July 6, 2018
In some ways, Mom was fantastic. But it took me a really long time to realize that. As a little one, I knew nothing, understood less, but felt some and reacted on those feelings. No! Wrong! I learnt very early how to hid those reactions, and most of the feelings. I also made observations, but I didn’t understand them to be observations until I was grown up. They were just some other sorts of feeling. Noticed – and then hidden somewhere deep inside. With everything else.
I never got to know anything about my Mom. Neither did my older sister, and probably not my older brother neither. She never told us anything about herself. Nothing from her childhood, nothing from when she was growing up. I know nothing about what she might have been dreaming about when she was young. What did she expect from life? What did she want to do with her life? Did she even have any dreams???
Was her life, as I experienced it, just as she wanted it to be? Or was it just a big disappointment?
The only thing I have are some facts, my own memories, and some facts I have been told. I have no documents of any kind, no diaries, no notebooks, no old cookbooks, not even a single photo any more. And of course no furniture, no household items, nothing left from her home. No. Nothing. Nada.
Mom was born the day before Christmas eve, in 1910. I can hardly imagine what it would be like, to live in Europe at that time. How was it to be a small child in the south of Sweden, when there was a big WAR going on at the continent? Even though Sweden didn’t participate in the war, there must have been effects on the daily life.
In the twenties she must have been going to some kind of school, and been having friends. There was a lot of photos blended together in a desk drawer when I was little, and among those were some of my mom at the seaside in the late twenties and early thirties. Bathing in the sunshine, on the cliffs near the ocean. Surrounded with friends, males and females. She seemed to be enjoying herself.
She married Dad in October 1937, and my sister was born in august 1938. Mom got VERY irritated (read: furious) when I once had been doing some counting and burst out without thinking: “Were you already pregnant when you married Dad?” She denied firmly, turned her back on me and went away.
I may have counted wrong, or maybe she got pregnant the first time on her wedding night, but I also could be right, couldn’t I? It was an humongous shame at that time and space, to be pregnant before married. And she was, as I and my sister knew her, very prudent.
My brother was born in July 1942. During that time, the time at WW2, the family lived in a suburb a bit outside the city, how many years in total they lived there, I don’t know. They had a house and also a dairy shop where Mom sold milk, butter and eggs. Cheese? Don’t know, don’t think so. But since it was a War going on, there were restrictions of how much milk, butter and eggs people were allowed to buy. They had coupons! Si and so many eggs per month.
I have one memory from this, a told story. There was a huge and steep slope uphill from the main road where the milk-car left the big cans with milk, and every morning Mom had to handle those cans up on a hand drawn trolley, and then pull the entire set uphill to the house and the dairy. Don’t know how many cans, nor how much milk each can contained. Two cans á 50 liters? I can’t even guess! Could she sell 100 liters of milk per day, in that neighborhood?
Well! After that nothing happened… nothing happened… nothing…. still nothing…
And suddenly in the Fifties, there was me… and there was a quite different world out there, post-war.
July 7 2018
It’s July, and the sun is lowering
will soon reach the treetops
on the other side of the road.
The air is lukewarm and soft against my skin,
one year old and a half, I must have been,
when sitting there, on my mother’s arm.
Her dress is covered with light gray flowers
on windy crêpe de Chine,
with ruffles down her bosom,
her neckline and her shoulders
I always loved that dress
and used to go into her closet,
just to feel the texture in my hands.
Suddenly I pull out one of her breasts
from under the light gray flowerbed,
and drink the milk she still can offer.
Deep gulps, and then I wipe my mouth
with the back of my hand
A warm and happy laugh.
And the moment is caught for ever.
This is a memory of my own, but placed in time with the help of some facts and logic. Mom said she had milk for me until I was two, so just a simple counting and the summer made this true.
Sometimes I wonder, why one remembers one event and not the other, especially when originated a very long time ago. I think those which one still carries, must have been those very special. Perhaps out of the ordinary…
Or maybe not… maybe it can also be what is repeated a lot…
This one is a very early memory, but perhaps not the oldest one. Though probably the most significant one. The ones prior to this are only as I’m standing in my cot. First my eyes are under the upper edge, me glancing between the laths. Later I had grown a bit, my eyes at the same height as the upper edge. I remember standing on my toes to look over, or having to bend down a bit. Then came a time I didn’t have to stand on my toes any longer.
The door between the bedroom and the hallway was always a little bit ajar.
I wonder how much time I spent in that bed when I was little. I can’t seem to remember anything else from that time, long ago…
July 8 2018
When I was little, I often thought I didn’t belong in my family. Sometimes I thought I had been kidnapped from my real mom, sometimes that I was adopted. But soon, my real mom would come looking for me.
Once I had a dream, where I’m sitting in my real mom’s lap all surrounded by her arms and her love. She is young, blond and beautiful, and dressed in pale blue. She talks to me, looks at me, hugs me, cares about me. Really loves me. I know she’s a nurse and her name is Marie.
At that time I was old enough to know how to write, and made a note on a piece of paper saying: Mama Marie, nurse. Then I hid the small scrap of paper in a book. A safe place from moms eyes, I reckoned.
Many years later, while my eldest daughter was studying to be a preschool teacher, I told her this – without the details though. She immediately snapped at me: “It’s a very common fantasy among children!”
So! There I got hit!
No! I wasn’t kidnapped in to my family. Nowadays I actually sometimes see my mother in the mirror. Mostly on bad days. Don’t say I like it, but that’s life! So, get a grip, gal!
What else is not to like? Hmmm…. so many moments… so many incidents…
Like when Dad suggested I would sleep in mom’s bed for a change – I preferred to sleep in his arms – and she, as soon as I got there, turned her back on me. No warmth or softness of any kind. No feelings of comfort and safety.
Or… Like when I was struggling with sewing a dress for one of my dolls. She came, saw what I was doing, and said she would make one for me, a proper one. She didn’t understand, it was the making of it that was the most fun. I was a creative person already as a small girl.
But I could do nothing! She was determined, found a pattern, a piece of fabric SHE liked, then cut and sewed. Then handed me the dress, probably expecting a “Thank you” and a “how nice it is”. Can’t remember me saying anything. I was just so devastated, and thought the dress was ugly. Hated both the fabric she had chosen and the look.
The feeling I got out of this, and many more incidents similar to this one, was “you can’t, you’re worthless, I do everything better than you, and know how to do things the right way”.
I never let the doll wear that dress…
My self esteem went down, inch by inch, for each time something like this happened. However I must have had some strength within me after all. Or perhaps it was my creativity that was too strong to get killed. During the years that followed, I kept on knitting, sewing, crocheting – but always in secret. I never showed her anything, never told her anything. Nothing! Never more.
As a grown up and no longer living with her, I kept on sewing and knitting. Mostly clothes; dresses, trousers, jackets, sweaters. To myself, to my daughters, to my husband. Of course she must have seen what I made, but can’t remember she even once said “Look good! Well done”.
My sister also made needlework, a lot more than I did, and she learned me a lot. I don’t know if mom ever gave her any credit for how skilled she was, but I doubt it. Much later, my sister had developed MS and had in periods trouble with her eyes, with double vision. Of course, according to mom, all her eye troubles were due to the sewing and knitting.
Apropos that: all the books I used to read, could of course damage MY eyes!
July 9 2018
I never liked the good-night kisses Mom gave me. She pouted her lips – and not in a cute way – they became like a small hard beak, with which she pecked my forehead. Very quick, and very “let’s get this done. I have other things to do”.
The only other times she kissed me, or tried to, was when she was very sad. Over what, I’ve absolutely no idea. She was crying, tears wet her cheeks and mouth. She was usually sitting on a kitchen chair when she saw me and begged me to come nearer. Reluctantly I approached her, she hugged me and kissed me and burst out while sobbing: “OH! You’re the only one I have, my little sunshine!”
Those wet kisses and the sobbing made me feel very uncomfortable and I just wanted to go away. The words and something in her voice! So needy, so… I don’t know what! It’s hard to find the words to describe my feelings there and then, but I hated it. It was just so icky!!!
Awkward! I don’t remember any time when she hugged me and kissed me, and seemed happy about it! And made me happy… 😦
Mom also had the habit of threatening to leave us. I guess she and Dad had quarreled, they often did, and she reacted by putting on her coat and hat, taking her purse, handbag, luggage-something, and then sat down on a chair as close to the front door as possible. She cried and said she should go away, because no one cared for her. “No one will ever miss me!”
She did that over and over again, during my childhood, my adolescens and further on. Until her death. I guess.
Now when I compile these memories, I realize that the crying-kissing-part occurred when she was alone with me as a little girl. The “go-away”-part occurred when at least Dad was around too.
Naturally she never did “leave us forever”. My eight years older brother got irritated when she got these tantrums, and went up to his room . And so did I, when I got older and had a room of my own upstairs.
But mostly she actually did go – out for a walk – and Dad went out after her. Later they came back together. Seemingly everything sorted out between them.
Some courage I still must have had as a child. I remember once she sat there in the hallway sobbing and feeling sorry for herself, threatening to leave. I might have been four or five.
I looked at her, opened my mouth and spoke: “Well go then! You always say you’re going, but you never do it!”
She just stared at me. As in chock.
Wish I could surely remember what happened next. I have a faint memory, of how she without saying a word, went to the kitchen and started to do the dishes or something. Did it loudly…
However, I might be totally wrong about that. Can’t see her going out for a walk that time, though.
Much later, during the period Dad was sick in cancer, before he died, we had the possibility to talk with each other a couple of times without her with us, and also wrote some letters to each other. We were both totally honest and therefore able to talk about things, events, feelings we had kept as secrets, and sort of straighten some things out.
One thing he told me, was exactly the same I had experienced! Namely! If she had a quarrel with Dad, she was always asking me who I thought was right. Herself or Dad. And I had to answer that she was. Even though I actually thought that Dad was right. Otherwise things would be a lot worse. She would be furious at me as well. And if she quarreled over me – not “with” this time – she asked Dad who he thought was right. He had to say she was, for the same reason. Things would be a lot worse, and he got it afterwards.
One or the other of us always got it afterwards…
July 11 2018
Part four – Conclusion
When I started to write here just a couple of weeks ago, it was of course not the first time I reflected over these memories of mom hurting my feelings so deeply. But the reflections earlier was of an other kind, more just: “Ok! So it was! She was not always nice, but she was my mom, and the best thing to do is to forgive and let go!”
Already some 20 years ago or so, I had this “vision”. In my mind I saw her standing in front of a house. I saw her like from a long distance, she appeared very small and the house was a huge four-story building. What I saw was not as much the physical appearance as… her mental self. It was more a feeling of her I saw.
At first I saw her as I had seen her during all the years. Self-righteous, rigid, prudent etc. Maybe not with a stiff upper-lip, but without doubt with a stiff neck. Suddenly there was a shift in my perception. Everything looked the same, though. The huge house, the small woman, her posture, how she held her head. But the feeling of her was changed! Now she looked vulnerable, tired and sad, like if the whole world lay upon her shoulders.
I understood! I finally understood she was a victim! Of her time, of her upbringing, of her society, of all the demands she had on her. Both from within herself, inherited over generations, and from the outer world.
I felt a little bit more comfortable after this, and in a way I forgave her. At least tried to. There were still feelings inside me that popped up now and then. And as times passed by, I got more and more pain and stiffness in my body. Which I, by the way, blamed on other events and experiences.
If I imagined her watching me from some other realm – I felt very uneasy. I had a friend some ten years ago that had the gift of seeing and hearing spirits. She once sad my mom was present, and told me mom said she loved me and were very proud of me. I felt extremely uneasy. To think she was present and watched me!!! Boohhh!
About a month ago, I suddenly got the urge to reread this book, and got it from the library. “Thunder at Twilight – Vienna 1913/1914” written by Frederic Morton. It’s European history, a very interesting and well written chronicle of the events which led to the brake out of World War 1.
The reader, among other events, also meets a lot of still today very well-known people. One of them – Hitler. This made me recall that the psychoanalysist Alice Miller had written a book where she in one chapter went into his childhood and upbringing, and what kind of man he had become due to all the physical and psychological abuse he had suffered. So I turned to the library again, borrowed and read…
… and became aware of that I had been abused as a child. Never physically! “Only” neglect, deminish, belittle… shall I go on?
I remembered lots of it, but never realized this actually was abusive behavior. Never came to think of how wrong it was.
These writings now, have made me see that more clearly! Even though I only have written about some of the events and kept many others left in my mind, I don’t feel the need of wallow myself in this any more. I can still think about it and write about it – but not wallow! I got the picture! I got the lesson!
I had anticipated, though, and hoped for, that I should experience great anger and sadness. Yes! I have cried quite a lot these last weeks, for different reasons. Missing Dad is one. But I can’t find any anger within me! I thought I might have wanted to hit something, scream, hate her! But no. I can’t.
In all the memories I have dwelled in I have felt and experienced the situations almost as if I were there again. Both as a participator and as a spectator. And I came to see her as a couple of different personalities.
One persona is mean, egocentric, self-rigtheous, manipulative, and playing other people with feelings. But there is also a persona that is deeply, deeply wounded! The more I was thinking, reliving, writing – the more I felt sorry for her. Say! How can I be angry at that little girl inside her, who only wants to be loved and accepted?
No! No anger!
I don’t doubt that she loved me. She just didn’t have the ability to show it, or act like it. I know she loved dad, even though she terrorized also him from time to time. I am sure she loved my brother and sister as well. She just had a huge knot inside her!
I think I can truly forgive her now. And feel the love for her, that I have been hiding in a knot inside me for so long. But I’ll still work on this, since it’s very possible that the anger might lie deeper in me and needs more time to show itself.