Watched The Reader a couple of nights ago. I’m a bit haunted by it. I’d have to say that I loved it, but it’s not a romp in joy land. Though I liked the sex scenes alot. Have to admit that too. Sex and literature. In the bed! What a pair. Some would disagree with me, but Hannah is a fascinating character. Not easily likable, and not easy to sympathize with.

I think I can because watching Hannah was alot like watching my mother…though we’ll never catch Roz, it’s pretty safe to say, locked in passion (ok, I got that from Vicky Christina Barcelona, another flick I just loved) with a much younger man/boy. Roz much prefers older men. She and I disagree on that matter. But we both agree on keeping it legal. Just so you all don’t go wondering about me.

My mother appears simple, even naive and inspite of her age; innocent, even, but the more I’ve come to understand her (yes, I think of her alot, as faithful readers all know here), she’s incredibly complicated to my eyes.

Not long after she married…oh, maybe a month or two after the fact, my uncle Arthur observed to her sister as my mother waded in her swimsuit, that “Quack-Quack is pregnant.” My aunt disagreed. Even married, my mother seemed virginal and chaste, right down to her nurse’s whites. There is nothing remotely sexual about my mother, and that’s not just because she’s my mother. I chalk it up to her being a Virgo. However, she did go on to produce six children out of ten pregnancies. Go figure. But that’s  another story, perhaps. Crazy stories. I might tell you sometime, in someway, if I can figure out some way to actually say it. And then, I might not.

My mother’s been named Quack-Quack in her family since she was very little. Because she talks so much! All the time. Quickly, rapidly. Quack-Quack says a lot without actually saying much. I think she feels a need to expel her natural nervousness by filling the air with noise. There’s a lot of noise, both literal, and symbolic, in Quack-Quack’s world. Her house is a maize of narrow tunnels and passageways occupied and obstructed by  various treasures and duplicates of things she or anyone else just might need someday. There is probably more stuff than air, actually, by now. We, her children, fear for her safety in such a creation, but despair, after many lost battles, of ever changing it. I think of dealing with that house in the aftermath of…the inevitable…and I just want to cry.

Quack-Quack had done some pretty horrible things to us, her children, long, long ago. The specifics are unimportant details here. Through the years, with time and distance as a buffer, probably, Quack-Quack acknowledges by apologizing in a diffuse and non-specific ways, the damage. Like Hannah, it’s what Quack-Quack actually doesn’t say (for her, a miracle, really), that offers up the tiniest evidences of remorse. I know the tiny shreds betray beneath those meek offerings vast, perhaps bottomless, volumes of guilt and sorrow that are even larger, heavier, and more burdensome,  than the chaos she’s created in her house. My mother is sorry and I believe her. I never deny the facts, and can recall most of them, by rote, chronolgically, at will. Like most PTSD survivors, I can’t dial up the emotion. A shrink (actually one of the rare good ones I’ve met), once remarked that our sessions, no matter what dreadful recall I’d serve each time, had the demeanor, if not the character, of a very proper tea party. I know no other way of communicating it. We do politeness to a fault in my family. Big time.

Like Hannah, in spite of doing terrible, unmentionable things to others, my mother saves the very worst punishment for herself. My mother has not been a free woman, liberated and joyful, for a long, long time. I think she believes, deep down, that  she doesn’t deserve it.

I don’t know how to change that. But it’s my last wish for her. I want to take her by the shoulders, sometimes, and look squarely at her, and say, at least regarding to myself….to let herself finally, really, breathe and remember that people heal…where there’s scars, the skin becomes stronger, tougher. More resilient. She’s a nurse. She just might understand that.


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July 2009
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