Blesok no. 85, July-August, 2012

A hundred mothers and a hundred fathers

Hristina Pandzaridis

I’m a child. I see with my own eyes and I rely on them. When I don’t understand – I ask.
Oftentimes, my questions are not answered… Than I peek here and there, snoop, as adults would say. And when they don’t answer? How do you explain to yourself why some family photos have a bride and groom and others two embraced women…
I don’t ask why we eat at the table, sometimes straight to bed, but please do not spread this!
I wonder why people get married, when they are identical. Woman with woman, and man with man.
My mother and father are divorced. I live with mom.
My father phones me and picks me up every Saturday and Sunday. He provided himself with a new wife, as my mom says angrily. I was wondering how I should address her, until she helped me: “Call me – Hey girl!” Her name seemed very long, but I laughed.
Let’s not spoil our relationship at the very beginning. Besides, she had a present prepared for the welcome party – a make up set with a doll to put the makeup on. I can practise on the doll before I start painting myself.
It’s good to be a child in a separated family. They care for you twice as much! They compete in asking me what I want for my birthday, for New Year’s. I spend summer holidays in the mountains and at the sea. Both my mom and dad buy me bathing suits. They compete for my love! They are afraid I will complain about the other. So cool!
According to my grandfather, my granny is speaking roughly when she says that they “indulge me and how will all this end”. I don’t know why somebody should talk about ends. But just as books and movies have an end, so my indulging will end. Until then I refuse nothing. If they ask I don’t remain silent and prepare a list for them. I don’t give them enough time to make new children and to abandon me.
My uncle said another word which I have heard several times already. Manimulation. “She manipulates them, although she hardly knows what’s that but she is aware of its influence”, said uncle Bojko.
Mary from our class complained to me that she is the oldest among siblings and since they grew up to be three girls, her parents almost don’t have time for her. They even have a chore for her – to babysit her sister, a seven-month-old baby, for half an hour a day…
I was about to tell you something else. About Alena. She has two moms. They both live with her. You understood me right. They are this new type of family – liberal… or something similar. Don’t take me word for word.
Me and Alena play together and I feel uncomfortable to ask her what it’s like to live with two mothers and how she addresses them: mom one and mom two, or blonde mother and red-haired mother. And whether she wants sometime to have a father around… For the sake of variety, at the very least.
It’s very nice to have my father holding my hand. It`s somehow special… My mom used to say that dad was a strong man. It might be this – when he holds my hand – I feel he is strong.

* * *

Our place is frequented only by, or predominantly by, women. Before I went to school I used to imagine the world is made of women. Then I realized it’s not quite the case. It’s different people. I found men, too.
I have two mothers. Mommy Maya and mommy Monique. Children envy me because when I call out “Mommy!” they both turn. Usually they both run to me. It’s not always like this. Perhaps they make arrangements about which one will look after me more today or tomorrow.
I watch them touch hands or embrace. They look beautiful.
Once, rushing into the room from the balcony, I found them kissing. I don’t know why mommy Maya blushed and mommy Monique stood up and asked me if I wanted water or if I was hungry. I did not understand if I was in trouble… They didn’t tell me. They revealed I had done something wrong. I waited for an explanation. Or perhaps they didn’t notice my confusion. I had already seen on TV a man and a woman kissing…
Weird! Apparently everyone kisses everyone! A woman is now next to you – you kiss her. A man is now here – you kiss him. No rules. I don’t know if I could kiss Doris who gives me chocolate candies every day, or with Mario, who gives up his turn on the slide for me… Maybe I can do both. Kiss for candy. Kiss for slide.
After the movie with the man and the woman who got undressed and kissed I wanted to see how my mothers’ evening develops though the lock. I am not allowed to go to their bedroom. Only in extreme cases and I first have to knock.
I counted to a hundred and I asked myself if I should peep or not… I am going to see many kisses, I thought, but what if I see strange things… I will be frightened and will open the door without knocking.
I want to be a good girl. I chose not to peep. At least not tonight and during the week. This is why mommy Maya and mommy Monique keep saying I am their wise little girl.
I started going to school and during the second year one of the older boys pushed me against the fence and screamed: “Here she is! The one with two mothers! Some have none, and she’s got two!” Others grinned and passed by. I cried. The schoolmistress appeared from somewhere and summoned the boys.
– Where is your tolerance? Don’t we talk about respecting each other and being caring. We are different.
– People are different by color –the one who pushed me defended himself.
– Well, in our school most of us are white…
– People are different in nationalities… Religions… – I heard other voices, but did not hear who was speaking, because my stare froze at my black-laced red shoes.
– So, you now know that family members are composed in different ways – finished the schoolmistress. At least she wanted to. She looked at her phone, I noticed.
– Why do I have a mother and a father, and she does not? A second mother instead of him? – the cheeky one was being cheeky again.
– Well… we are out of fathers – the giggle came from the back. I wanted to cry again. I had just stopped and thought it was over and was about to go to the loo bathroom.
– Who said that? – the schoolmistress stared resembling one of those witches from the book mommy Maya’s girlfriends gave me. – Who was that? Why hide? Don’t we talk… I am not going to reprimand you.
Ahmed appeared from the back. He only has a mother. And four brothers. And sisters, but I don’t know how many… His mother is a widow.
– M’am, I said it. I feel sad without my father. And mother doesn’t have much time for us… so I thought it won’t be bad at all to have two mothers! – he stopped for a brief moment and wondered whether he should add another sentence. Finally he got the courage and said it all in a breath: – Don’t they lease one of the mothers for a few days… My other brothers are younger and mother can’t make it to me. She makes me act as a father…
* * *

My mom scowls, night and day. We don’t meet during lunch time. Otherwise I would have gotten my dose of scowling at lunch, too. With dad it’s not like that. He seems not to pay attention to me, but this is much welcomed.
– Daddy, buy me…
– Ok!
– Can I go tonight for…
– Sure.
Until infinity. His way of talking with me is identical. Whatever I ask for, it’s allowed.
– A dream!
– Yes, just like a dream! Once, as a joke, I asked him: “Daddy, can I let the water overflow from the bathtub and make a sea at home…” He immediately replied with “Yes”. He doesn’t listen. He sees I open my mouth, my tone questioning, and hurries on to say something among the lines of “Of course!”. He’s cool, but when I am with him he is not… He could be with whomever. But, you know, I am his only daughter!
– Well, it’s better than always hearing “no’s” and the punishments waiting for you eagerly.
– My father is like a record! The tape goes on repeating “Yes”, “OK”, “Allowed” and sometimes “Love you!”
* * *

– Why are crying, Alena?
– My mothers are going to break up…
– Aren’t mothers more responsible? Don’t they have you, why don’t they consider their child is going to suffer…
– It’s because of another woman!
– Don’t men use this for divorce?
– I don’t know. I live with moms. I have no experience…
– They’re going to break up, too, right?
– Yes. Mommy Monique is in love.
– They still fall in love?
– Why are you surprised?
– What’s their age?
– Mommy Monique turned 35 in March.
– So old and falling in love?!
– They had an argument during dinner and that’s all I heard. I broke the plate, they hushed. They continued, but silently.
– I imagined you only fall in love once, twice maximum… Falling in love at 35? And is she in love?
– …
– Is she in love with a man?
– No, a woman again. They are a female society. Men are not allowed…
– Don’t worry. You’ll have a new mother… And she will be trying to win you over with attention…
– First they are going to get divorced, and then if and when a new mother comes…
– You are a fortunate girl!
– What’s so fortune about me?
– Count! When your mothers divorce and then they remarry, you will have four mothers!
– Am I becoming a centipede or what? As it is, four mothers, eight mothers…
– A hundred at the end! Oh, don’t cry! You’ll have mothers on all corners of the world!

Translated from the Bulgarian by Stanimir Panayotov

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