You never decide in the morning that today I’ll be shedding tears in front of nearly 300 passengers but still that might happen. And it did when I met Eeva-Liisa Paynter (nee Taipale) from Adelaide, Australia, on Finnair flight AY70 from Hongkong to Helsinki.
I spoke to Eeva-Liisa several times during our service and finally when we had a break went back for the whole story. She’d awaken my curiosity…
Eeva-Liisa had told me that she had not been to Finland (her native country), since she left at the age of 13 from Pori, Finland, a whopping 53 years earlier. And now after all this time, on the first days of her retirement, she finally was on her way back. Back to her roots.
You must imagine this was a very emotional journey for her and listening to her story, for me too. Eeva-Liisa told me how she as a little girl first packed her suitcase (they were allowed only one piece of luggage each) full of books only to be later told to only choose two. And it was a hard pick for her as she was already at that age a huge bookworm. Finally she chose Maamme kirja (an epic Finnish studybook, published first at 1875 and used for decades in Finnish schools) and an equally classic songbook Parviaisen laulukirja. She still has both. And sometimes still sings songs from this very old Finnish songbook.
Eeva-Liisa’s eyes teared up when I asked her what she is most excited to see in Finland. She took a moment to collect herself and then told me, ‘it’s silly really…just small things. Like the smell of Finnish midsummer lilacs (syreenipensas) or the look and feel of a birch grove (koivulehto) in the summer wind. Or even the very traditional colorful Finnish rag rug (rasymatto). All those little things I so vividly remember from my childhood’.
Well, for the next month she is going to be touring Finland, meeting relatives with her group of 7 and I am absolutely certain she will get to see and feel all the things mentioned. Lilacs, birch trees, rag rugs, smell of summer… We still have it all!
Eeva-Liisa, if you ever read this, I wish you all the best, hope your trip was everything you wished for and more.
And thank you so much for sharing your story with us! Welcome back.