Dear mom.

Please understand that I am not writing this to hurt you. I understand that memories must be painful for you, I have seen you dropping them as if they were white-hot coal. I take no joy in throwing fire at you, but I can no longer bare the burning inside my scull. I am writing to heal me. I recommend you just keep doing what you have been doing all these years: Treat the clear pictures in my mind as if they were shadowy memories of dreams and fantasies and a small child’s lacking understanding of events.

There are, after all, quite a lot I didn’t understand.

I didn’t know what phrases like «bestefar er et kapitalistsvin» or «tørk deg i ræva med bibelen» meant, and I had no idea why me saying them never failed to lift your spirits.

I have seldom been as bewildered as the time you threw a fit over me hummed one of the Hallelujah-songs Joe had taught me to myself in bed. There were tears and screaming and promises that Joe would never, ever come within a mile of me again. Dad reasoned that it was a good thing that I had learned to sing. Joe was not to be blamed, he said, at least not exclusively, you should have taught me songs yourself. So should he. I was pulled out of bed and not allowed to go to sleep before I could sing The Blackleg Miner.

Later, Joe taught me to sing the blackleg miner in harmony, as well as A Luta Continua, the Internationale and Bella Ciao. I sang those to the unborn baby as your belly grew, you claimed it calmed him somewhat. I stopped singing to him for a time when he came out and found his voice, but later, after we left, those were the songs I used to sing him to sleep.

When I brought up Joe and Händel’s Messiah thirteen years later, at the kitchen table where we ate with the bass of rap so-called-music harassing our ears, you said that my brother would not have been born if not for me singing church music in your very communist living room. Then you met my eyes, and your face turned red, you must have seen that I remembered enough to understand what you had just said.

«I argued with your father,» you said quickly, «and then we made up».

As if that was the night when my brother was conceived.

As if you did not have the flu many weeks earlier, throwing up everything and likely your contraception-pills too. As if your tantrum over my singing did not make dad tell you not to carry on so. As if I did not hear you telling him you could carry on like you bloody well wanted because you were carrying for fuck’s sake.

I heard. And I understand that if those words had not fallen from your mouth in anger, you would not have told anyone about your pregnancy. You would have taken care of it. I would have been an only child living in London with my two parents until I grew old enough to rebel and study economics or theology. But after the words fell, you hardly gave dad a fight at all, did you? He said it would be okay. You gave in just like that.

You should have stood your ground, mom.

You should have had that abortion.

You are the only one responsible for bringing Rebel into this world. Your body, your choice, that feminist slogan has a back side. Your body, your responsibility. You can’t blame Joe for teaching me that song, or me for singing it, or dad for wanting to raise more children than he could afford. You knew all along that you carried a possessed changeling. It was obvious in your sudden hysterics, your tears, the fork you threw into the wall so hard it stuck, the plate you broke on the table in front of me without trying to. You still chose to carry him to term.

That should have been your feet wearing the varnish of the floor through the nights, your arms burning from hitching him up and down, your ears constantly protected by ear plugs and still going deaf. Dad should have been the one left to leave with me, to walk me through the streets to give my ears a rest. Maybe then he would not have left us for good.

You claim you left dad, of course. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard you say it, to aunt Margit, to your friends over coffee, to my teachers, my friends, even to Moa.

«It ended, so I left with the children.»

You can’t make a lie come true by repeating it, mom. He is the one who left. Then you retreated to your home country, to the house you had inherited, with the children he’d left you. Because you had no where else to go. Because you’d antagonised all your friends, all your comrades, you’d been kicked out of the committees and frozen out of the fanzine editorial meeting. Joe came, not for you, I think, but for me. It was the day I learned to change diapers, and to mix medicine in Rebel’s bottle, and to draw on the wall of his corner. He sat quietly tracing the lines on the wallpaper with his fingers and I crawled into Joe’s lap and made him sing with me. Rebel went suddenly stiff, as if he could hear for the first time. Maybe he could, I have no memory of him being silently awake before that day. He turned towards us and stared, mouth hanging open, drool trailing down his chin. After a while, his head started bobbing in time. When we stopped, his face contracted and he drew his breath deeply. I quikcly began to sing again, and I went over to him, turned him back towards the wall and lifted his hand towards the lines. He started tracing them and didn’t notice when my singing stopped.

«Will you tell dad?» I asked Joe, «Will you tell him I can make Rebel stop crying now? He can come home. I’ll keep him silent, I promise.»

Joe didn’t answer. Thats how he told me I’d be fatherless forever.

Then you came in, and you told me off for leaving my shoes and jacket in a mess and Joe said that I’d changed my brothers diapers and you asked if that was supposed to make up for me being a slob and I yelled that it was no wonder dad would never come back home because you were an evil witch and you went to stand over Joe, roaring that he had no business telling me my father would not be coming home.

That’s when Joe left.

He kissed my forehead when he said goodbye.

I begged him to take me with him.

He said no.

I knew I’d never see him again and you must have known I’d never see you as anything but the one who ruined my life.

You tried, though. In the days when we packed our clothes into trash bags and dumped carton upon carton of old flyers and newspaper-clippings and posters and fanzines and documents, you sang to me in that weird language, the one in which I could produce a few sentences that once upon a time would make you laugh. You tried to make me learn but I pressed my lips together and only sang to Rebel.

I learned, though.

I still remember.

Vi skal fylle våre badekar med unge høyres blod,

vi skal fylle våre badekar med unge høyres blod,

vi skal fylle våre badekar med unge høyres blod,

når den raude revolusjona kjem – og ho kjem!

Syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato,

syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato,

når den raude revolusjona kjem – og ho kjem!

Vi skal drukne KrF’erne i kirkens altervin,

vi skal drukne KrF’erne i kirkens altervin,

vi skal drukne KrF’erne i kirkens altervin,

når den raude revolusjona kjem – og ho kjem!

Syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

når den raude revolusjona kjem – og ho kjem!

Vi skal spidde senterungdommen på egne møkkagreip

vi skal spidde senterungdommen på egne møkkagreip,

vi skal spidde senterungdommen på egne møkkagreip,

når den raude revolusjona kjem – og ho kjem!

Syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

syng Norge, Norge ut av Nato

når den raude revolusjona kjem – og ho kjem!

On the melody of «Sing glory, glory, Hallelujah», the first words you taught me in Norwegian after deciding to move to Norway were «we will fill our bathtubs with the blood of the young conservatives», «we will drown the christian democrats in the church’s altar wine», «we will impale the center youth on their own dung forks», «sing Norway, Norway out of NATO» and of course «when the red revolution comes – and it comes!». It would have been an excellent move, if only you took us to live in a communist commune in Oslo, or at least in Bakklandet, the radical township of Trondheim. When you knew you were going to bring us up in your aunt’s old house in a small countryside community of farmers I am not overly impressed by your choice.

Not that there was anything wrong with the community you brought us to. After having heaved our bags into a taxi (the first taxi-ride of my life) you made me sing all the way to the airport to keep Rebel quiet. At the airport, however, there was no way we could keep him from screaming and hitting and biting. I thought we would never be allowed into an aircraft, that we’d have to stay in London and then we’d have nowhere to live and dad would have to come get us. But you produced a bottle of medicine and, sitting on our bags, holding the furious little devil tight, forced it down his throat. All of it. He fell asleep so deep I began to hope he would never wake up. You carried him onto the plane and I got two little boxes of crayons and candy and puzzles and you said there was no use in saving his for him so I ate all the candy and solved the puzzles twice. At the airport, an old woman waited for us, you called her aunt Margit, and I thought it was a magical thing to meet someone I was related to. She drove us and the still sleeping Rebel for hours and at the end of the drive there was a house so big I could not believe we were to live there alone, and the rooms were warm and our beds were made and there was casserole on the stove and breakfast in the cupboards. And over the next days aunt Margit brought in the ladies – the accountant that helped you with the paperwork and the housewife who told her son Aslak to be my friend and the pre-school teacher who told us Rebel needed professional help.

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