Childhood at Murtorpet

The log

By Ruth Håkansson

Translated by Elizabeth Nilsson

No snow worth the name had come all winter, but now at the beginning of March it came. At first it lay in an even cover, but then when the wind came it swept it into drifts.

 - It’s untimely with snow now, says my father and I understand he is thinking of the move.

   The first two days after the snowfall I can go to school, although it is hard work trudging through the snow. On the third day my father takes the horse and drives ahead of me so I can walk in his and the horse’s tracks. Up at the river with the narrow bridge, which wouldn’t hold a horse, father turns back for home and I trudge on without a track to follow. We have gone a bit over a mile so I am halfway there now.
   The whole autumn when father drove around looking at farms that were for sale, mother and father wanted it to be kept a secret. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.
   But now that the purchase has been made, I am allowed to talk about it. And I have told my schoolmates that we are going to move to a farm that is next to a public highway and I will be able to walk along the road all the way to school and it is only two miles to school. And my schoolmates have gathered around and asked how wide the highway is and I have said it is three yards. Then they have taken long strides across the floor in the school hallway to try to measure it and they have sat on the bench under the coats and said
 - So wide, and then been quiet for a while.
The last day at school before we move we are going to say goodbye to each other, I wonder what that day will be like, if anyone will say that they will miss me, or whether things will just be as usual. But I am also going to say goodbye to the narrow bridge across the river, the one my mother calls the log. I shall stay a while and look at the brown water in the river, where there are usually leaves floating along and large flocks of water striders.
   The thick covering of snow makes it impossible for me to get to school. It isn’t possible to cross the lake on a kick-sled as I have done earlier in the winter, because of the deep snow. Before the ice was as smooth as a mirror, except for the river mouth, where there was open water. You must watch out for the river mouth, my mother always says.
   One day my big brother takes his skis and a rucksack and skis to Rullebacka to fetch my schoolbooks. He is the only one in the family who has skis. He bought them from the miller at Regnaholm where we go to grind corn and who makes skis in his spare time. They were white and straight when my big brother came home with them. He bent the points over the kitchen stove where he had a pot of water boiling and he then coated them with tar and they became brown. He uses ordinary sticks as ski sticks.
   The day before the move my mother and father are worried. The snow falls more heavily. The road to Murtorpet is ploughed by horse-drawn plough. It is narrow and they realize that the moving van won’t be able to get through. My father goes off to Bo estate to ask for help. To see if it is possible to get the road ploughed with a motorized plough.
   The plough comes early in the morning. The snow whirls around it and the piles of snow at the edge of the road are yards high. There is room for the moving van, but not for traffic to pass each other.
   A while before the first vanful is ready, my big brother takes his skis and goes off to Djursnäs, two miles away. He will stay there and stop any cars and horse carriages that might come and ask them to wait until our moving van has passed through.
   All of the adults are in a hurry. I go out for a while. Run along the newly-ploughed road until I come to the edge of the forest. There I stand and look at the cottage I have called home. I can see the gable from here. The kitchen window looks like an eye from a distance. A kind eye that sees me waving goodbye, that winks when I call that I will never forget you. I miss the goodbye I never got to say to my schoolmates and I think about the log bridge, about the water in the river that looks darker now against the white snow, wonder whether it is frozen at the edges.
   I go home. Soon a moving van will come and my mother and I are going to travel on it.