Wednesday, December 16, 2015

last day of the year

I am fascinated my M.C. Escher's images of his father. There are three, in particular, that I saw at the museum, and I was struck by the deeper image that was born from the dialogue between them all.

His first, earliest portrait of his father is stern and foreboding. The stark lines of the linoleum print are authoritarian. He looks reserved, critical (border-line disapproving), and rather impersonal. It looks almost like it is an image of Any Father. Nothing warm or personal exudes from the linocut.

This second print is fascinating. With its odd, sinuous geometric shapes it appears to be more of Escher's ilk. But it also manages to obscure the actual human of his father even more. This is a geometric representation of a human. It is an allusion to a person through a formulation of shapes. It i more personable than the linocut of his father. Bent over whatever he is examining through his lens, Escher's father is captured in a vulnerable and honest moment. His focus is all outside of himself, intent on whatever he is 

The third image is of Escher's father on his deathbed. I wish I could find an image of it online, but I cannot. This seems fitting, however, for it is a very pensive, private image. It is in pencil, so malleable and expunge-able. It is an image of deep sorrow, but also great wonder. Escher does not attempt to see his father through any other lens than of his father's own person. The sketch does not capture Escher's skill, but simply the sweetness of his father's face, peaceful in his last repose.

Enthralled by Escher's attempt to capture the likeness of his father, I meditated on how I often feel the same drive to write the images of my own parents. But, perhaps all children do this. We come from these mysterious, wonderful creatures. During our childhood, we are so content to call them "mother" and address them as "father," and leave it there. They are simply mother and father and parent to us, and that is all we know them as, and all we need to know.

But then, there comes a break. 
We become adults, and we can no longer see our parents as simply our progenitors, but we must know who they are as humans. Who they are with lives distinct from our own, with lives that were there before, and will continue after the fatal moment of our births. 
They are enigmas. 
But we came from them. To have our own origins be an enigma to us is torture.

We are desperate to know them, so we paint them all the colors that we can.
We distort their images into geometric shapes, stretched to the far limits of pictoral reality.
We, like Escher, reframe our parents' faces to try to understand our own.

At the Rancho, I found pictures of my mother on her college graduation day.
She looked like me. But not at all like me.
But her hair was shining with the lustre of the 80's, the golden glow of opportunity, and a computer science degree. She was supple and alive, and the most twenty-somethingish. I found that picture the same day my sister sent me this:

Just 10 short years later the girl with the shining 80's hair would be the smiling mother in the sandbox with her husband by her side, and her two children squirming in her lap. Already then, her present tense was "Mother" and I knew her as such. Just 10 years later the girl in the green sweatshirt would be transformed into a woman with two children, and the green sweatshirt girl with her hips and jeans and air of wild expectancy would have vanished.

I know the mother in the sandbox, for I was the baby in her lap.
But I want to know the girl in the green sweater. The woman who became my mother. My mother before she earned that title. 
I want to know all of the stories that took place in those 10 years between the pictures.
Because I am living in those 10 years.
And I want to know that she has been here, too.
That she knows what it means to be twenty-something with the world at your feet; and a masters degree and husband on the horizon there somewhere, but just an abundance of present tense to live in until then.
I want to know all of the heartbreak and mess that she has lived through, too. Because I was born from-- from out of--born into-- that heartbreak, mess, striving, triumph, and grace. 
I was born from her. Her story has made me.
And I am a part of her story.
Our stories are bound together pretty fatefully, we mothers and daughters, and yet they are so disparate. We cannot be a part of one another's stories unless we let the other in.
Will I ever find my way to the inside of this woman whom I was once inside?

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