My mother Kerstin was born in 1932 in Gravmark outside of Umeå. When she was five, she took care of her three younger sisters, Valborg, Elma and Karin, every day. Their parents had to work such long hours out in the barn. One night, after dark, when the rain was hitting the window, my grandmother had a terrible fright: outside the kitchen window she could see the dark silhouettes of two heads! They were mowing slowly, and seemed to be peering in over the window sill.
”Bandits!” my grandmother thought. Her heart was pounding and she made her younger siblings to hide under the couch, even Karin, who was only a baby. They all stayed there as silently as they could, until their mother and father returned home. When my frightened grandmother told them what had happened, her mother showed her that it was just the heads of the high sunflowers she had seen, swaying outside the window. Bandits! Sunflowers!
To this day, my grandmother hates sunflowers. She cannot even stand to look at them on a bag of seeds.
My daughter is six years old. She hates putting on her outerwear. She hates combing her hair. She hates trying food she thinks she won’t like. She says she wants to run away from me then, away from me. She says she hates me like a thousand million stars.
She is afraid to sleep at night, she says she has nightmares about some video of a scary animal she saw on YouTube.
She says she is the ugliest person in her class, that her round cheeks gives her baby face.
My mother gave me these cheeks, and I have given them to you, I tell her.
And you gave me these thighs, she says. They go flat when I sit down!
Of course they do, all thighs do.
We look at each other in the mirror and press our round cheeks against each other. She wonders why our eyes have different colours. She says she wants to travel to space when she grows up. Jupiter is the best planet. And she says she loves me like a thousand million stars.