Uit: Voice of Our Shadow
At night here I often dream of my parents. They are good dreams and I wake happy and refreshed, although nothing very important happens in them. We will be sitting on the porch in summer, drinking iced tea and watching our scottie dog, Jordan, lope across the front yard. Although we talk, the words are pale and dreamy, unimportant. It makes no difference—we are all very glad to be there, even my brother, Ross.
Now and then Mother laughs or throws her arms out in those great swoops and arcs when she talks—her most familiar gesture. My father smokes a cigarette, inhaling so deeply that I once asked him when I was young if the smoke went down into his legs.
As is true with so many couples, my parents’ temperaments were diametrically opposed. Mother ate life as fast as she could get her hands on it. Dad, on the other hand, was clear and predictable and forever the straight man to her passion and shenanigans. I think the only great sadness in their relationship for him was knowing that although she loved him in a warm, companionable way, she went all-out in adoring her two sons. Originally she had wanted to have five children, but both my brother and I had such difficult births the doctor told her having another child would be a deadly risk. She compensated in the end by pouring the love for those five kids into the two of us.
Dad was a veterinarian; still is a veterinarian. He’d had a successful practice in Manhattan when they were first married, but gave it up to move to the country right after his first son was born. He wanted his children to have a yard to play in and the safety to come and go as they pleased any time of the day.
As with everything else in her life, my mother pounced on the new house and tore it limb from limb. New paint inside and out, new wallpaper, floors stripped and sealed, leaks stopped … When she was done she had created a solid, amiable place with more than enough room, light, warmth, and security to assure each of us this was a home as well as a house.
All that and two little boys to raise. Later she said those first two years in the house were her happiest. Everywhere she went, either someone or something needed her, and that is what she thrived on. With one boy in her arms and another clinging to her skirt, she telephoned, cooked, and hammered the house and our new life there into submission. It took a few years, but when she was done, things both worked and gleamed. Ross was starting school, she’d taught me how to read, and every meal she put on the table was tasty and different.”
Jonathan Carroll (New York, 26 januari 1949)