The end of childhood

This chapter is dedicated to my father, who guides me from wherever he went to, last year, when he left this material plane.  I love you.

 

When I was eleven and twelve, as a consequence of my reflections about gender and my love for sports, I became a gymnast, cut my hair and was dressed almost always with sport clothes.  I looked like a boy.  There was nothing of me that identified with girls and their princesses worlds.  But also nothing that identified with the boys’ world of football and competition.  I was already an intellectual reading Plato and a type of artist.  I would draw a lot, sing tangos and musicals songs, and dance the full Thriller choreography from Michael Jackson, whom I loved, and helped a lot in my learning of English.

I would also take piano lessons.  The way back home from them was the time for philosophizing.  The way to go there was full of fear because the teacher was a really mad woman.  That’s why the piano lessons didn’t last long and I stuck to singing, which I could do alone at home with no one screaming at me with a mad face.  I anyway already had that almost everyday with my mum.

My state of solitude and the fact of looking like a boy worried my mum and my dad.  My mum didn’t take it that badly as long as I was the best student, but my dad was really worried cause this implied rejecting him.  So he took me for this trip to Neuquén,  the province in the south west of Argentina where my mother comes from.  They are a very big family with whom we almost never have contact.  We went there by train, a train I guess the Menem government got in charge of killing and never working again.  It was a long trip (1.142 km) of around fifteen or more hours, during which I was reading Tales for Verónica from Poldy Bird.  I remember crying a lot with the stories.  I was already developing really melancholic traits and loved reading about the difficulties of life.

It was December 1984.  I was at the end of my twelve and it was the first time in my life that I made a trip alone with my dad and experienced him taking care of me.  That was weird, my mum had always been the one doing that, so I showed myself strong, autonomous and distant.  I didn’t know well who this man was.  This man that arrived home tired every evening and with whom my mum argued because he would not give her enough money for all of us.

So we arrived in Neuquén and after that we went to Centenario, were my uncle and aunt lived.  From there, we drove other 320 km, with another expert in the area like my uncle, until the Domuyo Volcano.  They are the vaqueanos.  It was the most wonderful drive ever.  We were in two vehicles, a car and a station wagon, and we would go through the most beautiful landscapes, gigantic mountains, really fucking narrow roads and endless cliffs.  I will never forget how dusty we looked when we came out just to take a break.  We were grey dusty cloud people, we would have dust even on our eye lashes.  Those 320 km were endless, cause the volcano is almost 5000 km high.

All was pure beauty around us and I was fascinated with the different types of rocks and creating a collection.  I used to put them in water and looked astonished at all the bubbles coming out of them for hours.  I just couldn’t believe so many caves could hide inside a small rock of the size of my hand.  That was the beginning of my trip toward the dark caves of the human soul.

When we finally made it to the volcano, the adults set up the tents by a small trail of water.  We were around one hundred meters away from a gigantic wall of rock from which a huge spring of boiling water came out.  We collected the water directly from there for the mate, tea or coffee.  There were algae of wonderful colors and I guess that water must be full of minerals and super healthy.  The days would pass by with an intense burning sun and the nights we would almost freeze.  I slept with all my clothes on and we would bathe in the normal temperature trail of water we were camping by.  We walked around and visited some scientists’ empty bungalows that had two doors, one for summer down and one for winter up! So the snow would get to around three meters high or more, according to my mother’s tales!!!  We showered in cascades of warm water and had a long walk following an endless black hosepipe we didn’t know were it led to.

We would follow the rhythm of the sun to go to sleep and to wake up.  So we would stand up at five and have the most wonderful breakfast ever.  Milk and coffee with bread, butter and homemade marmalade by my aunt Carmen that came with us.  After that I would take a roll of toilet paper and put it in my sock, and I would of course take my alter ego barbie with me, Kimberley Windy Livingston Lorned.  Yes, that was her name, which is the size of the kind of woman I wanted to be!  I even made her a birth certificate! I would walk every morning towards the wall of rock that ended in a kind of roof which I crazily wanted to reach every time and, of course, never did.

On walking up I would reflect talking loud to Kimberley all the way.  I would meet lizards that made my heart pump up until I got used to them.  I would just sit and observe the beauty around me and also enjoy going through the one foot wide trails up the huge wall of rock, becoming literally the mountain goat I am and realizing fully my lonesome Capricorn nature.

The mornings would end when that strange man, whom I called dad, started calling me from below so that I could come down for lunch.  It took around five hours to go up and only minutes to come down.  I just couldn’t believe that.  He would look the size of an ant and I would hear his voice from really far.  But, in a way, it was a rescuing voice.  A voice that represented that I was not alone there, no matter how much I liked it, and a voice that came to me full of love, protection and, at the same time, freedom.  My mum would never have left me go up there alone, but my father did.  And in that moment I understood how different their love was and how much I loved that man.  He was doing his very best effort to teach me that love was also about letting someone be themselves and not only the possessive, fearful and controlling love of my mum.  But he could only do that because we had left the scope of her kingdom in the home and in the city.  And then I realized, how trapped my dad felt, as if his kind of love had no place in her kingdom.  But since that trip, I just understood how he loved me, and understood that in a way he felt caged in, like many men that think that because they get married they simply go into the world of female indoctrination that is brought with children and the responsibility they carry.  But my father was not ready to be a father, he was never there even though he was physically present, he married cause he followed the social rules and loved my mum his way, but he soon left her alone with us.  And we hardly knew him. So he was the bad guy for many years, cause I only listened to my mum’s complaints of not getting enough money from him, even less company or sharing stuff.  My dad was normally aloof and silent watching TV, if not discussing with her.  A few times there would be some interesting and passionate political discussions between them, which was what long before had brought them together.  They had met because they had both been socialists and trade unionists.  They left activism when the military took over but mostly because of the danger that it implied for us, their children.  And even though democracy came in 1983, something had finished in their political involvement and routine had taken over. My dad went on anyway reading a lot and was always an opinion I treasured and consulted before voting.

Beyond that, a lot of understanding came with this trip and I guess I began to have a kind of compassion and understanding of why many stereotypes of men in most societies are running away from marriage and having children.  Definitely not all of them are made for that and I realized I belonged to the small group of women, I still didn’t know any of, that were on the same path.  So, if I didn’t know any of them, I would be the first.  I realized also in that time that, for these people, the model of family I was a witness of, was definitely not the one suited for them.  So I started growing lots of questions inside of me about which other models could exist to fulfill the needs of people that needed other things in life: Could you still exercise your freedom while being in a relationship and having children? Was “not having children” the only solution for that? Could you develop your dreams as a human being when you are a woman and also have children if your dream is not necessarily being a mother? If yes, how? Lots of questions were being born inside of me with this trip.  Questions that would take many years to start finding transitory answers but which I still ask myself.

But the trip doesn’t end here, there’s more philosophical discoveries I began at the end of it, though, that’s enough for today.

Till the next chapter.

All the best,

Jennié

http://www.judithgaray.com

https://www.facebook.com/psychologieundspiritualitaet/

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