The Franyo I knew was the empress of style and good taste. She had a formidable eye. In fact, she was formidable, period, with her ramrod straight posture, her judgmental remarks and total lack of tact. I cannot tell you how many times I cringed from her harsh commentary. If I dared bring school friends home, I might hear later that they had dirty fingernails or messy hair. She could reduce a waitress to tears in nano seconds.
And God forbid you spilled something: whew! A crime worse than murder. In my mind this was a German thing (her floors were always clean enough to eat off of). It made me wonder about her childhood, the climate of the times she lived in.
When I saw Michael Haneke’s 2009 film, The White Ribbon, with its extremely disturbing portrait of repressive parenting in a small pre-WWI north German town, I thought of the creepy stories and fairy tales that were part of my mother’s upbringing. These were read to me, and I got a lot of shivery pleasure out of their horrors. If you sucked your thumb, it would be sliced off with a scissors. If you didn’t eat your dinner, you’d waste away and die. Stuff like that.
My mother had another side, too, that was adventurous, inquisitive, far less rigid, but right now I’m interested in those dark pre-war days and parallels with our own times: disaffiliated children going off to fight wars they don’t understand and that have been misrepresented to them, a herd mentality easily revved up with flags, rhetoric, race hatred. Young, beautiful, talented, my mother stayed blind to what was going on and, of course, it led to disaster.
To be continued…