Sunday, April 2, 2023

Once my father took me ice-skating, then forgot me, and went home

Mary Oliver Upstream

Over the weekend, I immersed myself in the first section of Upstream, Mary Oliver's collection of essays. In "Staying Alive," she gives us glimpses of her childhood.

Once my father took me ice-skating, then forgot me, and went home. He was of course reminded that I had been with him, and sent back, but this was hours later. I had been found wandering over the ice and taken to the home of a kind, young woman, who knew my family slightly; she had phoned them to say where I was. 

When my father came through the door, I thought—never had I seen so handsome a man; he talked, he laughed, his movements were smooth and easy, his blue eyes were clear. He had simply, he said, forgotten that I existed. One could see—I can see even now, in memory—what an alleviation, what a lifting from burden he had felt in those few hours. It lay on him, that freedom, like an aura. Then I put on my coat, and we got into the car, and he sat back in the awful prison of itself, the old veils covered his eyes, and he did not say another word. 

A piece of fine writing. Many details are withheld. Her mature, deliberate silence amplifies the unusual, tragic father-daughter dynamic. 

2023 is becoming a great year for reading, and Mary Oliver—her prose, and especially her poetry—is one of my greatest discoveries thus far.



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