It was field trip day.
The day before field trip day, my mother would run around like a mad woman, trying to juggle the signing of parental slips, shopping of food to make field trip lunches for me and my elder sister, and doing all around stressing. As a kid, I genuinely thought my mother enjoyed stressing.
And the field trip lunches. Oh my lord, do I remember the field trip lunches. The ones my mother made for me stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the wholesome Swedish lunches my class mates would bring.
While they were sitting there, with their baloney and cheese sandwiches on dark bread (only one bread per sandwich) and a recycled flasks of dark baking syrup containing strawberry cordial, I was ashamed to bring out my foreign girl lunch, containing ham and cheese sandwiches with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and a piece of lettuce, all inside two pieces of WHITE (yikes!) wonder bread. And on top of that, a soft drink! Oh, brother, the shame in taking out my bright colored Disney type lunch box, sticking out among all the soberly colored lunchboxes the Swedish kids brought (decorated with the Swedish comic hero Bamse, a small bear with super powers that did NOT like violence and always had a moral story at the end of every cartoon). I ate my lunch in utter humiliation over the fact that I did not have a smiling, rosey-cheaked house wife for a mother (as I imagined everyone else did) , but rather a stressed out foreign woman with an eerie preference for American style lunches, rich in calories.
After The Lunch of Shame it was time for the actual purpose of the field trip. All children were to be divided in different groups and were to complete a route, pre-designed by the teachers. The purpose of this? Officially: to let children explore nature in a safe and pre-determined way, and at the same time get some precious fresh air. Unofficially: to royally torture those little brats, and drag their little lazy bums away from their videogames (mind you, these were the times of the Nintendo Entertainment Systems. I am not THAT old).
Needless to say, in the mind of the troublesome nine year old that I was, that field trip sucked. So, instead of going with my group as so many of my obedient class mates did (although they probably though it sucked as well) I cleverly separated myself from the mob and went en route to my OWN destination. Let me tell you what that was:
Earlier that year, during the spring field trip (we had one roughly twice a year, and for some reason, we always went to the same, sad place) I had accidentally found an old ruin of some sort, my guess would be an old windmill from the beginning of the century. The only thing left of this building, once surely stout and very useful, was the actual base. In lack of usage, it stood there, completely forgotten by the world, and overgrown with stinging nettles. I imagined this to be the scene of some morbid middle-aged torture, where the victim was mercilessly stripped of its clothing and hurled down on the nettles as a desperate cry of despair stopped time. Of course, neither the nettles nor the windmill were present during the middle ages, but for the imagination of a nine year-old who had seen too many movies, nothing is impossible.
There I was, standing on the brink of the ruin, looking down at the nettles, , imagining disgustingly violent scenarios involving evil monks in the dark middle-ages, helpless beautiful maidens and Ivanhoe-type heroes when another type of cry stopped time. This was not the cry of a victim of torture from the middle-ages, but from one of the teachers, herself wondering of from the crown (grown-ups were apparently allowed to) and crying out in outrage over the sight of that impossible child (yours truly) balancing on top of a ruin. The cry not only brought me back to the present but startled me to the degree that I lost my balance, fell… and….
This is the parenthesis where I thank my mother for having bundled me up to the degree that I looked like the Michellin-man (my mother was in constant panic that we would get the flu) for it was the clothes that saved my knees as I fell on the nettles. My hands were not so lucky, but suffered a completely different fate.
The chock of falling down, the chock of hearing that outcry on the middle of all that silence one can only experience in the Swedish woods during the winter. This made me paralyze for a few seconds, not feeling the burn of the nettles as I landed in the dead middle. It was not until the teacher dove after me that I could feel that my hands had swelled up to twice their normal size.
Oh yes, and the pain.
I am yet to experience childbirth and have heard that this is an extremely painful ordeal. I have never been the one to welcome pain as my threshold for it is relatively low. I must however say that if childbirth is half as painful as what I experienced that day then this is not am experience I am looking forward to.
It was an extremely angry teacher dragging back a screaming nine year-old with impossible tangled up black hair and hands the size of baseball gloves back to the base. Although it is commonly known that nettle burns calm down after a while, the grown ups decided that I was to go back to town with one of the teachers in her little white car to get my hands examined by the school nurse. Not going back with the rest of the kids in the school bus was punishment in itself. I cried all the way home, not only from the pain, but from the humiliation of getting caught and to be forced to ride in that stupid white car.
Needless to say, the following week, when the school cafeteria was serving nettle soup, I faked a fever and made my flu-fobic mother call me in sick.