Chapter 11 – Marriage and teaching

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The Opera on the left and central Stockholm in the back behind “Strömmen”

After the feelings of of insecurity and loneliness during my years at the university, even though there had been some fun events too and an occasional romance, I badly needed a place where I belonged, a home that was definitely my home. So I married Roland after all. He got me out of my long depression and I could finally turn the page and go back to living. He was a good man and I liked him a lot, in spite of his ruining my first serious love affair with young and handsome Ulf.

A marriage with Ulf would probably not have worked out anyway. I was not at all prepared to settle down and become a housewife and a mother. Roland was a very social person, liked by everybody, including my sister Gun and her husband Per. He had a great sense of humor and, above all, he offered me a home and security. And he loved me. I thought that was all I needed for my feeling of not belonging anywhere. He was much older than I and had two children from a previous marriage whom I got to be very attached to. So he would not expect me to have children, a thing I was definitely not prepared for.

My first remark when I saw the apartment he had furnished for us was: ‘Where is the maid going to sleep?’ That was a very silly question, but, frankly, seeing the apartment was a bit of a shock. Roland had clearly expected a positive reaction from me, but I could not pretend any great joy. Three rooms, not big, and there was really nothing beautiful about the apartment. And no dinner table in the living room to entertain guests. So we had to eat in the kitchen even when we had friends coming over. It was embarrassing.

When I grew up, there had always been a maid in a maid’s room. Which explains my silly remark, since obviously with no children around there was no need for a full-time maid. So   we had been used to having a live-in maid, until my stingy mother had the idea that we didn’t need one any more, and we were all going to participate in the cooking and whatever else had to be done. We did have some occasional help to do the thorough cleaning anyway. Now, without a maid Gun was very pleased to move from the room we had shared  to the maid’s room. She only complained about the ingrained smell of cheap perfume that she could never get rid of, no matter how much she aired the room. So I had what had been intended as the master bedroom all to myself.

One of our maids in the apartment we had before “we married Arne” as I famously said at dinner one evening, had left suddenly with part of our linen supply and a suitcase from the attic to pack the things in. The fact that Mother underpaid the maids didn’t help anything.

Well, in my first marriage, I was the maid, even though I insisted on having a regular cleaning woman. I was the maid, the cook and the hostess and it was very far from what I had counted on, since I also was a full-time teacher. I had expected a comfortable bourgeois existence, but there was no sign of that.

As far as apartments go, I was used to big rooms full of light, large windows and a sizeable balcony. A fireplace in the living room was a must for Mother, and I will never forget Mother’s beautiful room, a combined salon-bedroom in the street corner of our apartment in Malmö. The windows and the big balcony on the street overlooked the Sound between Sweden and Denmark. In her room there was a group of two pale yellow arm-chairs and a low, rectangular, mirror-topped table. It was a light brown mirror-top where Mother made up her glass menagerie — certainly of Tennessee Williams, whose play by that title in 1946 had given birth to the idea in her mind. 

Mother’s glass menagerie began with a somewhat clumsy-looking but cute glass frog and continued with more graceful animals, such as a deer and a giraffe. The bed was a wide divan that did not look like a bed when it was made up. The room had big angled corner windows and a huge aquarium by the wide window. It was by far the most beautiful room in our apartment, but Arne’s room was next, a masculine style with one wall covered by high bookcases.

That was the way an apartment should look, I thought. Our living room was very big, and we had divided it into two halves with low angled bookcases that had been with Mother and us since we first moved to Malmö when I was five years old. That is where the new encyclopedia, “Svensk uppslagsbok” found a home. It was so detailed that when I had a project (Swedish literature or history, not sure) in Gymnasium, I didn’t even need to go to the library. I studied the subject at home.

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Back to the saga of my first marriage. As could have been expected, things did not work out very well. After a couple of years I realized that Roland and I did not see the roles of the man and the woman in a marriage in the same way.

However, starting at the beginning, just about the first thing I did after getting married and moving into this apartment, which I had not furnished myself, was to go and buy a radio with a turntable under a lid at the top. It had two different heads and so you could set it for 78s or for 44s or for 33s (LPs). It wasn’t a big or very expensive outfit, but it did have two speakers for stereo sound, even though not ideally positioned, as I learned later. This was the childhood of stereophonic or high fidelity records and the sound I got wasn’t bad at all, even though it was not what comes out of my wonderful Wharfdale.speakers that I bought in the U.S. and which John and I still have.

So now I needed records. I became a subscriber to a club, ‘The Concert Hall Society’ (a so-called Musical Masterpiece Society) that sent out records on a monthly basis. If you didn’t want it, you just had to remember to write them back and say No.

I had grown up mostly with Beethoven and Mozart and, added to that, a little bit of everything. However, since those were the days of 78s, we couldn’t get anything like operas, but had to be content with overtures Wagner (Tannhaüser), von Weber (der Freischütz), Beethoven (Leonore, Egmont overtures), Mozart (Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni) and the like. And in those days one also had excerpts of operas and single movements of symphonies. The year I graduated from high school we had a record player constructed with all the right components for playing LPs or 78s, but with an ugly box to house all these parts. Never mind, it worked and the sound was good.

Arne’s first LP record was a birthday present from his mother in July 1953, and it was the entire opéra comique of “Carmen” – Fritz Reiner conducting and Rise Stevens singing Carmen. Oh joy!

It was the summer of 1953 when I was back from France and all I cared about was being back with my family. We rented a completely primitive house and the “refrigerator” was about twenty meters from the house, in a dug-out with steps leading down to the very cool cellar in the underground. We were living our gypsy life in this primitive house that was close to my uncle’s house in southern Småland. So to listen to our first LP record we had to go to the house of a cousin of Mother’s in Tingsryd, the town next-door. We all sat around listening solemnly, in something close to ecstasy. The sound was marvelous. Thanks to Algot’s and Sara’s stereo equipment.

Well, there was no way I was going to give