I apologize for the gap in my blogging. For the last three months I have been deep in the process of producing my book, part memoir, part biography, called “The Woman in the Photograph.” I am so excited to announce that it will be in print by Mother’s Day, and up on Amazon soon after. So let me talk about mothers.
We all have, or have had a mother. And because this is often the human being who has a major influence on our lives, hopefully along with a father, we cannot really see this figure as a whole human being. The paradigm of mother means that we looked to her when we were helpless and completely dependent. It also means we pushed her away so we could find a sense of ourselves. We are indebted to her. We blame her. We idolize her. We demonize her. And no matter how rational we try to sound when we say we have some detachment, and we take her as she is, the truth is that this figure has left a deep imprint on our psyche, and we suffer more if she doesn’t see who we are, if she doesn’t value us, if she is in pain or if she criticizes us.
Okay, I have taken some liberties in these broad generalities. Maybe they are all part of how I see my mother. But look at all the people to write about their relationships with their mothers–most recently Diane Keaton in her newish book, “Then Again.” I’m looking forward to reading it.
I too have written a book about my mother, or more precisely, the search for my mother’s past. Why would I spend twenty years looking for her past? you might wonder. First of all, I loved her very much. She was also a quirky, eccentric, brave, annoying, vulnerable, stubborn person, and I thought I knew her better than anyone else in the world. But I didn’t.
I knew how hard her life was after my father died; I knew that she rode the New York subway in the rush hour to go to work at an import company owned by a German Jewish immigrant who wanted to help her, back in 1953. I knew that she spoke German, French, and English with just a slight accent, enough so people were sometimes not quite sure where she came from.
I didn’t know of the glamourous, extravagant life she lived in her youth, or the opportunities she had in Leipzig, Germany before the rise of Hitler. I didn’t know how much fun she had, what wonderful romances, what elegant clothes she wore, or that she was on the maiden voyage of the SS Bremen. Why would that matter?
It does. Because whether in words, or in those unspoken secrets that family members pass along between the lines of their speaking, her message was that life was hardship and survival, and there was little room for play or lightness. And that was only half the truth. Oddly enough, one of the most important outcomes of my twenty year adventure was to reclaim my rightful legacy–the right to be happy, to trust life, to feel safe.
Do you ever think about what your mother told you about life? Probably. How about reflecting on all the things in her experience she didn’t talk about. Are you interested?
There are many levels to “The Woman in the Photograph.” I can’t wait to share it with you soon.