September is a deep cleaning month. Before the beginning of the winter, it’s nice to tidy up the house, rearrange the clothes, throw out the things that just take up space, collect dust and are no longer in use. “We shouldn’t get attached to objects,”–my mother would often say. She is always against the needless storing of useless possessions, whereas my father has this tendency to hoard all sorts of things. He has an exceptionally caring attitude towards everything he has ever bought; towards the car, the bicycle, the bed, the TV… I think it has more to do with the memories than their worth. Well, truth be told, he is pretty economical, or ‘stingy’ in my mother’s words, which angers him immediately. However, their battle over every deep cleaning is never-ending. What to throw away so as to free the space or “let it breathe,” to quote my mother, or what to save because “we might need it someday,” in my father’s words.
My mother called me the other day for help with the process. My parents are very tidy people. In that respect, it is as if I am not their daughter at all. Their cellar is cleaner than my living room. Anyway, I was determined not to get into any argument about the amount of housework but to follow their instructions. As a matter of fact, my mother called me to take my boxes of miscellaneous items that I didn’t even know they had kept for all this time. Literally, I had forgotten all about them. Two huge boxes full of books, magazines, newspaper clippings, various items I had made from dough, dried and dyed and made jewellery from when I was in elementary school. Notebooks full of my attempts at poetry and prose, quotes from various authors that seemed valuable for me to write down… I started going through them, and the countless childhood memories turned into vivid images and emotions. I took them out; it was as if I was looking at a reminder of myself. My father joined me. My mother too.
We took the albums where the photographs were arranged chronologically. My mother is resting after work in one of them, and I’m sitting on her back, reading a book to her. The memories started coming out from the photograph; back then, we were listening to music. And dancing. My mother and I always danced while my father and my sister sat, watched and laughed. In my memory, my parents had magical powers at that time. They were capable of doing everything and gave me the answers to all my questions. I trusted them completely. For me, every word of theirs was a fact that was not subject to re-examination and further analysis. Through them, I got to know the world: through their eyes, experiences, encounters…
I clearly remember, however, the moment when the walls of that world built on the foundations of strong faith in my parents began to crack. There was a loud thunder one night. I crawled into my mother’s arms, wanting to slip into her and hide. “What causes thunder?” – I asked them. “Grandpa God is angry, and he’s scolding us.” “Some barrels are rolling,” they both answered simultaneously. But those were two completely different answers! Both are entirely unacceptable. Well, I was not a small child anymore; we had already started studying science at school. Those were the first moments when my two gods slowly began to fall. The beginning of the end of unconditional trust was officially marked.
Later on, a completely opposite period followed. I do not know why, but almost every adolescent has a repulsive attitude towards their parents. All of a sudden, they became old-fashioned, and they were not acquainted with anything. You are simply ashamed that you are even related to them no matter who and what they are. Back then, I used to wear black clothes; I would lock myself in my room and listen to music for hours on end. The few photographs of me from that period express that. On them, I’m standing distanced from them, looking in the opposite direction. I want to demonstrate that nothing connects me with these people. I’m here by accident! During that time, my friends and I used to talk about important issues like religion and the meaning of life. We pointed to important authors, writers, philosophers and exchanged music… Little did we know back then! My parents laugh at my younger self. I agree; she was funny.
I take one notebook out of the box on the floor with the lyrics from the album Hips and Makers by Kristin Hersh. On the first page is The Letter. My father confesses that they were very worried when I used to listen to this song. They wondered if I was depressed, if something was happening to me. My mum openly tells me that they analyzed the song and concluded that it was pretty dark. “But the lady is great,” they both nod.
“However, I’m more into Dusty Springfield,” said my father. “I only want to be with you!” he added, looking first at my mother, then at me. “There has to be a little love in the lyrics; otherwise, it is not worth listening to, according to your father,” my mother continues. “Only love gives us strength. How would we survive without it?” he says, alluding to the countless troubles and problems that come in life and do not spare anyone. He plays the song on his phone and takes the initiative to dance for the first time.
I look at these two people in front of me, visibly aged, and for the first time, I somehow become aware that they too were once young, and they too had their own thoughts, desires, passions, dreams; aside from the fact that they are my parents. I realize that I am astonished by them. How can anyone not be impressed if I only want to be with you played in the background? Do I even know these two people!? I begin to see them in a different light. This was an opportunity to get to know them. Not only as old people who are constantly worried and boring, who don’t have their own life and don’t know what to do with themselves, but as individuals with life content of their own which I hadn’t perceived despite having spent a great deal of time with them. Parents never stop surprising us. Especially when you realize how well they know you, even though you are not aware of it and do not have to say a word. We have a conversation, and they are not so boring after all. Really, they are not so dull! I begin to recognize myself in them. I don’t know if I should be afraid of that… We laugh. We have a wonderful time.
This fall, we did a deep cleaning of the emotional closet. We shook it, aired it, and re-sealed it again with love. How could we endure life otherwise?
I got home just in time. It began to thunder; heavy rain was announced. “What is thunder?” – my daughter asked me.