Thursday, September 18, 2008

Motherhood is incurable

What do you do when you feel like you are never going to recover from the fatal illness of motherhood? It is indeed an incurable complaint – shaken off by only the most callous (or is it the best-adjusted?). Observe the International Departures Hall at the airport and see the victims strewn about. Brave faces, concerned faces that crumple when they think no one is looking into wet wrinkled tissues; bustle around their offspring, attending to suitcase locks, handing over unwanted mags and chocs – poor substitutes for the home cooking and daily fussing they will now have to direct elsewhere.

The moment does come, as it always does, when the very last hug must be given. One tries not to cling or weep, or exhibit any other really needy behaviour, but it is oh so very hard! All you want to say is, “Please don’t go!”, but you know that this would only stifle “their development”, and – heaven forfend – who wants to ever be accused of that! (It is about the worst motherhood crime one can commit. Boyfriend shuffles uncomfortably at this display, anxious to be off.)
“Bye, Mom. Aw now, don’t cry… I’ll be back, you know. And you can come and visit me soon.”

And yes, they may, and yes, you may. But then again, you may not and they may not. And you will have to just get over that too. They say it is good for character formation, but do they mean by that good character or just plain eccentricity? The latter is certainly more likely. (I wonder what we will be like? How did the explorers’ parents fare, or our great grandparents when they were left behind in the colonial motherlands, without smses, emails and discount flights, many never to see their children again. Just wondering… Sob.)

So, it’s brave faces, lots of social activities, hard work – any kind will do – real work at a real job or manufactured tasks like cleaning out cupboards, weeding, organising photographs, cleaning drains – anything that will distract one from the fact that you now feel utterly redundant in the one area that you so cherished as your “area of expertise” – your own flesh and blood babies, that you have spent a lifetime getting to know, love and care for.

I remember when my parents emigrated with my two younger siblings. We all had fond hopes of seeing each other again soon. Before we knew it, ten years had passed and it was over twenty years before all four siblings were together again in one room. My brothers had become men, absorbed fully into their new culture and we who were left behind were strange out-of-sync people from the backwaters of a childhood they dimly remembered sharing. Now, almost thirty years later, I reflect that we hardly know each other. When we do see each other and each others’ children, it feels like we are almost strangers and with each visit, the gap appears to have widened, to almost to where it requires just too much effort to breach.

Thus, a family bond slowly unravels … and this, this is what one fears most when standing in the Departures Hall, that the gap will grow too large and the lack of the little shared moments, week by week, Sunday lunch by Sunday lunch, will erode and undermine the thing at the core of your existence, the thing you hold so dear.

“A common tale but true” – as the Lemon Tree song goes – “a sadder [wo]man but wiser now, I sing this song to you… “ etc. (Well, the wiser is questionable, but hey, one has to get something out of this cheerful experience!)

And so the older generation of SA skype and save, skype and save, skype and save… but to what end?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oestrogen on the wane

Ever think in snatches of songs? Seems to be one of my brain patterns.

While I lie there at night, victim of my fluctuating hormones, trying to remember how to sleep, “I can hear the soft (!) breathing of the [man] that I love, as [he] lies here beside me, asleep with the night…” (Simon & Garfunkel, early on, remember), I think … like Fagan (viz. Oliver the movie, not the book). “I am reviewing the situation… I think I better think it out again!”

The sanctioned voyeurism of Facebook has to go! Once and for all.

Apart from being an enormous time-wasting distraction at the office, I am struck by two conversations I had recently about virtual social networking – both along the lines that friendships tend to be for a season/a reason. Recognising this means we should move on and concentrate on the real people in our lives at the moment. (Ghosts from the past may materialize, but are welcome - in a new form.) So apologies to those of you who are real and here, that I allow the once-I knew-you and the I-think-I once-knew-you to absorb the remaining shreds of my social networking that you may or may not be interested in pursuing.

And I pray…

“Lord of reality, make me real…” ('70s song - don't remember the details). A virtual life for a virtual prisoner? Glued to the computer day in and day out, but not really being present in my own real world. A card I once got urged, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Remember Audrey Hepburn, Liza, impatient with Freddy in “My Fair Lady”, marching down the street in the middle of the night. “Anyone who’s ever been in love will tell you that – this is no time for a chat!… if you’re in love, show me!”. So why don’t I call you, meet you for coffee, write you an e-mail instead of asking you to join “Facebook”? Then we’d know what’s behind the face, the assumed identity, where friends are counted, but not measured, where status reduces a quest for a significant life to the banal.

While the sociologists have a field day, analyzing Facebook and the like from every angle, I affirm that my social needs are as real as ever, but that this particular avenue does not sit easy on my conscience right now.

Five twenty-six and the birds are chirping tentatively. New day. As I logged on to blog (yes, I know it has been a long time), I opened a message from a friend I had invited to join Facebook a few days ago (new year flurry!): Fran beloved, not going on Facebook, there will be so many young gorgeous men stalking me, the risks will be too great. Joining instead.”

I wonder if she is free for coffee?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wanting to be held, but not had…

“To have and to hold…”, so the wedding vows (used to) go. (I say, “used to” for as we all know, the holding part has become increasingly difficult – especially “until death us do part”). Today, this vow smacks of wanting to have your cake and to eat it, which could be considered unreasonable, I suppose – two mutually exclusive actions, against the natural laws. If you’ve been had, you surely can’t also expect to be held. Or is it the other way around? You can be held, but don’t expect anyone to have you for too much longer than that?
How exciting it is to be discovered, like some unexplored continent, full of surprises at every turn. Exotic plants, unnamed as yet, fresh sounds and sights assail the senses and the mind leaps with the sheer excitement of fast-paced activity. A compelling quest ensues. Will there be more? Will it be different, even from this? How much is there? Ah, you will have to journey on, dear traveller.
What if it turns out to be more of the same; if you round the bend and it looks just like your backyard in the old country? What if this is just a little showpiece to lure world-weary travelers deeper into the unknown, when they will be too far away to run to their boats when danger appears? What if you wake up one day and long for home but your boat is gone? What if the quest is what it is all about?
It is a strange thing about explorers who liked what they saw and then settled – they invariably sought to recreate the first situation in the new setting. (Look no further than the many Victorian buildings in Africa.) Ja, well, maybe they just wanted the same thing again but with the sunshine…

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chased any bunnies lately?

Is anyone really happy? This question arose on Friday evening over supper with friends (a supposedly happily married couple). It was something I had been musing on for a while, as I contemplated the number of friends in their fifties and sixties who seem to be depressed, in the process of a divorce or some other relationship breakdown, on the one hand, and many much younger people who simply can't get through the prospect of an evening without a few stiff drinks. Why does joy so elude us?

Career changes, fitness regimes, vitamins and daily pep talks don't seem to have the desired effect any longer and even deeply religious friends who for years have drawn strength and comfort from their faith seem to falter.

Our dog who passes most days uneventfully alone at home, quivvers at the prospect of a walk. Any walk, even the one we have taken hundreds of times around our neighbourhood. Pulling wildly on the leash with the force of an untrained puppy, our twelve-year-old black bullet strains forward, senses abuzz, ever optimistic that a hunt is just around the next corner. Sometimes she is lucky. A pet rabbit runs loose on the corner plot and occassionally strays through the wide bars of the fence. With a squeal, Jessie is off. The bunny is used to this, but knows she shouldn't take chances and hops with amazing speed through the nearest bars. Exhausted but satisfied, Jessie trots on homeward, happy just to have chased (but not caught a bunny).

I wonder what my bunny is?