Conchita and that thing called love

For me it’s been a week of excitement. In my half-Austrian household Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision win was akin to Austria winning the World Cup. With equal fervour my better half demands we book tickets for Vienna and my near three year old daughter maintains that Conchita is a man because, “he has a beard, Mama.” The excitement continued in a different vain when my daughter woke up crying in the middle of the night. Bleary eyed, I went into her room to find her leaping out of bed, her eyes closed, screaming for “Gukky”. She was talking about her cuddly sheep that she’s had since the age of one. When I retrieved Gukky (from under her duvet), my daughter grabbed her from my hands and promptly fell back asleep. Said nightmare was over.

If Gukky were to be taken away from her, it would be the end of the world for our toddler… And us. As a result, we have a number of Gukkys – marks 2, 3 and 4 – stashed in a cupboard. Without a doubt, our daughter loves Gukky with such a ferocity that leads her to throw Gukky about, use her as a pillow or as a handkerchief (which means the sheep is thrown into the washing machine weekly – it’s a covert operation involving all the tenacity and planning of a Navy SEAL operation). When she kisses Gukky, she does it with a force that turns her face and neck muscles rigid. It’s funny. Yet sometimes we worry about the passion she’ll inflict on future loves in her life. My first Cabbage Patch Kid, Stacey, suffered a similar fate. I have to admit that I had a tendency to throw her out of the upstairs windows or over the bannister. I would then rush to ‘rescue her’, showering her with kisses. My parents didn’t bat an eyelid, but I do when I look back on those episodes. That said, I’m glad to report that nothing similar has happened since. As children we can test the boundaries of our love with things that don’t cry or get physically hurt. We can push this passion or whatever you want to call it to the limit. My so-called testing came to an end when I discovered poor Stacey had a crack down her head. I was devastated and cried for several days. I’m not sure what it will take for Gukky’s suffering to come to an end…perhaps we shouldn’t ever bring out the reserve Gukky clones so that our little one learns…

At school in year 9 we studied Robert Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover. A gothic poem of love at its most extreme, it appealed to the excitable teenagers that we were: the intensity of that thing called love teamed with the horror-film climax. Of course we were quick to label the narrator a psychopath. And that’s the thing: what happens to those slightly off kilter, who are hit by this emotion of love? The said psychopath in Porphyria’s Lover almost believes he has done a good thing: preserved his lover’s love – that emotion perfectly captured in her eyes – for all eternity. It’s delusional, he doesn’t know he’s done something wrong, but then at the end you’re left wondering whether he does:

And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!

Subsequently, it brings an unsettling end to the story.

The things we do for love: to elope à la Romeo and Juliet, whatever the cost; to lie to prevent loved ones from hurt; to kill or maim someone for killing/hurting a loved one – i.e., the-eye-for-an-eye approach. Or, to restrict your teenage child’s movements to protect them from the vagaries of drugs, drink, rape, or worse. As a parent, I wonder about the things I would do to protect my children: laying down my life; lying in order to save their lives. Would I keep something from them so as to spare them hurt? Answered in a heartbeat, my response is a yes. With some thought, it would depend: would the hurt on her face be something I couldn’t bare to see? Would the truth out itself in one form or another later down the line? It’s a veritable fine balance and one which is forever moving.

Focus on the parent-child bond is nothing new, but it continues to be a subject of fascination. The tussle between nature versus nurture; the decisions that we make and how they impact our off-spring: are they in their best interests, or driven by the selfish trait that lingers in all of us? It’s a topic I wanted to explore in my novel: that of how far a parent would go to protect their child; what would a parent do in the name of that thing called love… If, that is, the way you see it.

The Silent Children