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A Stranger Returns Home

Freda Isaksen

I was returning to my previous home in Trondheim after an absence of twenty-eight years. Of course customs there had changed during this elapse of time and I too had changed in my way of living in another country and a larger city, so I made mistakes and sometimes came away feeling foolish.

I was staying with family and we were invited to visit some friends, my host explained that we would call a cab for transportation because alcohol would surely be served and a sensible Norwegian never drives a car after even one drink because if he is involved in an accident no matter how small he would lose his license permanently. That was and still is the law in that country.

When we departed the house a limousine was waiting for us at the curb and the driver was standing at the open door waiting for us to enter. He appeared to me to be a nice looking well dressed resident of the city so I assumed he was a friend come to drive us to our destination. I extended my hand to him and introduced myself “Hello, I’m Freda Isaksen. I’m glad to meet you.” I was surprised that he did not reciprocate my greeting and felt a little offended. When we were seated in the car my escort said, “Why did you greet the taxi driver that way?” I was accustomed to the Los Angeles taxi driver who most likely would be from another country and not be dressed as if he were going to accompany us to a party.

My next foolish mistake occurred the next day. Again I was to visit some friends, this time within walking distance. On the way we passed a flower stand and I said, “Let’s stop here a moment, I’ll buy our hostess some flowers.” It was a small outdoor hut and I saw just one shelf and one lonely vase holding about a dozen flowers. I took it for granted that there would be more flowers under the shelf or in the back somewhere, so I said to the attendant “I’ll take these dozen flowers.” My escort nudged me and said, “You’re buying the whole store, this is October in Norway, flowers are scarce at this time of year, so you should buy only one flower then there’ll be some left for the next customer.”

By this time I realized that long ago I had left behind the small city ways and now I was the stranger here.

Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at

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