Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Meeting Anton

Or: My childhood is a lie.

Because that is what I found out during my layover in Miami. 

Now you’re probably wondering what a stay at an airport has to do with my childhood. I’m going to tell you but in case you are from Germany and grew up loving the “Michel” movies based on Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books, you read this at your own risk. I warned you and I will not be held liable if this wrecks your childhood. I warned you.

But let’s start at the beginning. 

Upon arriving at a US airport you have to go through immigration and then go pick up your luggage, give it to some airport employee (and pray that they will check it through correctly to your final travel destination) and then go through security and proceed to your gate. At first, I was a little bummed out because my layover lasted seven (very long) hours and airports without free wi-fi really aren’t that much fun for seven hours. 

But then I met a young lad from Sweden whilst going through immigration. He was headed for Montego, Jamaica and had a two hour layover in Miami. Not as long as mine but at least I had some entertainment for a while. We chatted all the way through immigration and then found our suitcases after some searching. He even was a gentleman and took one of mine for my convenience. After giving the suitcases to some airport employee (and praying that they would get checked through to our final destinations correctly) we went on and mocked the inefficiency of the airport procedures whilst waiting in line. Eventually we grabbed a cup of coffee at the worlds slowest Starbucks venue and hung out at his departure gate.

At this point, let me introduce to you Anton from Vimmerby, Sweden.

Now, those of you who know the movie “Michel aus Lönneberga” (or any of its sequels) will know that it takes place in that same area where my airport friend comes from and that Michel’s dad is called Anton. So naturally we got to talk about those movies. 

I’ve got to mention here that those movies are very memorable to me and that I used to watch them whenever they were on TV (which in Germany means every year at Easter and Christmas). For those of you who do not know the movies, it is based on the ventures of the titular character Michel. He is a little boy who lives with his family, a farm laborer and a milkmaid on a farm in Småland, Sweden. And even though he never means any harm he always ends up driving his surroundings crazy with all the pranks he deliberately or accidentally plays on them. And to me it always seemed like Michel was such an iconic figure. I simply associated the name “Michel” with a little rascall.

Enter my airport friend Anton from Vimmerby. 

As I he told me, in the original version of the movies (and books) “Michel” is actually called “Emil”. 

I was shocked. 

I don’t think I can ever watch that movie again because now I’d have to constantly think “Emil from Lönneberga”. Which just doesn’t seem to fit. Emil isn't a name I associate with all the prank-playing blonde kid from Sweden. Michel is such a name. But I can't help wondering what my opinion on this would be if they hadn't changed the names for the German version. And why did they change it at all? After all, all the other characters got to keep their names and Emil isn't a name that would be uncommon to use in Germany.

There are just so many questions. And my broken heart. Shattered together with my childhood.

...and this is the story of how an airport encounter ruined my childhood and leaves a very difficult question:

(click images for sources)