her a stylish bowl in thick glass, but no, that would have been too bourgeois and not at all affectionate.

Of course, I’d told Jonny all about Grandma and her paintings, and he was really impressed. We have one of her early sketches at home, a drawing of San Gimignano, where she went on her first grant-funded trip, before she became famous for painting trees. She often talked about San Gimignano and I always loved hearing her talk about how happy she was in that little Italian town with all its towers; how strong and free she felt when she used to wake up at dawn to work, and a signorina would push her vegetable cart through the streets and Grandma would open her window and point at what she wanted and they would understand each other perfectly and laugh, and it was hot and everything was incredibly cheap, and then Grandma would set off with her easel . . .

It’s a story Jonny likes, too. And then, would you believe it, the other day Jonny went off on his own and found a picture of San Gimignano in a little secondhand shop! So that’s our present. They said in the shop it was an early nineteenth-century lithograph. We didn’t think it was that special, but anyway.

“Jonny,” I said. “Let’s go in now. Just be yourself, act natural, that’s what she likes.”

There was a long line of well-wishers queuing in the doorway of Grandma’s studio. A couple of young cousins were scampering in and out, taking everyone’s coats, and we were gradually swept into the large, airy room, beautifully decorated by Grandma’s acolytes.



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