My mother is sitting on the floor, in her pyjamas, with a broken arm and a flu that just cleared up. A nest of children’s drawings, photos and wooden statues surrounds her: souvenirs from our life in Africa, in the 70’s. Large piles of books are stacked in a second circle. They originally occupied the shelf that we cleared, but now they’re cluttering the floor.
We are making an Africa exhibition.
Or at least my mother is. I am reading a Dutch novel with my feet on the table.
We are both drinking wine.
With her functional hand my mother unwraps a red clay figure with a broken-off penis. My little sister had a habit of demasculinizing art. The erections never made it to the Netherlands.
“Mom, I think I made a poem. Want to hear it?” I ask.
“Yes sure,” she says.
is like low-fat cheese;
it tells on itself.
My mother listens to MyFirstPoem, the way she once supported finger paintings and crayon drawings: with unconditional love and approval.
“That is a nice poem. But maybe people will not understand it. For most people literature is something nice.”
“You mean people read this,” I wave with a highly acclaimed Dutch novel,” and actually like it?”
“Yes, they do,” my mother assures me. “They like to get deeper thoughts.”
I shake my head with a sour mouth, and swallow the wine.
“I thought people read this because it’s good for them,” I insist. “That’s why I read it anyway.”
“I don’t think literature is good for you at all,” my mother says, as she turns back to her photos and memorabilia. “You are different.”
That is true. I am different. Different from other yoga teachers, who practice detachement. From other writers who actually like reading difficult books. From other daughters with a successful career, off-spring and a Significant Other.
To my favour, I do point out I never broke off male genitals.
“You’re cool mum,” I say. “You never bug me that I don’t give you grandchildren.”
“Why would I? You do other things,” my mother holds up a large black and white photo of a 6y.o. me, dancing naked in African monsoon rains.
That weekend she finishes her mini-exposition of Africa. We go for dinner three times, replenish wine and chocolate, design a new look for her clothes, and we book a gallery for a Retrospective of my father’s photographs in 2011.
But on the train on my way home I realize the sheets are still in the washing machine, I forgot to clean the bathroom, and there is no bread left for my mother to make breakfast.
Somehow, I don’t think she’ll mind.