to grasp the concept of childhood
05/01/2009

Vanessa has always thought that my mother has been a bitch with me, although she has never met her.

I guess our childhood is one of reasons that brought us together.

My mother was a psychoanalyst in the 1970s She was a familiar figure on CND marches and in antinuclear sit-ins, being glamorously dragged away by the police. Free love and legalized drugs meant little to me, though I guessed they were in some way connected to the friendly but unfamiliar men who appeared on her weekend visits, and to the homemade cigarettes she taught me to roll for her which she smoked despite the protests of my wearily tolerant grandmother.
Until the age of three, I was brought up by a series of au pairs, recruited from the waiting room of my mother’s once-a-week free clinic – moody escapees from provincial French universities, neurotic American graduates unwilling to grasp the concept of childhood, Japanese deep-therapy freaks who locked me in my bedroom and insisted that I sleep twenty-four hours a day. Eventually, I was rescued by grandmother and her second husband, a retired judge. It was some years before I noticed that the other boys at school enjoyed a social phenomenon known as fathers.

By the time I joined the Adler Institute, my mother’s hippy phase was long over, and she had become a quiet and serious-minded analyst at the Tavistock Clinic. I hoped that her maternal instinct, suppressed through most of my childhood, might find a late flowering. But we never became more than friends, and she failed to attend my graduation ceremony.

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