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Our Very Adventuresome Sarah

Mary Jo Shannon
Mary Jo Shannon

On  August 17th our granddaughter, Sarah Davis will be married in Helsinki, Finland. Only her parents, and her sister her husband will make the trip across the ocean for the nuptials. Later, on Labor Day weekend, a reception will be held in Richmond for those of us couldn’t go to the wedding to join them and give our blessing to the newlyweds.

Sarah is our happy-go-lucky adventuresome granddaughter, ready to take advantage of any opportunity to learn something new or make the most of challenges. Older sister Erin chooses her activities carefully, researching and pondering possible outcomes before making decisions. She is advancing rapidly in her career – and spent over a year preparing for her wedding last November. I am amazed that the two are such close friends, considering their opposite personalities.

As a toddler, Erin responded positively to her mother’s admonition, “Don’t touch.” Kathy declared that putting breakables out of reach was unnecessary. When curious Sarah zipped through the house in her walker, Kathy admitted she had to abandon her theory of child training. Even trash cans were behind a barricade of chairs to prevent having their contents explored by Sarah.

Once I invited the girls to spend a week with us and attend Vacation Bible School. Eight-year-old Erin was doubtful. “I don’t think I can stay a whole week if Mom doesn’t come,” she said. Five-year-old Sarah’s reply was emphatic: “Heck, I’ll stay two weeks!”

When Sarah was a sophomore at UNC-Greensboro, she elected to take a semester as an exchange student at Oulu University in Finland. She said she chose Finland because nobody else had gone there. The day she arrived, she met a young Finn named Tero, who was returning from study in her home state – North Carolina! Tero’s father studied medicine in the U.S.  and his son had attended American schools as a child, so he spoke fluent English. He helped Sarah adjust to a different culture, and soon their friendship blossomed into love.

Tero was working on his master’s degree, and when he had to be away for a while Sarah had to shop without his guidance. Not understanding Finnish, she depended upon pictures. She bought a carton of what she assumed to be strawberry yogurt, judging by the brilliant red picture on the carton. What a surprise! “It tasted awful,” she wrote in her blog. “It was blood pudding!”

Sarah was anxious for her family to meet Tero and to visit the country that had captivated her interest before her semester ended. They also thought it would be a good idea for them to check out this young man, so they spent the Christmas holidays in Finland. They were favorably impressed.

With the availability of e-mail the romance continued after she returned to Greensboro. When summer came, Sarah returned to Finland to study Finnish and help Tero edit his thesis, which was required to be written in English. During the fall break at UNC-G, Tero visited Sarah and we had the opportunity to meet him. We, too, were favorably impressed.

There was no doubt that Sarah and Tero would eventually marry, but when? Finishing college was a must. Sarah graduated with a double major in international studies and history and also earned a B.A. in fine art. Deciding she should pursue a master’s degree, she took a course at  Sotheby’s in London, but changed her mind and opted for a more practical approach. She is now a candidate for a master of Science in City Design and Social Sciences from the London School of Economics. “With that degree I should be able to work in any country where Tero finds employment,” she said.

London, of course, is closer to Finland than the U.S., so they were able to visit each other frequently while she was in school. This past Christmas, Tero formally proposed and gave her his great-grandmother’s ring. Her mother and sister shopped for her wedding dress, sending electronic pictures to her of dresses until they found one she approved. Arranging a wedding in Finland, from London, and in conjunction with family in the United States is quite complicated.

Sarah has completed her classes in London and is now in Finland doing research for her dissertation. I e-mailed her recently and commented that she must be overwhelmed with wedding preparations. She replied that she could not work on the wedding now; she must focus on her dissertation, which must be mailed by August 16th – the day before her wedding.

And after all the effort she has made to learn Finnish, they will start their married life in Stockholm, Sweden, where Tero has taken a job. Oh, well, that’s just a new challenge for our adventuresome Sarah!

 – Mary Jo Shannon

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