Thursday, June 23, 2011

the best I can do

(Pictures taken at the Queen Anne Farmer's Market today.)

I had a friend in college who used to say that she wasn't going to have children until she was sure she would be able to love them unconditionally. Love them as they were, whether they were fairly similar to her in terms of things like disposition and beliefs, or if they turned out to be quite different - maybe republican, or gay, or disabled - any of the things she was not. At that time in my life, in my late teens/early twenties, I was a bit puzzled by her train of thought and her regular mention of this. Who thinks about that kind of thing a decade or so before it's likely to happen? Looking back, I understand that her own severely dysfunctional upbringing was probably at the root of her concern.

I'm currently reading Father of the Rain. Last night I read this passage:

'It's been years since I triggered my father's temper. I learned my way around it long ago. I do not bring up politics, history, literature, lawyers - especially Jewish lawyers - or any other subject that can be linked, however loosely, to my mother. I do not tease, and I receive teasing with a smile; I keep my thoughts and opinions to a bare minimum. I ask questions. I make myself useful. I do not discuss my interests, my relationships, or my goals. He and Catherine find me dull company, and tease me for that as well, but it is a small price to pay for peace.' (Father of the Rain by Lily King, p. 154.)

All day I've been haunted by this thread in the book. I've spent more time in my life than I would like to be able to say I have, living under a much paler shadow of various kinds of intolerances. This book has made me remember what it was like to live, kind of, like that. I am compelled, as ever, to be conscious of living with an open heart and an open mind, to the best of my ability. May we all be.

12 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I loved that book -- so thank you for pulling that beautiful passage out and reminding me of it. I went to college with Lily King and knew her back then -- a lovely person who is an amazing writer.

E. Jean said...

Those are very raw and profound observations in your post. Thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely have to get a copy of that book. You have such a keen eye for the world and you brilliantly capture them in photos and in prose.

Kwana said...

All be can do is be our best and love our best. Have a good weekend.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

Such a difficult passage. This sort of repression erodes sense of self and fuels resentment, yet seems unavoidable at times. It is sad.

Tirzah said...

So I'm going to go out and buy that book now. Thanks for your lovely reflections.

country girl said...

Oh boy. What a passage. I can understand why it has haunted you all day.
I am three months away from having our first child, so naturally, I have been contemplating so many things having to do with parenting and my own childhood.
I know that I will give so much of myself to this child, and hope I will manage not to expect anything in return later when he is grown. I will just hope for a loving relationship, with respect on both ends.
Thanks for sharing this, and for sharing your thoughts.
Your photographs are, as always, beautiful.
xo Dawn

Anonymous said...

I do not have children for precisely this reason (the passage in the book you quoted). Childhood for me was so unpleasant I could not imagine imposing it on another human. So, I did not have a family. It's important to remember that children remember all the slights and hurts, and their future will be informed by the past.

Diane said...

There is no greater joy for me in life than my family. I love my little girls. It's tragic to see that everyone hasn't been brought up in a loving family situation.

KPiep said...

My husband felt similarly about having children...he was NOT going to have them until he was absolutely sure to be in a position where he wouldn't repeat his parents mistakes. We faught about it a lot when we were newlyweds because I was READY, but I understand it now and appreciate it. He's the best father in the world, and his kids are secure.

Kayla Poole said...

Such an interesting passage to consider. I am not a parent yet, but when I am, I hope that my children feel like they can fully bring their whole selves to the table...always and unconditionally.

Jodi said...

Lily is just amazing and lovely. I'm so glad her book has found you.

Francesca said...

I find all this heartbreaking in a way, because I do honestly believe that no parent deliberately makes mistakes, and that we all do the best we can at that moment in time. What happens when our best is not good enough?