nothing better

one forth of my genes Frieda

a swearing market waif – independent

still her early 90s

Some time last year, I think. the thought popped up I need to honour Frieda. Perhaps because I was so angry at H and did not have anyone to use as a role model dealing with his intrusion.

My father’s mother was no artist with world reputation like Frida, she was, I believe, and I can’t even be certain about that, a market stall holder. in Rostock, on the Baltic Sea. Bringing up a son mostly on her own. His dad having died early. As some would say, I even failed at the attempt to bring up a son as a single parent in much easier conditions, in the 1970s, fifty years on.

I only met her once, when I was 13, I believe. My dad took me to the town of his birth and we stayed with her. She lived in a small flat under the roof in an apartment block. I don’t remember much, only that it seemed dark. in a corner near the window a photo of my dad on the wall when he was about 4, in a sailor’s uniform, as it was customary in those days – kids had to be dressed up for photos. That was later a bone of contention when my parents sent her a photo of me age 4 with a coat she thought shabby. I remember we ate herring – fried and then pickled, from a tin or jar, a speciality in the region. Was my dad’s dad perhaps a sailor? I just don’t know. Won’t know.

I remember my dad taking me to the beach not far. And buying me small gifts I long treasured, among them a round mahagony box, diameter just right for my hand, with a screw-on lid of the same material for treasures to keep in. The tenderness in that gift chokes me even now, more than 50 years later. That visit, that week with him was special, even though I remember us as almost mute. The loneliness of hidden secrets accompanied us even there.

I had begun to take an interest in photography, and I took a photo of him, all on his own sitting in an otherwise empty stadium – cheering as I requested with his arms raised. At nothing, for me. A photo that is now only a memory, like so much else.


Warnemuende beach nr Rostock

~ by Barbara S on December 6, 2021.

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