Miriam Feder home


Remember and rediscover

I keep thinking I’m done harvesting my family for writing adventures. But we’re never done, are we? I keep finding more and more of myself every time I muse on these matters. I comfort as friends struggle with their aging parents, trying to help care for them while respecting the worlds they have created for themselves. I watch these complex ballets and think again about the commandment to honor father and mother.

When I was a child in Sunday school I thought this must mean bowing and scraping. I hated that requirement, but I had a pretty good idea that was a limited, child’s-eye view. I was precocious in my sense of not being understood, putting up, shutting up, complaining and resenting. Not so much respecting. I knew this commandment must mean something, but I’d have to assume it would come clear at some future time. After all, I knew even then that these bold strokes of literature were meant for all ages: a large tale told against the tiny facts of my life.

Today I mostly take care of my memories of Dad and Mom. I find the bit of understanding—the fond memory and the noble act—and I embrace it in the tale told. It can be a quiet, private thing. Sometimes I’ve made it a public thing, splashing it across my website and my stages. Is this what the commandment means? Remember, rediscover and perpetuate?

When my parents were still here for me, I asked and avoided, I listened and ignored. When I became a parent, all that programming poured from my firmware whether I wanted it or not. Would I live it or change it? Blindly, consciously, fearfully and carelessly I retraced those steps right down to the words and deeds that had made me shudder a few short decades before. “Take them back, that’s not me speaking.” Oh, but it was. Those words oozed with lymph and bile.

Now my baby is grown and my mother and father are shadows. To honor my father and my mother I am commanded from becoming them, either blindly or slavishly, even if that’s what it might seem that they wanted. They didn’t want that; I know. Instead I must live into the opportunities my parents provided for me.

We are each marked by the hard knocks that have come our way. Some of those gashes are passed down to us and from us, genetically, emotionally and experientially. We yearn to leave the damage and the fear behind; nobody wants to pass those legacies. But our desire to protect our children recycles fear unto anxiety.

To honor, I would like to purge the scold machine, take the love and put aside the nagging. I won’t become you, Mother or Father, but I’ll be my best self. I will look into my heart to touch the memories you placed there and I will live now, both a part and apart