Saturday, March 19, 2011

As Long As We Both Shall Live

In the summer of 2008 I was in my last months of working in customer service and logistics at Swagelok Company in Cleveland.  I loved my job, but I had wanted to go back to school for a Masters of Theology for years and it felt like the right time.  That last summer at Swagelok was especially fun, probably because I was able to really enjoy and appreciate the positive aspects of my job knowing that there was an expiration date on my time there.  Also, the customer service department was hosting a group of European distributorship associates and my favorite part of that job was sharing meals and going shopping with visiting customers during the week that they were in Cleveland. 

One evening our department held a carnival-themed event for the group, an event that I was not signed up to attend but which, at the last minute, I decided to crash.  I spent the evening schmoozing with the Germans and the Italians and the Scottish without so much as a word exchanged with the Swede whose name nobody could pronounce.  I get a little shy around tall, well-dressed, smoking-hot foreigners, so I wasn't about to approach him.  At the end of the evening, though, when the crowd was thinning as the corporate employees headed home and left the Europeans to their own devices, the Swede came over to introduce himself.  "Hi," he said, "I'm The Swede, but you may know me as Carl from my emails."  I totally knew Carl from his emails.  He was the one who always said to have a great day or enjoy your weekend where most of my other customers were strictly business.  "You're Carl?" I said in disbelief.  "I thought Carl was old and fat!"  Maybe not my most professional moment, but I couldn't believe this tall, well-dressed, smoking-hot foreigner standing in front of me was good ol' reliable Carl, our favorite contact in Stockholm.  "Well I thought Damara was very boring," he answered and I fell in love.  He was in Cleveland for three more days, days full of meetings and a trip to Niagara Falls, but we spent every moment we could together in that time.  I couldn't wait to hear the next thing that was going to come out of his mouth.  We talked about getting married in Vegas dressed up as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.  I loved the way he said my name.  He told me not to touch the hair.  I still don't know if he was kidding or not.  And after I dropped him off at the airport for his flight back to Stockholm I sobbed in my car until I made myself snap out of it since I would clearly never see him again and what, was I going to mourn a relationship that never actually was?

My friend Kate and I drove to Nashville to meet my new roommate and visit the Vanderbilt Divinity School campus that same day.  I tried to put The Swede out of my mind but then he called.  And he kept calling every day, and emailing, and then he bought a ticket to come spend a week with me at my new home in Nashville.  We visited Graceland and laid by the pool and went to the movies and watched a couple seasons of Entourage and bought inexpensive American clothes and ate good food.  He set up Skype on my laptop and we talked about me visiting him in Sweden at Christmastime.  And then he went home and I didn't feel like I'd never see him again this time, but I also knew that it was possible that this long distance, with four months before I'd see him again, may never work.  But we kept emailing.  We sent each other long messages every single day; if I didn't get an email one day I would have thought he had died, he was that reliable, that trustworthy.  He told me he loved me.  Despite the huge time difference, we Skyped whenever we could and I cannot begin to explain how important that was.  There were times when I missed him so much I felt like I couldn't breathe and then, when I heard his voice and saw his face, I was revived in the fullest sense of the word. 
Meanwhile, divinity school was knocking the religion right out of me.  I was disenchanted in a way I never could have predicted and made the decision in the middle of my first semester that I had no interest in spending tens of thousands of dollars to finish an education in something that I likely wouldn't want to be associated with when all was said and done.  I finished the semester and then withdrew; one of the best decisions I've ever made and one which led to another of the best decisions I've ever made.  The Swede and I started talking about me moving to Sweden.  He had a great job at the Swagelok distributorship and owned his home, while I was a grad school drop-out with a lease ending in June.  After visiting Stockholm during the last week of December in 2008, I knew it was someplace I could picture myself.  Scratch that.  Any place with The Swede was a place I could picture myself. 
When I got back to the States we started the process of applying for a Swedish residence permit, an undertaking that required a ton of paperwork on both ends, a trip to St. Louis for an interview with the embassy and a lot of waiting.  After four months, a FedEx envelope arrived on my doorstep with my passport inside and on one page was my new residence permit, one of the most beautiful and terrifying things I've ever seen.  I Skyped The Swede, my hands shaking and tears in my eyes, and we set a date for the big move.  But first he came back to the US one more time to meet my Cleveland and Nashville family and friends, who all approved.  Big time. 
In July 2009, one year and three weeks after we met and after only about 20 full days together, I moved to Sweden with two suitcases and have not stopped laughing.  The next summer we got engaged.  The following fall we got pregnant.  And yesterday we got married.  And I cannot wait to hear the next thing that is going to come out of his mouth.


  1. mara- that is the most wonderful love story!!! I am so happy for you. Blessings for your journey together. -lia

  2. Thanks for making me cry. And for making me believe in love stories. :)

  3. Sounds like a storybook! Congrats and thanking you for sharing your story. :)

  4. Congrats, Mara. I am glad you found your happily-ever-after. Big time.
    I have been keeping up w/your blog for awhile now and I must say, I am thankful for this blog. Because now I finally know what "the Swede's" name is! :)
    Congrats again! on baby and hubby.

  5. Snyft snyft och igen snyft
    från svärmor

  6. Congrats! Your wedding looked delightful!

  7. Seriously? I didn't know this stuff happend. Congrats on finding your happily ever after! What a great story!
    -Steph Sanchez