Proud Madre

I woke up early this morning, at 7 am, and went downstairs to pick up some food for our big family lunch. I am making tira de asado, Gus’s favorite. Everyone is coming over in just a little while, Mona and Paolo, Sophia and Roberto, and all their kids! I love when we all get together, especially so I can show off my Maria.
She’s so beautiful now, fourteen years old. She was born on December 28, 1991, right before the New Year, named after my late mother. I was a teaching assistant when she was born, I was pretty torn on the whole stay at home mother thing. I devoted so much of my life to rebelling that I found it so bizarre to stay at home.
When Gus and I got married, I felt satisfied, my parents felt satisfied, and lord knows Gus did too. We had fun, and our habits fit each other well. But in the wake of Menem’s pardon, I found myself seeking the solitude I once prayed away…speaking in the truth commission was very vindicating in some ways, but Menem’s pardon set me back quite a bit. It’s as if I reopened my wounds to help them heal, only to have someone tear them open even wider than they were to begin with. I sought solitude so greatly that during the first years of our marriage, even after Maria was born, I would run away for days at a time. Sometimes I would stay with Mona or Sophia, others I would go to my parents, but sometimes I would just stay in a hotel room and read read read read read.
In my desire to seek independence, I decided to continue working at UBA. I saw this as a way to reconcile my want for independence with supporting my family: I could do both. Gus resented me for it greatly. If Gus is one thing, it is traditional. Now I’m a history professor, teaching bright first years about the origins of BA, peronism and populism. One of my assignments in the course is to get a cultural definition of “What is Peronism.” This assignment has proven to be the most interesting over the years. I remember one student came in with a recording of all those whom he had interviewed. The student was dedicated, he traveled just outside the city, where one can find the older, weathered men who owned the massive cattle ranches during the rise of Peronism. One older rancher said, “What is Peronism to me? Oh why its….mystical magic!” I try to convey to my students the importance of the survival of this sensationalized image of Peron, despite the military regime.
The way I think of history when I am teaching is much different than how I talk about it with my daughter. The history of politics after the regime took an interesting shape, as even Alfonsin wouldn’t totally demonize the military for everything they did. There’s this paradox: forget in order move on? Or remember and push forward? I have yet to answer that question myself, but what in my class, I try not to inject my own emotion too much into the coursework. It doesn’t feel natural yet.
I do, however, make sure to share my own emotional past with Maria. Although others seem to not feel this way, I’m convinced that the way to move forward is to reflect on the past. How can this not be true? If we shed away the layers of pain and sorrow, if I strip myself of my years of mental illness and heartache, then how can I define who I am now? These pains are inextricably linked to our culture today, even though the Junta left a generation ago. I may put too much energy into Maria, to carry her forth into my revolutionary thinking, my academic fervor. I can sense unease in her, as I frantically read her pages from Arendt, or show her picture of the People’s March with Mona and Sophia. But even though her teenage angst is growing, I swear I can see that familiar fire glowing in her eyes. I noticed it just five days ago, when Scilingo was sentenced to 640 years in jail. We were watching the news, Gus and I holding each other on the couch, and Maria sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of us. Maria already knew about the death flights, so the description of his faults was unsurprising. When the Spanish national court finally released their decision, she turned to us both with stern, empowered eyes.
“Mama,” she said, fiercely. “Maybe he won’t hang, but this could be good enough.”
How can I not be proud? This is why I just can’t wait for lunch.
Motherhood really is a powerful tool.

1 thought on “Proud Madre

  1. ssvolk says:

    True enough, Inés – very powerful. Someday you will feel it natural enough to share your own emotions with your class. For now, it’s so good that you have, in your María, someone who can understand where you, and your country, have been.

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