Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Transgenerational Ghosts

Yesterday, I read Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle. It reminded me very much of Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness (which, by the way, is one of my favourite books not only because it's brilliant, but also because of its materiality – I love the feel of the jagged pages, the colours, the protruding letters, the simple sketches of the chicken and axe that peep from the corners). Anyway, back to Walls's book. It has led me to think that perhaps one day, I should sit down and write about my childhood. I don't really remember my childhood with any vividness. Perhaps it's because memories heap upon the places we've been. If I still lived in the house of my childhood, I would remember that time more clearly because my present would have been a continuum from that past, and little objects would trigger a host of memories. As it is, I've moved around too much, and the years before my tenth year of life exist only in fragments.

Hungarian psychoanalysts Maria Torok and Nicholas Abraham have a theory about “transgenerational” ghosts. The concealment of secrets that exist within families has tremendous power for their very lack of formal expression. If I were to write about my history, I would have to search out those ghosts in the family crypt. I know so little about my family history, and although I have a yearning to discover more, I also have a fear of what I might find. The pieces that I've put together myself have already been used (subconsciously or otherwise) to explain my fragility and moodiness. It's almost as though I have given myself licence to despair because it's a trait that seems to live in my family. It's both disturbing and oddly reassuring to see some of my parents' social mannerisms in myself. Beyond that, I have yet to find a way to describe that hidden river that runs through me, full of the sediment of secrets that I half-know.

Stuart MacLean came to Inuvik yesterday, and put on a performance tonight at the elementary school. After telling his two prepared stories, he looked around that school gym, and said that it was like a place he had known all his life. I have yet to have such an experience. I've met people whom I feel as though I've known forever, but places have yet to weave that strange spell on me. I'm usually struck by the reverse feeling: Often, when I walk around in town, I experience a “jamais vu,” as though I'm seeing my surroundings for the very first time. I noticed the purple wildflowers that lined the street in masses, and wondered if they had bloomed with such vibrancy every year and I had just failed to see them. I walked down by the town's boat launch, and was in awe of the river, and saw seagulls as though they were the first birds I had ever seen.

Tomorrow will be Aboriginal Day, my favourite day of the year up here. The friend with whom I had gone to the Stuart MacLean show said that there were times when she truly loved Inuvik. I couldn't agree more. The glories of tomorrow will have to wait another day to be expounded. Perhaps the wide field on which the festivities will take place will be the place upon which my memories may heap and will be the foundation of my future “present.”

1 comment:

  1. Was Aboriginal Day this year everything you had hoped for? You always talk things up so much that it's the one day I'd like to be up there with you and share that enthusiasm.