Mothers

She was born shortly before times changed for all time as the Old World perished along with societies and customs, manners and mores, at a time when three empires at once faded away in history’s memory and the maps were redrawn as result of a tragic game of dice, and she grew up safe and well in the middle of golden meadows and fields and farm life and close-knit communities and when the car came to replace the horse carriage which marked the rattling advent of modern times. Her husband fell on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, she fled and left her native country behind, die Heimat, along with the two boys, my father and uncle, bid farewell to their home. She was not even 32 years old, and her life had utterly changed again, for the second time. Just as the world had fallen apart.

At the age of 19 she decided to move to a different country and a foreign language and summoned up all her courage and hope and faith, and so my mother found herself comme au pair at a host family who gave her room and board, and for the most work, as she took care of their children and the household. By that time it was already an international city, this curious capital in the middle of Europe, in the late 1960’s, while at the same time an island completely isolated both in language and customs from the surrounding area, a conflict as present now as then, with hatred and resentment blazing in the eyes even today, and her mother tongue was not to be taken for granted as it is these days, especially on the markets of Ixelles where you find yourself in the trade of various commodities and amidst strange odours and smells and bitter herbs and with colonial people. At home there was her family’s corner shop.

We arrived at the house late at night, were welcomed, and the next day we sat down around the table and laughed and drank and ate food while we talked about our trip along the West Coast, the islands at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean where we had got a first idea about their history and got sunburnt in addition and gazed from above at the mountains in the distance and the enclosures composed of stone and centuries filled with poverty and strenuous effort, the Orange Order‘s parade right through the town centre of the capital in the North. Such a large family, uncle, aunt, their six children, plus grandchildren. Her first child was ill at birth, she was 34, she had acted like a big sister to me when I was young, and here she handed me the baby to keep and bear, such a tiny life in my hands, a lightweight amounting to almost nothing, delicate and slender with the biggest smile you can imagine. How can someone so small turn out so compelling?

All the three are sitting now at the dining table, she peaceful and free from the strict regiment of her mother, my great-grandmother, a daughter of the old times, formed in the Höhere Töchterschule in a land far, far gone, she worn by grief and illness, looking over her glasses, not looking through the lenses for an uncertain future to watch, she remembers, dreams a dream, forays into a life filled with happiness, and she who is the last of the three, the one raising three children does so with no worried heart but with firm hope: Each of them tells about ancestry and heritage, a story, narrative, of which we never shall get tired, our mothers’ lives.

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[The Norwegian language original version of this text can be found here: http://www.quisquilia.net/nova_blog/wordpress/mødre-2313.html ]