Δευτέρα, 10 Ιουνίου 2013


The aubergines

a short story by Angeliki Bouliari  

Both my mother’s husbands passed away prematurely, a short while after they had reached their sixties. The second at the age of sixty-three. In May of that year he received his pension, in June he was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave him a small extension of life through a serious, that is painful, operation, and so he had time to say farewell to us and we on the other hand to get used to the idea.  My own father was the first husband, but I don’t have much to tell you about him. They took a divorce when I was a little girl and saw him in no more than three or four occasions.

My mother is a very dynamic and independent person, though with a somewhat harsh and primitive behavior at times, perhaps because she was deprived of education, which became an obsession for her. Luckily things balanced out with me and my brothers, since we were all able to get proper education under her constant encouragement and through our will. Her brain is female, bears ideas all the time, however her boldness and heavy hand resemble a general. It would have been better if she were born a man. This would have helped her to impose her own opinions and realize many of her plans which never went further than this stage, since the first and best signature, that of the husband, was needed, which unfortunately was not available.

From this point of view, the husbands represented rather an obstacle in her way. But if she was young enough when she divorced the first one hoping for someone better, no matter if he finally didn’t meet her expectations either, when the second left her alone, too, she was by then of a mature age herself, in her early sixties, commonly considered old for new plans. Having often thought that her path of life in the role of a wife was predestinate, I told her once: “Oh, mother, whichever you had chosen, yet again you would be a widow now.” I meant, of course, that she would be alone, without company and support. I guess she didn’t like what I said, because she stared at me with severe eyes and asked me in a sibylline way: “You think so?” I suppose, now that I am thinking about it again, that she didn’t like this image for herself, of being a weak woman needing a man.

After the required mourning period had passed, Mother started driving regularly the car, enjoying her coffee with the accompaniment of some cigarettes and renovating her parental house in the country. When all works were completed, she announced to us that she would move there permanently. Ourselves we were concerned about her, whether after living her whole life in the city she would manage to get used to living in the country, and we hoped that she would spare her time between the country and the city, where we, her children and grandchildren, lived.

Soon it was proved that there was no reason for us to worry. Apart from her occupation with the housework, her energy was redirected to nature. She acquired a garden where she grew plants and seasonal vegetables and all kinds of herbs. A small poultry farm on the bank of the river passing nearby with hens and some geese were added in her occupations, while the ‘family’ was complemented with a fertile little cat and her six cute kittens, which, to her great joy, ran towards her upon her appearance on the path at usual lunch time and followed her everywhere like obedient little dogs.

 Soon, too, our hopes vanished that Mother would visit us in the city.

Of course, we were aware that since she had never been a conventional mother, she wouldn’t become a conventional grandma and elderly, yet again we had difficulty in accepting that all her life was now defined by the vegetable garden and the poultry and that there was no time left for us.  The plants, she said in a manner so authoritative that no objection or protest could be raised, needed continuous attention, so she had to be always present in order to protect them from the adverse weather conditions, and as far as the animals were concerned, they should be given food and water on a daily basis. There was nobody to undertake this duty with her own sense of responsibility. And she concluded with the suggestion that we should visit her, so she could see us and give us our share from the crop. Why was she getting tired anyway if not to provide us with fresh vegetables and eggs? On the other side, it was meaningless for us to talk about the family, work and children demands of each one of us. Our words were in question, hers never.

On such a visit of mine, on a like a lightning trip, last summer – I arrived midday and next morning I would leave – apart from the afternoon coffee-time, little other time we spent together. Mother was very busy with that whole new world she had created and of which she was very proud. To catch up with her and break my own news to her, I followed her everywhere running, because in spite of her age she walks upright so very fast that when I realized it, I stopped worrying about her health and smoking. So, I accompanied her as far as the drugstore where she bought medicines for two or three alone and impotent ‘elderly’ persons, and stayed with her afterwards while she was feeding the animals and putting water in the watering hole, and later on I watched her gather all hens and geese in their little houses and close tightly the doors, constantly watching out for her handsome but aggressive rooster who was very likely to attack her.

On the way back home and as it had got entirely dark outside, I felt certain that all kinds of her occupations were over and that we would have at last the opportunity to spend a lovely quiet evening together. In front of the garden gate, though, she suddenly stopped. “You go upstairs and I’ll come in a short while. I want to collect some aubergines that you take with you tomorrow.” There was no point in my saying that she didn’t have to do this or insisting on my keeping her company. It was getting chilly and cold, she said decisively, mosquitoes were always fond of biting me, the nettles would sting me and my legs would swell up and moreover my sandals would get dirty. Herself she was equipped with rubber boots, gloves, a knife and a torch. I obeyed.

I went home. I made myself some hot tea and drank it while watching the news on the television. Time passed but Mother still hadn’t appeared. I put a shawl on my shoulders and went out in the balcony overlooking the garden. In the total darkness I could only see a dim light and a human shadow going back and forth from one plant to the other: My mother and her torch.

“Enough with the aubergines! How many more am I going to take with me?” I said as calmly as I could.

“Aubergines you think I am collecting? I have other business more important to do”, she replied bent over a plant without looking up.

“What is going on?” I asked puzzled.

“There are some bugs here which go crazy for aubergines.”

“And what are you doing?”

“I am picking them up one by one from each aubergine plant.”

I stayed stunned. “One by one! Do you have to do that now? Can’t you do it in the morning?”

She laughed ironically. “It is at night they come out, and if I wait till morning, I will find no aubergines on their place tomorrow, not one. And it is a pity. I’ve grown them and taken care of them for so long”, she said and went on picking up the bugs carefully.

“And what are you doing with these bugs?”I asked without having got over the surprise yet.

“I put them here in a little bucket and I will throw them away on the other side of the road near the river. There they’ll find a lot of blackberries to eat!”


P.S. This short story first appeared in Greek, on : http://www.logwn-paignia.gr/tauepsilon973chiomicronsigmaf-15.html

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3 σχόλια:

  1. Angeliki,I loved this story about the night raid on the caterpillars when you told it to me last summer,what a woman she is...magic mom senior!!! Now I know where your character comes from!!!!
    I would certainly prefer her country life to one in the city...she has the right idea.
    I wish her well !!!!!