From Finland With Love

As our kids age and start their own lives, we’ve decided we need a bigger pool of playmates. So, a year ago, when asked to join a group of middle-aged Harvard graduates on a journey to the Arctic Circle, we leaped at the chance.

Truth is, we fancy ourselves pseudo intellects and figured we could handle the schmoozing in mixed company (Ivy Leaguers vs. state schoolers). Just to be sure, my husband studied up on the World Bank, Federal Reserve, and financial markets. I took on the classics, beginning with Anna Karenina.

After a month and little progress, I found a film version of the best novel ever written and watched that. Then, to round out my preparation, I watched Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby. We were ready for brainy banter.

At this point, you may be wondering what dummies (college alma mater aside) go to the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter? These “Vardians” had their sights set on snowshoeing in Sweden and Finland, with the highlight being a night at the Ice Hotel, all the reindeer we could eat, and dog sledding.

We were all in and, like a Rose Ceremony on The Bachelor, dripping with desire to be a part of the group. So, with paper, digital, and screenshot copies of vaccine cards and every other piece of ID (including my Costco membership card), we ventured north to a deep freeze.

Donning battery-powered hand warmers and socks, balaclavas, thermal unmentionables, and Michelin man snow pants (they are black, so somewhat slimming), I never doubted our reasoning in spending thousands to sleep on an ice bed.

And, as it turns out, Sweden and Finland have a simple but palpable beauty in winter and are cultural treasures. Sure, it was as cold as a gold digger’s heart, and one night in the Ice Hotel is plenty for most anyone.

But, it was for a good cause, expanding our circle of friends. After all, we need more friends as we age, and when it comes to friends, smart friends are better than the alternative, right?

And, the best part, the Ivy Leaguers are humble and funny. They told bad jokes and never mentioned the Federal Reserve or Leo Tolstoy. When the trip ended, I came home feeling good about our new friends and our state school pedigrees.

Michele Valdez

Michele Valdez, a slightly compulsive, mildly angry feminist, has been an attorney, volunteer, and The Mad Housewife columnist. She has four demanding adult children and a patient husband.

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