This morning is really difficult, which is why I’ve gone on posting. I am hoping if I just keep tying ideas together, things will get a little bit organized. I have only one class to teach and there is some kind of quiz, which I think might be in the National Language and maybe I’ll be forgiven for skipping, but anyway, the workload is light today. I don’t need to be that together. Just a little bit, because the class I am teaching today has become really difficult—there are 41 5th graders, and of course the kid with obvious ADHD is sitting in the back row because class teachers never seem to think about this, that the kid who acts impulsively and is always wiggling should probably be in front. And he’s sitting next to one of the weakest students in the class, and behind two students who run a close second. On the other side of him, are three students who are even weaker. So he’s sitting in the midst of this cluster of very poor students, two of whom can’t even see properly. I ought to change the seating for my class, but I just haven’t had time.
My point really is just that I ought not to be a total mess.
But Ruthie has a thought today.
“Nata’s not dead.”
Okay, that’s interesting. Are we regressing? So I ask about that.
“She not go way.”
Ah, because all of the language about death—all of the euphemisms—involve absence. They involve going away. “Away” is a part of the phrasing, and “away” is a problem for Ruthie. Charlie is the protector, but Ruthie is the heat-seeking missile. She is so closely involved in bonding, and she cannot tolerate Nata being away. It triggers her into a “seeking and finding” mission. The heat-seeking is both for her own protection and to protect the other person. It’s generic. It’s not specific to the experience of a little girl’s needing protection. It’s a piece of something that could go in either direction.
I think that my memory in the night is Ruthie’s memory: she is the one who motivated me to find Nata, who braved Yuri’s wrath to insist that we be told where she was. I think this in part because she is also the one who went to the neighbor’s house to get help for my mother when I was a toddler and my mother was lying semi-conscious in the bath after a suicide attempt. There was a point when that bond was broken and my mother felt like a stranger to me, but that happened before then. It happened before I was taken into care, and my bond to my mother was fraught and painful, but it was there, and I needed to make sure she was safe too.
So Ruthie has been confused. For her, Nata seems very present. I head home in the afternoons, and she gets very excited. We’re going to have tea. We’re going to have snacks. We’re going to talk to Nata. I never understand what she means by the last one. She always says it, but we get home, and she doesn’t talk out loud to Nata. She talks out loud to me. But Nata seems to be in the house for her—perhaps because the house feels safe. We go home and do all these cozy, soothing, comforting things, and so she feels Nata is in the house. But Nata is dead, and dead people are supposed to go “away.”
Anyway, it occurs to me that, like Charlie, Ruthie needs assurance that Nata is safe. She is not lost the way she was when Nata was being forced to have a home-made abortion. She is not in someone’s car at the mercy without the scruples to restrain the impulse to have sex with a little girl.We know where she is, and we know that no one is hurting her.
It hadn’t crossed my mind that this is the other side of the songs I end up playing incessantly. The lullabies remind me of Nata, of being in her arms and of being safe, but they also remind me of her safety. If she is singing, no one is hurting her. She cannot sing lullabies if she is being raped or assaulted. That has just never happened. Singing means she is safe, and she is safe enough that she can sing to me or that she can sing to Veroushka.
Ruthie needs to know that Nata is safe.