15 June 2012
Nina, or Nikolina or Nika, was my mother-in-law, and I first met her only a few days after I met her son, Andris, and only a couple weeks after I had arrived in Sweden. Standing in the hallway of Nina's flat as Andris introduced me to his mother, I was somewhat overwhelmed by new sounds that I knew were not Swedish. I do not believe that I had ever heard Latvian spoken before that day. We had no common language, but Nina smiled and handed me a quartered green apple on a white plate. Somehow that apple on that particular plate must have been extremely significant as I have never forgotten it. Over the following months, she talked to me about books she had read; she told me about her brothers; she shared her memories of Latvia and her childhood - Andris translating all the while. Then I left Sweden and spent several months working in Germany. When I returned to Sweden, my very basic German made communication a little easier. Then Andris and I married; I eventually learnt Swedish and Nina and I were finally able to communicate without a translator.