It came to me a few days ago. Marie is my very last baby! And what’s so awesome about that?
I’m Marie! For those who don’t live in an imaginative mode, this may seem a bit silly. Even nonsense.
To me, however, it makes perfect sense. There’s a baby in me who’s been waiting for this chance to grow all her life. That means ever since she turned 10 months old in September 1944.
That’s when my father came home after 18 months in a TB sanatorium. I sometimes call him The Intruder because that’s how it was back then and throughout my childhood and teenage years. He was intent on beating anger out of me, the anger he said he’s seen and experienced from his own father. He said he recognized this anger in me immediately when I was a baby.
Things got messy. He recruited my mother as his ally, not mine. She became his collaborator, informer and secondary enforcer. This bred fear in me and outraged resistance coupled with strategic submission.
Things are different today. My parents are gone. I miss them. Yet I don’t miss their collaborative ways that continued when I was an adult.
So now I’m pushing 75, and I get to raise baby Marie! Yes, she’s a baby doll. She’s also a stand-in for that part of me that’s been cowering inside, afraid of her own voice and terrified of punishment.
Here are several things I’ve pondered these last few weeks.
- What do I know about my mother? What did she bring to our relationship that might help me understand her–before and after my father returned as the one and only Head of the House?
- I have the same question about my maternal grandmother Zaida. She ran off with a wealthier man when my mom was very young, and, given her habits, didn’t know how to be a mother.
- How deep is this hole or ache in me that wants to be filled? Are there women or men who filled parts of it when I was growing up?
- And what about behaviors and characteristics I lost after my father arrived with his agenda? So far I’ve identified things like openness and trust, a feeling of safety. No shame. A sunny disposition. Not afraid to fall or make a mess. Not afraid of most other human beings.
In some ways, growing old is a process of reverting to childhood. Becoming more dependent on others, more vulnerable to external and internal changes or challenges.
What better way, then, to envision Marie than as a baby who challenges me to become true to myself as I age? When I pay attention to Marie, including what she needs from me, I’m learning to pay attention to myself. And it isn’t so lonely anymore. Sometimes it’s even fun!
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 September 2018
Photo found at pixabay.com