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The blower II August 12, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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“Oh, hello mum.”
My mother had just been away for a while. She was combining a school reunion with a family affair and it was all going to be awfully exciting. My mother is 71, so left school at least 100 years ago (or thereabouts). Apart from her siblings, I don’t think she’d been in touch with anyone else she’d gone to school with in all this time. The school has even been closed for 40 years. There was scope for Proustian moments in this trip galore. Galore galore.
“So, was the trip fun? Was the reunion a hoot? Any eligible bachelors?”
“It was very well organised, and there was a lovely spread.”
I think we were approaching this from different angles.
“Yes, but did you bump into people you used to play had with 60 years ago whom you hadn’t seen since? Were there Cilla Black’s Surprise Surprise-worthy reunions with tears and hugs and perhaps even having to break into a sprint?”
“Erm, no. Well, someone did take a photo of me and a boy in my class.”
“So, you DID bump into someone whom you hadn’t seen for at least 55 years? Was that fun? Is he married?”
“Yes, he’s married. But I didn’t remember him.”
“What, so this man, whom you hadn’t seen since you were, say, 16, came and approached you and said, ‘Hello, remember me?’, perhaps having harboured feelings for you all this time and was wishing his wife ill and was secretly chuffed to hear that you were a widow and you just said, ‘Who the fuck are you?'”
“Well, I didn’t say, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, but your name escapes me at the moment’.”
Which was, I suppose, at least better than confronting him with the undiluted truth, i.e. that this person had left absolutely no chink in the armour of her memory whatsoever.
“Any other old friends there?”
“Oh well, you know, most of them are dead.”
“What, at 70?”
“Oh yes, you know, people move to different places and die.”
Which can’t be true, can it? People don’t just move and die. In their late 60s. My mother had made that bit up.
I gave up quizzing my mother about her school reunion. Of course her approach to it was far more sensible than my own. Whereas I wanted to be silly about it and look for gossip-worthy – goddammit, even blog-worthy moments – she saw it for what it was: namely, a chance to go back and revisit a bit of her past. To see the place where she grew up. To see her siblings. And, to come away, having compared herself to the Joneses, no doubt contented that she’s outlived a lot of the others and was the one who did the forgetting rather than the being forgotten. And it was all well and good, but, and I’m guessing this must be the case for many a parent, my mother’s own childhood has become something of a PS. She’s not of a generation to think herself important. Her life now, even as she slips into forgetful dotage, is that of her children.

Comments»

1. lukeski - August 13, 2006

Delightful – and exactly the way I would expect your mother (or my mother) to behave. I guess we’ll soon be doing the whole reunion thing – 10 years since Petrozavodsk?

2. BiB - August 13, 2006

Fuck, that’s a good idea. Well, we’d have to wait till April 2008, but still. The Swede organised that SSEES one not long ago, and then didn’t go himself. I can’t remember if you were there. Were you? I wish I could have gone. Mind you, was our Petrozavodsk group big enough to deserve a reunion? Don’t we need a more general SSEESy one? Just quickly trying to think if there’d be anyone I’d cringe about seeing…

3. lukeski - August 13, 2006

I guess you and Pavlik should be the organizing committee, as you were the stars around which we other sputniks travelled…

4. BiB - August 13, 2006

…and organise for it to be held in either Berlin or New York, for everyone’s convenience. Or in Petrozavodsk itself, of course (using SSEES’s visa-getting skills). (Are you sure you’d want to see EVERYONE – if ya hear what I’m sayin’ – from that group?)

5. lukeski - August 13, 2006

I think it would be very interesting – Channel 4 (I think) had a show on last week in which they tracked down all of the couples whose wedding photos appeared in the Brighton and Hove Observer on a particular day in August 1981. A surprising number of them were still married and (kind of) in love. Even stranger, given that most of them were in their teens or early 20s when they married. I suppose for us young bucks with the internet and Friends Reunited and the alumnus networks, etc, it wouldn’t have quite the same frisson as for my older siblings, or for our parent’s generation, but as we can testify, people can so easily drop out of your life, and it is not always so easy to track them down.

6. BiB - August 13, 2006

Genau, genau. I often struggle to keep in touch with other folks I know in Berlin. But e-mail, of course, is an awfully good staying-in-touch helper, even if the touch can be a bit vague. I’ve got a feeling I’m not in touch with a single person from school/6th form. Pre-e-mail, you see. (Although there has been the odd bit of Friends Reuniteding with some of them, but it has led to nothing.)

Well, my mother enjoyed her reunion – even if only the spread – after all these years. It actually would be nice to revisit Petrozavodsk, but I see my life being taken over by strangers with great speed for a few days, and the attraction begins to wear off ever so slightly.

7. lukeski - August 13, 2006

I guess we’ll just have to have a mini-reunion in Berlin oder London one of these days. I’m also not in touch with anyone pre-university, but I’ve noticed I have a worrying tendency (inherited from my mother, no doubt), to check what has happened to people from school, and try to remember whether there was any inkling then that they would become a famous scientist/criminal/judge/warlord/popstar when they between the ages of 5 and 11. My secondry school/sixth form has a perverse interest for me, as I refuse to list myself, yet check back on new and updated profiles every couple of weeks.

8. BiB - August 14, 2006

To my knowledge, no-one from my primary, secondary or sixth form has gone on to take the country/world by storm. Fucking shitty inner-city crap schools. (Although there have been Olympic rowing golds, actually.) I was just reading on some blog or other that someone wrote they couldn’t turn on the TV or open a paper without seeing someone from uni there. It makes me feel a little bit inadequate, even though I still try to convince everyone SSEES is better than Oxbridge for Slavists. (Is this true, even?) Anyway, aren’t you a public school boy? Did your school create Somali warlords?

9. lukeski - August 14, 2006

No, dear boy, staunchly white and middle class, Portsmouth Grammar School. Lots of doctors, officers in the armed forces, etc… I also try to convince others of SSEES’s gretaness, but it is now seen as a minor department of UCL, to at which history/sociology/business students do specialist courses. They seem to have lost the cosmpolitan/mental illness nature of the place back in the day. I guess it has grown up, mores the pity…

10. BiB - August 14, 2006

Fuck, although I haven’t tried saying, “I graduated from UCL,” on for size yet. Maybe it’s got a ring to it. Anyway, when abroad, I normally say University of London, which folk are happy to accept exists, and I suppose it sort of does, in a way. Just spelling out what SSEES stands for, if the conversation arises, normally makes me have to have a lie down.

11. Adrian - August 16, 2006

“Oh yes, you know, people move to different places and die.”

Brilliant. That’s the meaning of life, that is.

12. BiB - August 16, 2006

I do nothing but move. I’ll be dead any second now if my mother’s logic is correct. Damn. So much still to see and do!


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