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No matter which Icelandic household you go to in Canada or the USA, you will no doubt find a coffee mug with the Icelandic flag on it. In some cases this may be the only thing you will find related to Iceland but in many cases the coffee mug is only the tip of the iceberg.

While I was attending the Icelandic National League of Iceland’s convention in Reykjavík I had the pleasure of meeting Sara Painter, granddaughter of our 2010 fjallkona Helga Malis.

I have had the pleasure to see Helga many times in my Icelandic career but I have never seen her smile light up a room so much as it did the day she introduced Sara to many of her Icelandic friends and family at the INL of Iceland convention.

My heart was full of joy and sorrow. Joy because you could see the pride Helga had in her granddaughter and her heritage. Sorrow because I knew I would never be able to share Iceland with my amma or afi. However joy did over take my heart on this day.

After a great convention a select few of us were treated to a lovely evening at Almar Grímsson’s house in Hafnafjörður. A beautiful night was only trumped by the  wonderful company. Greetings were given, thanks exchanged and, most importantly, stories were shared. However the best story came later, at a small pub in downtown Reykjavík with Sara.
This was Sara’s first trip to Iceland. As we sat outside on a patio at Hvit Perlan with a pint of Gull beer we talked about her trip. This was a 20 minute conversation; the rest of the conversation was about her amma’s coffee mugs.

I got to see Sara come to the realization of why her amma had everything Icelandic in her house.  Why Icelandic food was being offered at all family gatherings, why Iceland is a main topic of many conversations and most of all why amma had such a fierce pride in her heritage. She finally understood. Iceland was just not a dot on the map. It is her amma’s way of life.

Many children these days don’t really care about where their family comes from. However, when you step foot off that plane and take your first breath of Icelandic air, see your first glacier or experience your Icelandic gathering, you will realize why there are so many Icelandic decorations in your amma’s house.

So next time you are over at your amma’s and she offers you some coffee, be sure to ask for it in her Icelandic mug. Not only will you get a good cup of coffee, you’ll get a great story as well.


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