My name is Paul Svensson. I'm an easygoing Swede, born in Malmö in 1964, who moved to New Jersey in 1997 to be with my wife, Elaine. I have blue/green eyes and dark blond hair, growing long in the back and thin in the front. I stand 180 cm tall and weight about 130 kg.
My life has in many respects been partitioned by two long moves, first when I was 10, and again when I was 32. Looking back thru the years, it sometimes seems like I've had three lives instead of one, with few connections between the parts.
Sigfrid Svensson, my grandfather on my father's side, was a preacher, making a living as a used car salesman. My father's mother, Ruth, was a full time housewife for a family with five children, of which my father, Berno, is the oldest.
Harald Hägg, my grandfather on my mother's side, was a self-made farm owner, having saved all his money working as a farm hand, to have the downpayment for the farm by the time he was 22. My mother's mother, Margareta, worked when young as a maid, and later as a nurse (something my mother and sister seem to have inherited). My mother, Rigmor, is the third of their four children.
My grandmothers are still around, but my grandfathers have both passed away.
My parents married young; my father was just 19 and my mother 20 when my brother, John, was born, on August 24th 1964, and much to their surprise, me too a few minutes later. They were not aware that mother was expecting twins.
My father was a sailor, radio operator for the TransAtlantic Shipping Company, often away for long periods of time; but then he was at home all day for long periods of time, too. Sometimes my mother took a short time job at a restaurant while he was at home, and for a while she did daycare at home.
My father is a quiet and self-reliant man; when I was a child, there was nothing he couldn't do. When I was four, my parents had managed to save up enough money to buy a small house, and the next six years my father spent most of his shore leave time building an addition to the house, as big as the original.
My mother is an outgoing and talkative person. Since my father was often away, my mother made the day-to-day decisions of the household, and often continued doing so when he was at home as well; but for bigger decisions, like moving, or how to build the house, my father made up his mind, and there was no changing his decisions.
When I was little, we lived in Skanör, a small town on the southwestern tip of Sweden. Traditionally a fishing town, it's now a part of Sweden's suburbia, with Malmö, and the bridge to Copenhagen, only a 20-minute commute away.
Before we moved into our own house, we lived in a small apartment, on top of the offices for evangelical church, where my grandfather had been active when he lived in town earlier. My earliest memory is from this apartment; I remember I was able to stand up on the top of the bunk beds that my brother and I had, and reach up and touch the ceiling. My mother has told me I was just over two years old at the time.
We were not well off economically, but there was always food on the table, even if sometimes only potatoes and gravy; we learned early to appreciate what we had.
The winter when John and I were two and a half years old, our mother went to spend some time with father on the ship. The ship got rerouted, so what was planned as a few weeks in the Mediterranean, ended up being three months, going as far as Malaysia and Singapore, before they returned closer where a flight home was affordable.
I have few memories from my stay with my grandparents, but mother learned a lot of recipes from the Chinese cook on the boat, that added to our diet our whole childhood. My favorite was sweet and sour pork, which she often made for our birthday.
When I was four, my grandfather (on my father's side) taught me to read, from the newspaper headlines. I didn't think it was any big deal. When we were six, my brother and I starting exploring the local library, into the sections where they had books without pictures. Mother had to instruct the librarians to limit our borrowing to ten books per visit, but we made up for it by visiting often, sometimes several times a day.
My father occasionally used spanking as a form of discipline, but not regularly, and only for very serious offenses, like when we had killed a tree in the back yard. For some reason he stopped this when I was five-six years old or so. Maybe he realized that it was ineffective; I have never discussed it with him. Personally, I don't believe physical punishment has any useful place in raising children. The best way to teach a child good behavior and attitude is by example, and by helping the child to understand the direct consequences of any wrongdoing; adding additional painful consequences only muddies the water, and scares the child away from facing the real issues.
When we were seven and ready to start school, my brother and I were placed in separate schools, as in the early seventies this was considered beneficial for the individuality development of twins, and there were two schools available close by, less then a kilometer away. We rode our bicycles to school already from first grade.
In January 1972 my sister, Miriam, was born. Having a very little sister was at first a calming experience on me and John, who by that that time were rather wild, but as she grew up, she took part in our adventures, often to an extent far beyond her tender years. One thing I remember, was when she was three years old, we tied her on a rope between us and went rock climbing in the mountains behind our house. Mother was not all pleased when she found out, but no-one came to harm.
In 1973, my father decided that the small town we were living in had grown too big for him, and less than a year later, by the end of fourth grade, we moved to Adolfsfors in Värmland, in the western part of Sweden, close to Norway. It was a drastic change from a small but developing town, to a regressing rural area. We had to take a bus to school, where he fourth and third grades shared a classroom, about 20 children total. We only attended there for a couple of weeks before the summer break; the fifth and sixth grade, with separate classrooms, was available in a school just a kilometer down the road.
Seventh thru ninth grade, we again had to be bussed, tho the school bus was a blue Checker cab. By this time, I had gotten used to the rural area, and thought nothing of making a five-kilometer bike ride to visit friends after school.
The Swedish basic school ends at 9th grade, after which you can choose to specialize in extended school, which at that time was two to four years, depending on program. I chose the technical sciences program, available in a school in Arvika, about 25 kilometers away; to get there, I had to take a bus to the train station, and spend half an hour on the local train every morning, and the same going back. Halfway thru the second year, I had had enough of the commute, so I got a student loan and rented a room in town, five minutes walk from the school. Visiting my parents in the weekends, I often rode the bicycle instead of taking the train.
The fourth year of the program was only available in Karlstad, about 100 kilometers away from my parents; for that year, I shared a small apartment there with my brother. Now that us boys were out of the house, and Miriam old enough to look after herself, our mother decided to go back to school; she eventually graduated as a registered nurse, I think it was in 1987.
After finishing school in 1984, John took a job as a construction foreman in Oslo, Norway, while I went on to the Computer Engineering program at Linköping University, in eastern Sweden. I rode my bicycle there in the summer; it took me two days. I found a small studio apartment to rent, and my mother drove my stuff over; except for the mattress that had to go on top, it all fit in the trunk of the car.
At the university, I studied full time for two years, following my interests more than the course plan. The first year, I managed to scrape up enough credits to continue my student loan, but the second year, I wasn't even close.
The summer after my second year, I worked for a few months as a manual laborer for my brother in Oslo, before going in for my military service. I was called in as a radio operator, so I spent most of the ten months in a classroom, learning the code.
Coming back to school after my military service, I became more involved in the local computer club, Lysator, than actual studies. To pay the rent, I took a job delivering newspapers; working two hours a day didn't bring in much money, but I could get by. Often I spent the night at the computer lab at the university, went to work at 4am, and fell asleep when I got home. In the winter, I sometimes went weeks without seeing sunlight.
In the summer of 1988, my father brought me with him to visit friends in Israel, for their son's bar-mitzvah.
Eventually I started realizing that I wasn't going to get any further with my studies. I got a temporary job as a research assistant at the university, that took me thru the spring of 1989, and then I got my first full time job as a software developer, thru a friend from the computer club.
Working full time in the computer industry, I started out from the beginning getting better paid than my father ever had as a sailor. My first summer vacation I spent on a bicycle tour around the south of Sweden, but I soon realized that I could afford to travel better than that. I visited the USA for the first time on my 25th birthday, staying in Seattle with friends I met thru the Internet. Over the years since, I've visited various parts of Europe and the USA many more times, both on business, and as a tourist.
In 1990, I entered a relationship with a woman in New Jersey, who I had gotten to know online. Communicating almost daily thru email and IRC (Internet Relay Chat), but going months between seeing each other in person, it was a strange mix of closeness and distance.
The relationship was stormy from the beginning. We broke up and got back together several times. She would declare that our relationship was hopeless, complain about my faults and errors, telling me it was all over; then she'd come back crying a few weeks or months later, begging for another chance to try to make it work out again. Even tho I sometimes saw the same hopelessness, I always though there was a way to patch it up; it took me almost five years to realize I was wrong.
When I eventually figured out that she wasn't in love with me, but with some ideal image that she was trying to fit me into, we finally broke up in the spring of 1995, this time on my initiative. We agreed to try to stay friends, but it didn't work out that way either, and now I have no contact with her at all.
In the fall of 1996, a woman from Chicago convinced me to go to New York City, where a group of people who had all met thru IRC were organizing a get-together. She set me up to stay with a friend of hers in Manhattan, but then decided that the trip from Chicago was too far for her to go. Since I had already bought my tickets, I went on my own, and there I met Elaine. We were seated together at the first evening's dinner, I and ended up spending most of my week long visit with her. We touristed in Manhattan, and I also got to visit her apartment in New Jersey.
Elaine made me feel at home immediately. She is a very warm and caring person, and while it was her intelligence and sense of humor that initially attracted me, it was the heart behind it that made me want to see her again.
After I returned to Sweden, we kept in touch thru the net, and started making plans for when we could meet again. It started out with plans for her to visit in the summer, when Sweden is at its best, but as the planning progressed, we kept moving the date earlier and earlier, and finally she ended up coming over in February.
Even before Elaine came to Sweden, I got a chance to go back to New Jersey in November, and by the end of that visit, we had both come to realize that we didn't want to wait longer than necessary before we could be together more permanently. Considering that her son was still living with her, and that her mother had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, we decided that it would be more practical for me to move to her in New Jersey, than for her to move to me in Sweden. When Elaine came to visit, she brought with her the paperwork for a fiancé visa, we filled it out together, and she filed it when she got back home. She also got to meet my parents, brother, and sister.
By the end of April I had sold, given away, or put in storage at my parents' place, all the furniture from my apartment. I had packed and shipped eight boxes of stuff that I wanted to bring with me, and I had cancelled my lease and given notice at my job. The last few days I slept on the floor in the empty apartment. I got my visa on April 30th, took the train to see my parents the day after, and flew from Oslo to Newark on May 3rd.
On May 14th, 1997, Elaine and I were married in Plainsboro city hall.
Getting married as mature adults gives us a slightly different view on what we want to do with our lives, than the typical starry-eyed youngsters marrying the big love of their life. We wanted to be sure it would last longer than the honeymoon, and we discussed many options and scenarios for our future life together. We both agree that the foundation of a long lasting relationship is honest, open and direct communication, even of difficult issues.
One of the things we discussed before getting married, was having children. Since Elaine has had a hysterectomy, she can't have any more biological children, so naturally we discussed adoption. At the time we weren't sure if it was possible, economically and otherwise, and I was a bit stressed out from planning to uproot myself and move to a new country, so we postponed any such plans until eventually later.
Moving in with Elaine, I also had to live with Victor, her son from her first marriage, who at that time was still attending vocational school. He's a very friendly guy, and got along well from the start, tho we're more like buddies than the usual father-son relationship. I got to teach him how to drive, so that he could get his drivers license. For a while, Victor moved to Phoenix, Arizona, staying with Elaine's sister Cheryl, but now he's back living with us again.
In November of 1997, Elaine and I went to Arizona to visit with her family. I got to meet her mother Lyn and her sister Cheryl; her daughter Samantha I had already met when she came to New Jersey for Victor's graduation in June.
They say that if you want to know what a woman will be like when she gets older, take a look at her mother; getting to know Lyn, I knew I would be happy growing old with Elaine.
In the fall of 1998, Elaine and I bought our house in Yardville, NJ. Having lots of friends willing to help, and Elaine's cousin Stuart's truck, made the move a less taxing, almost enjoyable experience. Buying a unit of a duplex, we had made sure to meet the neighbours before closing the deal, and so far our experience of our two unit condo association is that it brings together the best parts of both worlds; the independence of owning our own home, and the support of not having to handle all the yardwork on our own.
By the beginning of 1999, Lyn's cancer had gotten worse, and Elaine went to Phoenix to see her mother a last time, and to help her sister take care of her thru the end. When we knew the time was short, I too flew out there, and joined the wake by her bed for the last few nights, before she passed away. Elaine's father, Ed, also had cancer, and passed away quickly a year and a month after Lyn.
Now that Elaine and I have settled into our house, we are again thinking about the possibilities for having a family together. Looking at what we can provide, we have decided that two children would make the ideal family for us, and considering that we're both a bit older than the usual couple starting a family, we would like to get both children at the same time, instead of going thru the lengthy adoption process twice. In addition, I think it's wrong to the children to break up sibling groups, so if we can provide a home for a pair of siblings and avoid them being split up, I feel we've done a good deed.
We have settled on getting our children from Eastern Europe mostly because it's a part of the world we feel a cultural heritage from, but also considering the practicalities, rules, and regulations in various countries.
Everyone wants healthy, bright, and successful children, and so do I. In reality, not all children are perfect. Giving birth to your own child, you have little choice but to accept what you get; personally, I don't feel all that comfortable with screening potential adoptive children to much stricter criteria. Getting children who have spent a significant part of their life at an institution, I know to expect some delay in mental and emotional development. We're not explicitly looking for children with greater problems, but beauty marks and minor cosmetic or correctable problems is of no concern whatsoever.
While I realize that the younger children we get, the easier and quicker it will be for them to form a close bond with us, I also believe that it's unfair to all the older children waiting for a home to just look for the youngest children we can find. Mainly to give the children a fair chance at learning some amount of English before starting school, we have decided that five years is the oldest we're looking for.
Thinking about how to support and bring up two children, I'm happy that we have a solid economical base; we budgeted our house on one income, and using some of the money Elaine inherited from her mother to cover the costs of the adoption, we will still have a buffer to cover a rainy day.