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my grandmother, #96

her name is Berit.
she is going to turn 96 in about two months.
she is an amazing woman who was always a big inspiration for me in my life. sort of like a rock, someone to lean on. someone who was steady, but fierce, and strong.
someone who, throughout all my life, lived in the same place. yes, it's true- everyone else that I have ever known, has moved around, to different houses and flats. the places I remember from childhood, are just memories. and everyone knows, that a child's vision of life, is very different from an adult's view.
my grandmother's apartment in Malmö has been a place for me to come back to, a place to feel safe, a place to remember, and most of all, a place to feel the heartbeat of time pulsing forward along with the yellowing edges of her black-and-white photographs.
I remember the Christmases spent here. Adults, kids and teenagers mixed. every room in her three-bedroom-flat seemed like a universe of excitement. my older cousins were like heroes, who I wanted to be near, and who I looked up to like only a child can look up to someone slightly older.
she was always the one keeping it all together. she cooked, she cleaned, she entertained, she poured drinks. she made amazing Swedish food. she had her traditional ways of doing things- things must be done, and were always done, in the proper order, according to tradition.

her energy was endless. when we spent a week there in the summers, as my parents went to Italy and Paris and other romantic spots for a holiday, we hung out with Berit. we went to the beach every day, and every morning we had pancakes with whipped cream and blueberry jam for breakfast. we were even allowed to build piles with the pancakes, competing over who's pile was gonna fall first.

she worked as a seamstress. her dream was to go to Paris, to work with the big fashion-houses.
but her mother died, after only a short period of cancer, when my grandmother was 19. she had no money, and was left with a tiny one-bedroom studio apartment in central Malmö. she started working in Malmö to survive, and her dream had to be put aside as she became pregnant with her first child. the father was a very jealous man, who used to hit her frequently- but the day he hit the baby, she left him.
she met my grandfather a few years later and he already had two boys. together they had another two kids. she took care of all the family, and continued to work.

she has continued working up until very recently- I took these pictures of her in the summer of 2008. she had huge problems using the machine- she could not see properly.
actually, I asked her to fix my pants, just to I could capture her doing her life work, as I knew she had already abandoned it, accepting that she was no longer able.

I wanted to capture her, at her old-fashioned but very strong sowing-machine, doing that very characteristic face of hers, where she squeezes all her features together in total focus and concentration. when she makes this face, I know she is totally in the moment, performing her art, living her life.

and the funny thing is, that this face she makes, looks like a smile. a smile, frozen in time and space. i know she has had a very rich and happy life, and for this, she is my inspiration.


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