going deeper

“A mother’s love never runs out.” – This sentence from a radio feature by an African journalist reflecting on what she calls the celebration of the first female period in her home country stands out for me. She re-stages her initiation party 15 years earlier and tells about the token gifts carrying catching phrases like the one quoted. She and other female members of her family are heard giggling a lot in the background – and it is clear that an element of celebration it maybe – but it remains clearly linked to secrecy and vague prescriptions – not to tell and to stay away from boys – until suddenly at 29, the expectation is up-sided: Now suddenly it is about turning up at the high table, at the wedding. Yet, in the secrecy seems, protected in the dark, there lies a remnant of a ritual of all-encompassing female power, rendered subconscious by centuries of colonial patriarchy.

I am left pondering: It is not only that secrecy or period or  any material symbols, come to that, may or may not represent all that there is to be said  of female power – Having so far lived about half of my life as a semi-solitary woman, it may not be obvious how I could make my case for a mother’s love. Only to me now it seems: The vow whispered over my new-born son 42 years ago stands as true as when he was sleeping in his cot next to my bed in recovery from the caesarean.

My seeking solitude 10 years later would not have been possible without my son’s father who had maintained an active role in the boy’s life over years of living in different parts of the country and not without my trust that he was safe to leave the boy with. My trust would perhaps not have come to life without the Doctor who acted as  midwife for my decision when he said: “If that is the way you want to live, you have to live that way.” (It is not without some irony that I later learned that the Doctor second-guessed himself after I had left his surgery and concluded I was likely contemplating suicide and therefore wanted the boy safe with his dad. So my desire was a bit even beyond this sympathetic man’s grasp after all.)

Shall I try to bridge the gap of understanding by referring to the story of the Judge who decided which of two claimants was truly the mother by finding out which one would give up the child? Or would I only yet again sneak into honourable motives I am not to own?

No, I find, ultimately – for now at least – the question is not, it seems to me, what concepts I inhabit, what narratives or metaphors I present, legitimately or otherwise – but how deep I am willing to go in order to find what is “eternal and deep in a human being” – even me – [1], : From there only it may emerge an inkling how a vow can change character beyond recognition and yet remain the same. –

[1] Stage Manager in a new production of Thornton Wilder play Our Town, BBC Radio 4, 23/9/2017

~ by Barbara S on September 30, 2017.

One Response to “going deeper”

  1. of course this could onlyl be written after working through decades of mother guilt. No fudging.

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