MOTHER

And then the second event occurred. I do not know whether it was caused by the letter from the LCP(B)* in 1948, designed to prove that our leadership and the Party were orthodox. Anyway, the school organized circles to help the weaker students, not in the school itself but in the homes of the better students where two or three would gather to study.

I was proud to be counted among the better students. In fact, I was actually the best and was given a red Pioneer** scarf while everybody else got a blue one. However, the very next day they came round from the Youth Organization*** and said it had been a mistake, that I was the second best and that the best student was Voja Pavkoviæ. So they unknotted the scarf from around my neck and gave me a blue one. Voja was the one whose sister was already in the Youth, not the Pioneers, a secretary or something like that too and therefore avant-garde. I did not take the correction of this error too hard, on the contrary, I knew I could do even better.

And so I was standing in the room talking to my mother. Some comrades of mine were coming round, I said, or something similar.

— What comrades? — My mother halted.

I proudly explained that I was the leader of such and such a circle.

— I've had enough of the comrades, they can't come!

I did not understand this and tried to explain to her. I could not see the connection with heaven knew what human dregs or con men I was about to drag into the house. I was persistent, but Mother reiterated shortly and sharply:

— No!

Surely, I thought, I had the right to some benefit from my own efforts in this world, to perceive my own significance through my own knowledge.

So I began to dig my heels in, while keeping a wary eye on the open door of the veranda, even if Mother did not have a rolling-pin in her hand.

And then the unexpected happened. How did she manage to snatch hold of me in two strides? I fell down right there on the veranda and all at once the axe blade — the one that stood behind the door — was hanging over me. I tried to move my eyes and head left and right away from the horror, but every new moment brought me face to face with it. There was no longer any boundary line beyond which all the forces of this world would not move against me, there was no longer any limit to where I might go in this world. I fell into infinity, abruptly alone, devoid even of my own body. A naked moment with only a single aim — to survive. I no longer remember what my Mother demanded, I promised everything. I would have given anything, including my life, to get out of that endless free fall, just to stay alive.

I do not know how I got to my feet again, but as soon as I did I took my heels like the hammers of hell. It was only later the questions came:

Why?

How?

.....

I found it particularly difficult to understand my mother. Some of the things she did I understood only later on, and then only little by little, in fits and starts. Five years would go by, then ten and then again, as I lived my own life I began to understand some of it — through my own uncertainties, not just everyday ones, but particularly those arising from the bare meaning of things. Why was man in the world? How did it happen that he was alive at all? How had the world come about? Why was it as it was? In fact, what was it really like? Infinite? Until I began to grasp the meaning of infinity and of myself in it, until alone with myself I started out along the road to solving these riddles, things were not clear between my mother and me, I did not understand her...

Many people live their lives without ever seeing that abyss, always only one god or another, tradition, regulations — all without real fear and without asking the real question...

If mothers only knew how much is expected of them, how much their most random act clings, how long their every word echoes in the soul, whether spoken with a smile or in reproach, they would become afraid and stop having children. There is something in the fact that only a young woman can bear a child. Love and the maternal instinct are irrational things. That is how it is, come what may. There will be time to consider the consequences in one's old age, happily to draw a line. If mothers knew in advance the importance of their every word and gesture, they would become afraid and cease to bear children. Let us be grateful to them for not knowing.

Such was the case with my mother. She came to visit us just before New Year's Eve of 1979, a week before. I already had a second child. I saw her off down the stairs. As we said goodbye, she said:

— Come to us on New Year's Eve.

I nodded and gave her my hand. We seldom shook hands. This time she took my hand and raised it to her lips and, bending down, kissed my hand for the first time. I was moved. With my free hand I stroked her hair.

As chance would have it, I never saw her alive again, that was actually our farewell.

Or was it merely chance?

                                                 

*        League of Communist Parties (Bolsheviks). this letter was the beginning of the well-known split between Stalin and Tito.

**       Organization of young children (7 to 14 years old) led by Communists. All school children belonged to the Pioneers.

***      A similar organization, but for young people from 14 to 27 years of age.

(Fragment, translated by Mary Popoviæ)

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