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所有的母亲也都曾青春年少

更新时间:2017-5-12 10:41:41 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them
所有的母亲也都曾青春年少

In one of my favorite photographs of my mother, she’s about 18 and very tan, with long, blond hair. It’s the 1970s and she’s wearing a white midriff and cutoffs. My dad is there, too, hugging her from behind, and from the looks of it, they’re somewhere rural — maybe some pastoral patch of small-town New Jersey where they met.

我很喜欢我妈妈的一张照片,当时她18岁左右,皮肤晒得很黑,留着长长的金发。那是1970年代,她穿着白色露脐装和毛边牛仔短裤。我爸爸也在照片中,从后面搂着她,看上去他们待在乡下的某个地方——或许是他们相遇的新泽西小镇上的某片田园。

I haven’t seen this photo for years, I have no idea where it is now, but I still think of it — and, specifically, my mom in it. She looks really sexy; wars have been waged over less impressive waist-to-hip ratios. And she is so young and innocent. She hasn’t yet dropped out of college, or gotten married. The young woman in this photo has no idea that life will bring her five children and five grandchildren, a conversion to Judaism, one divorce, two marriages, a move across the country.

我已经好多年没见过这张照片了,不知道它现在在哪儿,但我仍然会想起它——尤其是照片中的妈妈。她看起来非常性感;那让人赞叹的腰臀比足以引发战争。而且她当时是如此的年轻和纯真。她尚未从大学辍学,也没有结婚。照片中的这个年轻女孩不知道,生活会带给她五名子女和五名孙辈儿,一次向犹太教的皈依,一次离婚,两场婚姻,以及一次跨越整个国家的搬迁。

For me, as for many daughters, the time before my mother became a mother is a string of stories, told and retold: the time she got hit by a car and had amnesia; the time she sold her childhood Barbie to buy a ticket to Woodstock; the time she worked as a waitress at Howard Johnson’s, struggling to pay her way through her first year at Rutgers. The old photos of her are even more compelling than the stories because they’re a historical record, carrying the weight of fact, even if the truth there is slippery: the trick of an image, and so much left outside the frame. These photos serve as a visual accompaniment to the myths. Because any story about your mother is part myth, isn’t it?

像很多女儿一样,对我来说,妈妈为人母以前的那些时光,是一连串被反复讲述的故事:她曾被汽车撞到并失去记忆;她曾卖掉儿时的芭比娃娃,买伍德斯托克(Woodstock)的门票;她曾在Howard Johnson酒店做服务生,辛辛苦苦地积攒罗格斯大学(Rutgers)头一年的学费。她的老照片比故事要更加吸引人,因为它们是历史记录,承载着现实的重量,尽管被收录其中的是较为光鲜的现实:这是拍照的诀窍,有太多东西会被留在镜头之外。这些照片为种种神话提供了直观的注脚。任何关于母亲的故事,都有一部分是神话,不是吗?

After finishing my most recent novel, in part about mother-daughter relationships, I put out a call on social media for photos from women of their mothers before they were mothers. A character in the book, a young artist, does something similar, so I’d thought a lot about what the process might be like. I wasn’t prepared, however, for how powerful the images I received would be.

我的最新小说一定程度上讲的是母女关系,作品完成后,我在社交媒体上向女性征集她们的妈妈为人母之前的照片。书中的一个角色——一名年轻的艺术家,做了相同的事情,因此我对这一过程会是什么样子有过很多思考。但我没料到,我收到的照片会有如此大的感染力。

The young women in these pictures are beautiful, fierce, sassy, goofy, cool, sweet — sometimes all at once. I asked contributors to tell me about their moms or the photo submitted, and they often wrote that something specific and special about their present-day mother — her smile, say, or her posture — was present in this earlier version. What solace to know that time, aging and motherhood cannot take away a woman’s essential identity. For daughters who closely resemble their moms, it must be an even bigger comfort; these mothers and daughters are twins, separated by a generation, and an old photo serves as a kind of mirror: How do I look? Even if there isn’t a resemblance, we can’t help but compare ourselves to our young mothers before they were mothers.

这些照片中的年轻女性,或美丽,或凶巴巴,或时髦,或呆头呆脑,或酷,或甜美——有时是兼而有之。我请供图者跟我讲讲她们的妈妈或者她们所提供的照片,而她们常常会写下妈妈们年轻时就有的、一直延续至今的特别之处——比如一个微笑或一个姿态。知道时间、衰老和生儿育女不会夺走一个女人的基本特质,真是莫大的安慰。与妈妈极为相像的女儿们肯定会更感安慰;这些妈妈和女儿是双胞胎,只不过隔了一个世代,而一张老照片在某种程度上就像一面镜子:我看上去怎么样?即便和妈妈不像,我们也会禁不住拿自己与为人母之前的妈妈做比较。

“I locate something of myself in the slope of her shoulders,” said one contributor, Molly. “This makes me feel adjacent to her coolness.”

“我在她的削肩膀上看到了自己的影子,”一个名叫Molly的供图者说。“这让我觉得自己身上也有了她的酷劲儿。”

Sometimes, too, a photo deepens the mystery of a mother. Emma, whose mom died when she was 8, says that she “cobbles together” an image of her mother from other people’s memories. “Those points only give an outline,” she writes, “let alone a shadow or full likeness of a person.” She’s heard plenty of stories about her mother’s childhood, and about her early years as a mother, but very little about the years after her mother graduated college and before she got married. Emma calls this period her mother’s “lost years.” She notes that she, at age 29, is in that same phase of life now.

有时,照片也会加深一位母亲的神秘感。Emma的母亲在她八岁时便去世了,她说她是从其他人的记忆中“拼凑”了一个母亲的形象。“这些只能构成一个轮廓,”她写道,“根本谈不上影像或一个完整的人的形象。”她听了很多母亲童年时期的故事,也听说了她刚做母亲那几年的情况,但很少听到母亲大学毕业到结婚之前的事情。Emma称这个时期是她母亲“失去的岁月”。她还提到,她现在29岁,正好处在那个阶段。

Many of us find a breezy toughness in the bygone versions of our mothers, and we envy it. Before a kid or two tied her down, Mom was hitchhiking, or she was playing softball with guys, or like Julia’s mom, she was “transcribing tapes from her time as a war reporter like it’s the most casual thing in the world.” Paria, whose mother fled Iran during the Revolution, notes her mother’s resilience; then, as now, her mom maintains a “joie de vivre.”

我们许多人在昔日的母亲身上看到一种活泼的强悍,这让我们羡慕。在有一两个孩子拖累之前,妈妈在搭便车旅行,在男孩子们玩垒球,或者像Julia的母亲那样,“誊录着自己的战地报道磁带,仿佛那是世上最轻松的事”。Paria的母亲在伊斯兰革命期间逃离了伊朗,她提到了母亲的韧性,不管是过去还是现在,她都保持着一种“生活的乐趣”。

The photos women sent me offer a key to how we, as daughters, want to perceive young womanhood. Pluck, sex appeal, power, kindness, persistence: We admire and celebrate these characteristics, and we long for the past versions of our moms to embody them. But if these characteristics are a prerequisite for a properly executed womanhood, does becoming a mother divest a woman of such qualities? In studying these photos, and each daughter’s interpretation of them, I’ve come to wonder what traits we allow our mothers to have, and which ones we view as temporary, expiring with age and the beginning of motherhood. Can a woman be both sexual and maternal, daring and responsible, innocent and wise? Mothers are either held up as paragons of selflessness, or they’re discounted and parodied. We often don’t see them in all their complexity.

这些女性发来的照片提供了一把钥匙,让我们了解到,作为女儿,我们有多想看到年轻女性的品质。有胆量、性感、强大、善良、执拗:我们欣赏和颂扬这些品质,期待我们的母亲过去也拥有这些品质。但如果这些品质是成就女性气质的先决条件,那成为一个母亲会让人失去这些品质吗?在研究这些照片以及每个女儿对它们的理解的过程中,我开始考虑,在我们看来,有哪些品质是母亲可以保留的,又有哪些是暂时的,会随着年龄和母亲角色的转换而消失。一个女人可以既性感又有母性,敢于冒险又有责任心,既天真又有智慧吗?母亲们要么被高举成无私的典范,要么就被贬低和进行夸张地演绎。我们往往看不到她们的复杂多样。

For daughters, these old photos of our mothers feel like both a chasm and a bridge. The woman in the picture is someone other than the woman we know. She is also exactly the person in the photo — still, right now. Finally, we see that the woman we’ve come to think of as Mom — whether she’s nurturing, or disapproving, or thoughtful, or delusional, or pestering, or supportive, or sentimental — is also a mysterious, fun, brave babe.

对女儿们来说,这些母亲的老照片感觉既像是一道鸿沟,又像一座桥梁。照片中的女人不是我们熟知的那个女人。同时又的确是照片中的人——现在依然是。最终,我们发现我们心目中的母亲形象——不管她是悉心爱护的、喜欢否定人的、心思缜密的、喜欢幻想的,还是会让人苦恼、很会帮助人或多愁善感的——也是一个神秘、有趣而勇敢的女人。

She’s been here all this time.

她从未离开过。

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