Stamani in un urna d’acqua

It is true, professors are flowers and have to have sun, water, nice soil and time to read. You cannot jail someone below ground, sentence them to sacrifice and penitence, set them on a time-clock and expect a good result, even if the advisors say that is what is needed.

I caught a glimpse of what it would be to be here in Maringouin, right here at Vichy state, but in a department whose customs did not include ill will and where one had autonomy but also collegiality. I caught a glimpse of what it would be to have that, and at the same time not carry so much guilt about having been research oriented and done the Ph.D.

About that: my father did not think it was a good idea in general, and also did not think I, in particular, would be able to “live in snow” (Ann Arbor, Madison) or publish. I was always tentative about the degree for this reason. But for my mother it was much more traumatic because it meant I was not doing at all what she wanted, was not the kind of person she wanted. She really tore herself apart over this. And I hurt them so much by having the interests I had. In some later years I thought of them hourly with guilt and pain.

If I could do things over again the one thing I would do is turn down my aunt’s offer to pay for college. (This is not about graduate school now, but about college.) I had about $2,000 from another relative, that I later used for study abroad, but I could have taken it and run away to trade school. With the trade in hand, I could have paid myself to go to the very college I went to — it was quite inexpensive. Then my mother would not have had grounds to say I had taken money that should have been hers, and my father would have respected me because I would have paid for college myself.

And the family would not have hated me then, and I would not be considered to have hurt them. I would feel very different now if I had had the presence of mind to do these things, to protect myself at the outset from the years of recrimination.


10 thoughts on “Stamani in un urna d’acqua

  1. I don’t know your parents, of course, but evidence from other families with similar dynamics is that everything they hold against you is an excuse. If you had put yourself through college, the complaint would have been that you should have spent that money on them, living with your mother and being a servant to her.

    1. That is key, Wogglebug — nothing would have been right, even being more like what I think she wanted would not have been right. I have to let it go.

  2. It’s not always possible to know what to do when you are that young. Actually, I think you did very well, even though you did not get the kind of help and guidance you needed.

    1. No guidance is OK, it is the recriminations that did it. I must find the right yoga to let this all go, get it out of me.

  3. Oh I see. I guess you were expected to provide your parents with grandchildren.

    1. Gosh — I wonder. They were so against it. I know my mother did want me to marry money. She seemed to have these ideas about getting an internship in New York and then moving to Boston with some well heeled man I would meet through work. This must have been well intentioned, i.e. she was wishing the best and was distraught when I did not get it or could not achieve it … is that possible?

  4. Hmm. Am I wrong then? How is that possible? (-; What did she want for you then? She must have been way odder than I can imagine.

    1. I don’t know. It was just all so fraught. She wasn’t well. But there was another person in her that some friends met and I did not.

  5. Hmm. My mother in law was like that. She had a very tough-talking and even aggressive persona that I never saw. Well, it would pop out every once in a while, but her behavior around me was in her sweet little old lady role, mostly.

    Of course there was her boyfriend that she “shared” with his wife for 30 years, until he died, and that is when she came to live next door to us. His widow called us to make sure she was OK. That’s when I realized she really never knew what was going on. Yes, my MIL was a piece of work, all right. My own mother was totally integrated and had a strong sense of self. That made her seem naive sometimes. So am I and note that the grandkid who resembles me most is the same.

    The best work on these two opposing personality types is Roman Fever, by Edith Wharton. In those days, women had to have strategies to get what they wanted out of life. And it was not always nice or pretty, what went on.

    1. I must read that Wharton story. Strategies, if it was a question of getting hold of the family money, I do see that.

      I have also been thinking, perhaps it is true what you say, my parents wanted me to have children. I remember a period where they were calling me “selfish” for having gone to graduate school. That usually means not producing desired children, I believe.

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