Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Domain: Three pictures of my mother


I was just trying to learn the code for aligning pictures with space between and now I have it. The girlhood picture on the right has been up before but the two on the left I received from my father on Sunday. I can't date them exactly but the one in the middle might be 1954.

But now that I have them up there, a little more on her domain, about which I have written a few earlier posts.

I mean a domain restricted by ill health. She was otherwise a vigorous woman who was never going to be denied and would always stand up for herself, or indeed for anything. She was never a housewife until illness broke her towards the end of her short life of fifty-one years.

I have written a number of poems about her, and the 'Flesh' part of Reel has a whole section trying to figure her out as a presence from a child's point of view. Frankly, I don't remember the deliberate gypsy look of the middle photo very clearly, not in detail, but I have a strong sense of it even now as an aspect of her identity.

The more time that passes the more complex that identity seems to be. Emotionally, psychologically, woundedly, fiercely complex. I sometimes think she might be one of the supermodels for 'the artist's mother'.

One domain: the light box about which there is a separate poem in Reel. We are in the biggest room in the Budapest flat and she is scraping away at a black & white negative with a fragment of fine razor blade that she holds in her fingers. She is peering at the tilted surface of the light box, fully absorbed. I am sitting nearby abstractedly staring at her. I hand her my homework. My task for the day has been to decorate the lined borders of the exercise book with a folk design of tulips, alternating right-way-up with upside-down. But something is wrong. And then I say something wrong. Suddenly she is in a fury. She rises from her chair and hits out at me with a book. It doesn't hurt very much but it's a shock.

She sits down again, breathing more heavily.

I have no memory of her as in the picture on the left. That was a bygone secret self drawn from the well of Elsewhere. The nature of that Elsewhere is probably the best key available to the identity I am now reaching for.


Billy C said...

George, I'm sure you've thought about it, but just to remind you, sometimes, as in that moment when your mother hit you, there is no explanation. Those moments can arise simply because your mother was a woman. Wrong time of the month: thoughts elsewhere to some dark moment in her past? We men (even someone as well educated and intellectual as yourself) are, and never will be, privy to the female psyche. Better, and more likely to reach a result, to search for the secret of eternal life. I gave up trying to understand them many years ago. And I'm happier for it.

George S said...

What do you mean my mother was a woman, Billy! How dare you? She may have been many things but... ;)

"...and never will be, privy to the female psyche."

Hey now! the female psyche is my privy!

Billy C said...


Billy C said...

More of Domain, George. I'm fascinated by it.

This is a good place to wander into. A bit like a good pub with real ale on tap.

Nicole S said...

My mother had a similar gaze to your mother's in the picture on the left. Sort of direct, yet guarded. As if she could see hidden things but was keeping them to herself. Not necessarily good things, either. Am I imagining it?

George S said...

I hardly recognise her in that photograph, Nicole. The direct-yet-guarded element was probably there though more often I remember the blaze, and sometimes the searching look.

I wish I could remember it more clearly. Photographs often tend to supplant memory. Hence all my quibbles about memory and its supposed certainty.