American Independence day is, in my family, a holiday that commands as much respect as Christmas. Each year, we would gather at the family cabin in Idaho where we would faithfully follow the tradition of eating copious amounts of BBQ ribs, coleslaw, baked beans and watermelon. It also happens to be my grandmother’s birthday, which means that the secret family fudgy chocolate cake came next, followed by rounds of s’mores by the fire as we waited for the fireworks to start.
So I was pretty bummed to be stuck in Finland this year- marking only the second time I have missed the traditional holiday celebrations lakeside with my family. Fortunately, however, we have been welcomed in to the Rankinen family here in Helsinki! They have taken us in as part of their family and been a happy and friendly contact for us since the week we moved.
As a quick recap, we met Laura and Jussi the week we moved to Helsinki. They are close family friends with a family that Jimmy and I went to high school with in Boise. They generously put us in contact and we have been so fortunate to be a part of their lives out here. It goes to show how important it is to keep all of your bridges open, because you never know when you may need someone or what others have to offer!
They invited us- as the sole American guests- to their annual Fourth of July party at their lovely family home just a short metro ride from Helsinki city center.
Being the only Americans, we figured that we needed to show up in style; so we each picked our most patriotic outfits and snagged some Budweisser from the store, in order to really do it right! We showed up to the back yard to find that not only was it completely decked-out with American themed décor, but we were almost the least dressed up! Most of the Finns wore a hockey jersey from some NHL team, but our host Harri won for his outfit of flag shorts and t-shirt!
I didn’t manage to get a photo of the cutest little patriots- Laura’s 1-year old twins in matching basketball uniforms!
Even the food was patriotic, from the dip to the star-shaped watermelon and even the harder-to-find Solo cups. (Hilariously, Toby Keith’s Red Solo Cup was sung at one point.) BBQ burgers even made an appearance, so I was a happy camper!
We spent a very pleasant evening talking to a group of what must be the friendliest and most enthusiastic Finns I have met in the last two years. They were so gracious to speak with us, humor our limited Finnish language skills, and to indulge us with hilarious stories from a very rowdy group of gentlemen!
It was a great Fourth of July and a perfect stand-in when not in America. It is just so nice to be invited to events like this and enjoy being around families and friends. It feels like a slice of normalcy that I hadn’t realized that I missed. I feel so blessed to have found a surrogate family that is so kind and open to us. Thank you very much, Rankinen family, for opening your arms and doors to us- it is no small gesture, and not one that most people readily make. It has been such a relief to have you in our lives, especially when we need a little slice of home!