October 19, 2007

The past, Hitler, and Rome, according to my mother.

"Hey! That's where my car froze solid one winter and I was stuck here for a week!" I exclaimed, arm outstretched, pointing to a multicolored leaf-strewn residential road on the outskirts of my old college town. My mom and I were driving through it last weekend on the way to our family cabin, which we were traveling to winterize. And I was in the midst of an ongoing flashback, nostalgic and thrilled by the rapid-fire memories I could hardly verbalize before they were overcome with another more powerful one.

"And that's my old house! Oh God, the fondue parties we used to throw..."
"I had my very first class in that building... and there is where I learned how to throw a football... and there's where we used to sled in the winter and mudslide in the summers... and that's where I'd always go to skip class... and that's where I met--"

I stopped short for a moment, torn between enjoying the memory for what it was and mourning its presence at that moment.

Undecided, I turned towards my mom in the car.

"Isn't it weird how strongly attached certain places and things are to people from your past? Even when you don't want them to be," I moaned, "they just can't be untangled."

"Oh honey," my mom scoffed, half-laughing, half-scolding, "tell me about it. I've got 30 years worth of those places and things!"

My mom is recently divorced. From my dad. Her first marraige "failed", if that's the word, after 30 years. And she's doing incredibly well - looks better than ever, smiles all the time -- it was a good thing ultimately, as breakups almost always are.

But the truth remained: she has more memories painfully tied to my father, a compulsive and abusive cheater and liar, than I have of my entire existance.

"Oh yeah," I said. "Does that make you angry? I mean, aren't those memories prone to just barging in unwelcomed?"

"Eh," she shrugged, "At first, I guess. But after a while you realize that all those memories are true, and really happened, and are a part of your past. What are you going to do?"

"I dunno, brainsurgery?" I quipped. "Have you ever seen Eternal Sunshine?"

"Well, there's a lobotomy, or there's recognizing that where you've been before defines you, regargless of if it was as graceful or as spotless as you wish it were. The fact remains that you are who you are today thanks to where you were yesterday."

I nodded. .

"It's like Hitler," she said. "He killed a bunch of people. Mostly Jews. It's horrible, you can't pretend it isn't, but in the end, is what it is. A real part of the real past. You can't undo it."

I nearly broke my neck I whipped my head towards her so fast. Searching her face for a hint of sarcasm while failing to hold back a torrent of horrified laughter, I managed to get out a punishing "MOM!" and then "You realize you just compared your ex-marriage to the Holocaust, right? Don't you think that's a bit much?!"

"Well," she said, eyes dancing with health and humor and a bit of that gypsy mystery she has about her, "Maybe, but when in Rome..."

"Mom, I don't think that's the right context for..." I stopped, smiled and shook my head. "Oh, nevermind."

3 comments:

Ben said...

Liz

There are so many things I want to know. We will start with the winning lotto numbers for tomorrow. Get to the good stuff first. Who is going to win the Cleveland Boston game tonight. I could make a pretty penny if I knew that. Oh, and how did you manage to time travel forward one day. Just asking because your blog is dated the 19th, and I am pretty sure it is the 18th, good trick. I hope this new found talent has more applications than posting blogs one day in advance. Cheers

Ben

Anonymous said...

you should see this one about hitler

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/878411/hitlers_house_at_a_us_naval_base/

auntiegrav said...

I should be working, but was playing and looking for a distraction. Long time no read.

I love and hate Hitlerisms. I love when someone can properly use a comparison (like your mom just did) and I hate when they are used to mistakenly blame all of the Holocaust on one person or country.

Your mom's comparison is fine because she was comparing memories of things. One memory is equivalent to another for that purpose. It was a good example.

Your surprise is a filtered, politically correct response to the falsehood that Hitler should be held up as 'True Evil' and never used in a nonchalant manner because it might offend the Jews or something.

The bad memories of Hitler need more talk, not less. We need to realize that he was put into power by conspiracies of great power that still live today in our corporate halls and boardrooms. We are not that far from the same Blind Faith in Systems of systems. That Blind Faith becomes evil when we act on it, as Germany did in their ego-trip of supremecy and Empire.

Talk about it. Don't be ashamed to explore more of Reality of history because of some weird social taboo against comparing things to some guy in a suit. The next thing you know, you won't want to make light of the Pope, or 9/11, or Dick Cheney's smirk.