Note to Blog Readers: I have just finished reading Alexandra Fuller’s lovely book “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” and was inspired to write a few lines about my own experiences in Africa and Asia and my own incredible mother. Both “Cocktail Hour…” and Alexandra’s first book “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” are beautifully written. Another woman author whose tale of an African childhood experience, and an extraordinary mother, worth reading is New York Times’ White House Correspondent Helene Cooper’s story of growing up in Liberia, “The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood.” I’ve divided my brief tales into three parts. Here’s the first.
Part I – “You’re Just Fine”
My experience being a Mamma in Italy is in sharp contrast to my experience of having an American Mom. As I have mentioned in earlier posts (see Fevers ) it is an Italian Mamma’s life-long duty to constantly fret about her children’s health. My mother’s attitude was quite the opposite. She told me once, “the best pediatricians are the ones who tell you your child is “just fine'” In fact, that was her attitude to most of her own three children’s ailments. Scraped knees, bloody noses, stitches, broken bones, amoebas….the response was mostly the same, “you’re just fine.”
My mother applied her philosophy to herself first. She was living in Dhaka, Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) when she got pregnant with my older sister Gwen. Gwen was upside down, feet first, and in most countries that would have called for a C-section. My Mom said there was a confident Nun-Obstetrician at the Holy Family Hospital in Dhaka who told my Mother, “Don’t worry, I’ll turn the baby around and get her out. She’ll be just fine.” And so it was.
In the photo above my mother is looking very glamourous as she holds my sister Gwen’s hand and I hide behind her. There is a note on the back of the photo that says “Batrasi Resthouse, West Pakistan, Between Abbottabad and Kaghan.” Underneath in parenthesis is a little note (P has been car sick). P means me, Patricia, and, well, if you want my side of the story, we were winding up a perilous road with hairpin turns and I was sitting in the back of the landrover feeling steadily worse and worse and once in a while announcing: “Mom, I don’t feel good.” I believe she answered, “look straight ahead pumpkin and you’ll be just fine.” It was impossible to look straight ahead because I was five-years-old and from the back I couldn’t see over the seat in front of me, and even if I could, it was so steep and curvy there would not have been much of a view straight ahead anyway. So finally I announced, “I’m going to throw up!” at which point the driver slammed on the brakes and my Dad hopped out of the front seat and whipped open the door just in time for me to yack all over the side of the road. So, this little inconvenience required the stop at the Batrasi Resthouse for Tea. I was just fine, but that was just the beginning.
(These are what my mother likes to refer to as my Tall Child Abuse Tales)
Tomorrow: The Mini-Purply Eggplant and My Lost Opportunity to Become a Princess