He also taught me how to pronounce vihta, but I’m not very good at it.
Another third cousin told me that vihtas can be purchased at many shops in Finland — you don’t have to go find the right trees at the right time. He also said that, harvested in spring when the leaves are strongly attached to the branch, the vihta will last a long time.
That brings me to the third third-cousin story. She told me about taking saunas with her grandmother, and “hitting” each other with vihtas. Which is a lot for some kids to process, but she did it handily. And late in life, her grandmother counted out a row of vihtas dried and ready for use. “That will be enough to last me,” she said.
The fourth third cousin also remembered taking saunas with her grandma (not the same one), who would kiss her eyes when soap got in them. Awww.
With all these third cousins — from Finland, Canada, California and Georgia — and my usual first and second cousins telling stories, you KNOW it was a wonderful reunion!