Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some blog saved. some blog saved. some blog saved my life tonight

The car alarm belonging to the "genius" down the street (I will refrain from expletives here), who will remain unnamed and who likely keeps solid blocks of gold in his car, went off again at 3ish this morning. This is a frequent occurrence on our street laden with children and toddlers. This coupled with my mind being in overdrive from the book launch the other night (more deets to follow) has driven me out of bed and on to the computer. I wish I could be like my spouse, blissfully asleep and oblivious to all. He murmurs sweetly and then falls asleep again after these incidents. Not I ...

I go to the third floor of our Victorian where the computer is and Lolli, the older of the two cats, pads upstairs quietly with me. Oh don't get me wrong, she doesn't do it because she likes me (she is completely enamored of the husband R, who isn't?) but she is a nosy little thing and must sniff about. She sits and stares at me with her beautiful green eyes as I type in the darkness. "Why can't you be R?" her look seems to say.

Reactions are quickly coming from friends who have read Made Up of Arias, which is quite short, and the comments, inevitably stick in my mind, mostly kind, sometimes cryptic ... one particularly literate friend K, an accomplished poet and publisher, called it a "commemoration and an expiation". Yes, the commemoration part is obvious, a sort of homage to a style of life that is no longer my own, perhaps never was my own, but my mother's, my extended family's in Hamilton. With my mother's generation (she is now 73 with two older siblings gone) that life has become more and more tenuous.

The other day, in response to my innocent query: "So, without the kids tonight?", one exasperated first cousin (a mother) explained why none of her children had shown up at a family function that day. She started to rhyme off the reasons as to why they were busy, uninterested, occupied, etc ... broke off in mid stream and suddenly burst out angrily and said, "Okay! So now I have no children!"

I had to suppress my surprise and laughter because as distressful as it was to her, this was exactly the sentiment I was trying to capture in the book on the part of Seraphina, the passionate and volatile mother of three, who has these from zero to ten bursts of passion ... and good Lord, I know I have them with my own child. My vehement, and sometimes passionate volatility about J's behavior and well being, usually having to do with issues of her safety, are legendary in this house. This is often puzzling to the usually level headed spouse who looks at me in an alarmed fashion most days.

But an expiation? An atonement of sorts? Hmm, an atonement for abandoning that life? For, in effect, abandoning my mother to that life when I was eighteen and moved away to Toronto to the shock and horror of those in our tightly knit Sicilian community? This was considered a really unconscionable thing to do especially as my mother had been widowed two years before and depended on me to assist her in the family business. I did not abandon her but I'm sure she felt I did, as did many others.

I doubt this was what my friend meant but, okay, let's haul out that emotional baggage ALC, that huge piece of old Samsonite luggage that is my Italian girl guilt. I did construe it to be that way when K mentioned it.

I have come to repeat to whomever will listen that I could not have written this book at any other time in my life except for back in the day...

Firstly, I had the time to write, working only part-time or sporadically at that point, fully immersed in trying to find my voice, starting with family fictions and weaving an intricate web from there. Secondly, I was trying to piece together in my own head how my mother's mind worked at that time, and found, for myself, the perfect metaphor in Seraphina's obsession with opera, with the histrionic gesture, with family honour, and familial love. Thirdly, I was pregnant in the earlier and latter parts of the writing process not once but twice, once miscarrying and then giving birth to J the next year which infused the process somewhat with hope, with intense love, with despair at times.

I was wondering: what did it mean to love your child so intensely that you expose them to these terrible rages of passion and fury over seeming trifles as does Seraphina? As I do and my cousins seem to now? What is at the root of that passion? Would I be that sort of mother one day I wondered then?

An expiation indeed.

No comments: