Hemmets Journal 111208
By: PETTER KARLSSON
Helen Sjöholm will be a mom again.
Double labor pains awaits the beloved Helen Sjöholm. In December a movie, in January twins. What luck that the balance of life has never been better for the northener who grew up with self-indulgent men and strong women.
Twenty-five seconds after his mother revealed that there is a sibling in the pipeline, son Ruben, 4 years old, comes running through the hedge to the neighbor journalist, shouting:
– Hey, Mom has a baby in the belly!
A month later we go again:
– Now Mom says that she has TWO babies in the belly!
With sons like these she doesn´t need PR consultants. Though Helen Sjöholm has on the other hand never really been in need of publicity or headlines. Quite on the contrary. When Ruben was born, father David finally tired of the paparazzi photographer, who was sitting day and night in a car outside their gate, simply knocked on the car window, ironically offered him a cup of coffee and said:
– Hey, we actually begin to get a little tired of you and your camera. Perhaps we could be left in peace soon?
Because to be Kristina with an entire welfare state, is not just a privilege. Especially not if you on a daily basis would rather be Helen from Sundsvall, walking the streets like an ordinary woman, visiting Ica in pajamas under her jacket, unvarnished and Monday tired. It becomes a balancing act between the private and the public.
But mostly it´s merely comical. Like when autograph hunters flocked outside the stage door at Circus (where Kristina from Duvemåla was played), but didn´t notice that the mouse gray girl who just slipped past was identical with the star who had just been florally acclaimed and almost luminous in the middle of the stage.
– I have always had a little advantage of just being 160 centimeters tall. And I’ve never been much for dressing or makeup privately. I want to be able to go off quickly and do things, without spending time in front of the mirror.
It´s also seen in the contrast between work and private life. At work, Helen Sjöholm is the dutiful Lutheran who doesn´t leave a tone to chance. In her spare time rather an improvised existentialist who enjoys the magic of the presence, long walks and appreciate – when she is not pregnant, of course – a glass of wine on the sofa.
Maybe it’s her dad, the engineer’s, attitude to life that haunts.
– My dad has always enjoyed life, he can sit carving on a piece of wood, read a book or drink a whiskey.
Perhaps also her mother, the teacher’s (attitude to life).
– Mom has always had an enormous energy, she truly is a “doer”. Overall my family has been tremendously important in my life. It has given me a lot of safety and self-esteem.
“Raised by strong women and bearded men,” a reporter once wrote. That those men with hair on their chins were called Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson was no mistaking; those who once travelled around the country and listened to a thousand singers, before they found their protagonist to the hit musical. The strong women were especially grandmothers Britta and Elsa.
– It was grandmother Britta who brought me to long-term care homes at the age of three, because I would sing chapbook for the elderly. A handsome, stately woman, mannequin on pensioners’ associations, and she also brought me to Paris.
– Grandma Elsa was rather her opposite, a safe peasant girl who had everything within a hundred yards, even the summer cottage. I remember when she finally came to Gothenburg to see my performance. She was so proud that she didn´t even ask how to use the duvet cover that I made up the bed with in the guest room. Instead, she lay on top of the blankets and shivered all night.
Rather jazz than rock
It was in that stress field the artist Sjöholm took shape. Between the spot light and the birch grove. Between a secure sense of self-esteem and what she once called “a strengthening measure Jante in the back.”
– Jante is mostly a bad thing, of course. But it also makes you think beforehand, to not just carry away.
That was noticed when she, as 15 years old, was offered to take over the local hard rock band’s vocal microphone, but instead soon slipped off with the pianist and sang jazz and Mikael Wiehe songs. Her voice didn´t fit pop and rock, that she had figured out already during cleaning sessions in the family’s sheet metal workshop.
– It was such awesome acoustics there, between the sheets. I sang “Porgy and Bess” and thought “Wow, what a sound!”
There, in turn, she had come through borrowed underwear, one might say. Helen Sjöholm’s first role was as “Bra Collector Knut” in a school show.
– I was ten years old, borrowed grandma’s bra and sang the Lasse Berghagen song “Flirtatious Knut”:
“So I got what I want, I got another bra!” I remember how I enjoyed the applause and laughter. How I suddenly realized that it was on stage I wanted to be.
But it took time, a long time, before her fate began to crystallize. Mom drove her around for a long time to synchronized swimming, horseback riding and jazz dance. Thereafter, a diligent student who studied ethnology – but preferred to sing in a choir and play amateur theatricals. The search for artist Helen Sjöholm’s roots reveals both ups and downs.
The latter can be when she three times missed the admission tests to stage school, when she broke up from a long-term relationship in 2002 or when her work as Kristina from Duvemåla made her melancholic and isolated.
– Since I played six days a week, I lost more and more contact with my friends. Kristina’s grief took place also in my own body. I was completely exhausted at times. On my free Mondays I stayed in bed, cried and ate candy.
How could it turn out like that?
– Mainly because I never said no, I worked all the time. It probably originated in that deep in my heart I had a constant fear of not pleasing everyone.
You try to be the good girl in every situation?
– At least it has been like that. Someone said: “Art is not for you, Helen, it’s the opposite. You have received a gift that you have to have respect for.” But I… well, I’m not sure I share that vision. I also want to have fun. Be a bit more selfish in my choices.
And she succeeds quite well with that. 41 years old Helen Sjöholm is stronger, more mature and cooler than ever. One of the reasons is named David Granditsky, her husband whom she met at a fifty birthday party eight years ago.
– It was like tuning into a radio station that broadcasted exactly at my own wavelength. When David and I started talking it was as if we already knew each other. We were simply from the same planet. Attracted to each other.
Why is David your husband?
– We are both individualists and can understand each other’s need to periodically devote ourselves to work very, very intensely. We love to hang out with friends, but also to be anti-social, stay in the house, poking, or sit on the sofa watching DVD.
We discuss the risks of breaking through as very young, overnight, and note that Helen Sjöholm herself was fortunate to have a career in stages.
– I could develop slowly and try things out. I was allowed to make mistakes, go back and try again. And because I’ve done so many different roles, I didn´t become a product which easily happens to those who only are associated with a particular kind of artistry, or a particular CD.
Biggest misconception about you as a person?
– Possibly it’s that I would be like Kristina in Duvemåla: good, pious, judgmental and a little sad. Okay, perhaps I have some of that stuff in me too. But I never let melancholy take over. Not nowadays, anyway.
Because even in later life Flirtatious Knut would come to her rescue.
– Lasse Berghagen nagged at me to participate in a revue at the China Theatre. I was terribly hesitant at first, but Lasse said so wisely: I think you will have great fun at work. And how liberating it actually was, to do something that just made people laugh.
For the new-found harmony a turn of the century villa in Nacka also contributes. Helen Sjöholm turned, to her own surprise, out to be good at paint and putty. If you ask about her watering hole in life, she smiles while pointing out to the lake where the beavers sometimes swim at dusk.
Was it good to have children relatively late in life?
– I can’t say, it just happened like that. I grew up with two siblings, and for a long time I took for granted that I also would have many children. Then the years passed and… Yes, now I’m just extremely happy to have Ruben.
And two more children in January?
– Yes, it´s both terrifying and an amazing bonus. It will of course be intense, but at the same time it’s incredibly nice to focus on something other than work.
No, she doesn´t complain about the workload either. She rather calls it a grace to continually be offered new engagements. Recently, she has traveled between Stockholm, New York (guest appearances as Kristina) and Hamburg (the role of mother Karin in “Simon and the Oaks”).
Anno 2011 Helen Sjöholm is more requested and engaged than ever.
– I live a very privileged life, I know that. It makes me humble, I hope. I´m among those who are happy to pay taxes, because I believe in a cohesive society. People like me have to pay for others’ security.
Do you believe in God?
No, but despite that I´m not religious, I have always felt very not-alone. I have a strong faith in life itself. A trust in that even if things doesn’t turn out as I’ve planned, it will probably be quite good anyway.
What is the meaning of life for you?
– To experience love from someone and for someone. To be myself with someone who likes me.
In January, that’s two people more.
Name: Marie Helen Sjöholm Granditsky
Born: July 10, 1970, in Sundsvall
Family: Husband David, 45, sound technician. Son Ruben, 4. Soon twins, in early January.
Location: Seashore villa in Nacka, outside Stockholm.
Currently: As Karin in the film version of Marianne Fredriksson’s Simon and the Oaks, that premieres on December 9. The film is about the childless worker couple who take care of little Simon – a boy with a Jewish father and an almost frightening thirst for education.