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November 27, 2013 by vh1161



I notice her because she is dressed the way so many European women dress for winter: black and grey layers, a long parka with lots of cool zippers, thick socks over leggings, tough lace-up boots, and a pop of color from lime green cut-off gloves.  Artsy glasses, cross-body bag.  The edgy defensiveness of her style is offset by her features, which are fine and elegant.  She is tall and slim with blond hair, a slender nose, and thoughtfully-arched eyebrows.  She carries herself with a strange and effortless blend of refinement and aggression.

Her name is Malin, and she was uprooted to Washington, DC from Norway at the age of 15, because her father was offered a political appointment he couldn’t pass up.   He informed, rather than asked, the family about the impending move as they sat down to Christmas Eve dinner in 1977.  His wife’s eyes flickered but she said nothing.

He tended his new career with all the obsession and affection of a new father, enduring long nights and exalting over every small sign of growth.  His wife hosted receptions and smiled and said all the right things, but he always found some reason for dissatisfaction with her performance in the public eye.  She worried and faded and said nothing, while he decided not to notice.  Whenever Malin fought with her father about it, he insisted that they had to stay because, through this position, one day he could change the world.  (To this day she is conflicted about Washington, DC.  People come here because they want to change the world; that is what makes it an exceptional city, and that is what makes it terrifying.)  She finally rebelled in the ’80s, going back to Norway for university and dropping out to join a punk rock band.  They never hit it big beyond the underground Oslo scene (and the odd fan or two in Japan).  She’s glad now that Youtube didn’t exist back then.

She spent her twenties feeling bitter and waking up on a different couch every morning.  On her 28th birthday she got that phone call, the only one that always brings resentful children home.  She spent the next three weeks still unable to look her father in the eye, but thawing enough to have short conversations with him while they sorted through her mother’s things.  Desperate to make amends, he told her to keep anything she wanted.  In the end, all she kept was her mother’s favorite brooch — Baltic amber nested in silver Art Deco tendrils.  Burning fire in a beautiful cage.

Malin grew out her hair and went to art school to study jewelry design.  She returned to Oslo and, over the last twenty years, built a strong business.  She has learned to forgive her dad, though she chooses to only see him once a year.  This morning she flew into BWI, took a bus to Greenbelt Metro station, and is now riding to Columbia Heights to stay with her dad for Thanksgiving.  If you see her and she looks tense, it’s because she has found forgiveness to be a dam that needs daily monitoring against the rage of memories.  But she is learning to be patient in that task, and every year this trip gets easier.


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