November 26, 2010
Well, I finished the four contests for which I am final judge. All I had to do to get this done was give up doing anything else. Especially email. Email is the enemy of getting anything done. I had to give it up and read the manuscripts, hundreds and hundreds of them over the final stretch and I finished out today and then went to the gym. The whole thing made me tired. Tomorrow I will catch up on email, the rest of my grading and everything else. Email is the enemy to getting work done; it’s a problem.
Things that amazed me: I found one manuscript that I had found last year and I recognized it and there it was again amid hundreds of manuscripts, I knew it, it was one of my top ten last year and again this year. I don’t know who it is or why I love this person’s work, it just sings. Great work does.
I am mostly glad to have a few days to read, write, dream, think. Next week I spring back into my life. The PSA fund raiser/reading is Tuesday night. Wednesday night I fly to Chicago for our sales meeting. Life spills on, rackets on, rushes on. But we are breathing now.
I am thinking of the term “refrigerator mothers” which was first used in the Fifties to describe Bruno Bettleheim to describe the mothers of autistic children. He blamed the mothers for creating the autism. Of course, this theory was subsequently disproved. Mothers do not cause their children’s autism. The cause of autism is not clear, but it is not the fault of the parents; we know Bettleheim was wrong on that.
But I like the phrase very much. Refrigerator mothers as—mothers who thaw out long enough to procreate. That describes my mother\and some other mothers I know. But what makes a person a good parent is a matter of speculation. Some people like being their kids friend, some like telling them everything, some prefer telling them nothing, some insist on cooking for them, some say teach them to cook, some say spend time with your kids, some say leave them alone. I made my kids do their own laundry; they sort of learned how to cook, definitely learned how to entertain themselves, but they do remind me that I wasn’t big on them getting sick, “You need to get better quickly,” I’d say, “You’re boring me.” They would get better very quickly.
Mothers, mothers, mothers. They torment us even when they aren’t there. They get under our skin; but the refrigerator mothers. We reach toward the cold shivering mass of them; we want huge love; we want unwavering affection. We want the greatest love on earth. Hearth warm, earth huge, like waterfalls moving over us, like the moon rising around us, we want to feel ourselves lit and washed. We reach out to mothers for approval and love.
We expect fathers to withhold love because they do in the stories, the books, the movies and we have come to believe that some withheld love from the fathers teaches us something. In that case, I must know very much.
But back to mothers, there are many mothers who are in various stages of refrigeration. Some people would say that it is all because they didn’t receive proper parenting, but I say, we all have choices, but that’s too easy and that’s not what this is about.
Let’s face it, many of us on this planet do not feel deeply, love deeply; many of us hold back love. We do not love our friends and family as we can; we do our best. But mothers have great power to hurt with their withholding. It is strange that mothers can give great love and can also truly twist the knife. So if you have a refrigerator mother or mother-in-law, don’t try to change her, that’s my advice. She made her choice. Just love as well as you can. With the boundaries that keep you safe, but you can’t reach into the refrigerator and get out warm turkey, there isn’t any in there, so stop trying.