The Cerebus Re-Read Challenge
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even better, Volumes 1 and 2 are free!
Ricks Story: I love you, Mum Thanks
The only response to any back-matter I had during Rick's Story was to the fifth, and last installment, of the series of the essay, Mama's Boy. I think it is Sims best, and most personal, criticism of feminism. Here are the last few paragraphs, nabbed from http://www.cerebusfangirl.com/.
"It was really only because my mother is and was perfect; I think, that I was able to see the down side of maternalism clearly enough to come up with the Cirinists and, tangentially, the Kevillists. It was only because she is and was such a good person that false matriarchal notes and excesses of feminism stood out, by contrast, for me as they began to multiply and contradict each other without a single voice being raised in opposition. It was only be- cause she did try, because she does try, and because she will try until her dying breath — seeing the other side of the argument, always seeking the elusive middle course between extremes in the interest of everyone being included — that adversarial maternalism and adversarial feminism had me muttering “horseshit” under my breath, and then out loud and in print some time before I was aware that anyone else had seen that something was not kosher in Milwaukee.
My mother never “bought into” the idea of day-care, as an example. It tugged on her heart strings — even the two-decades old memory of it tugs on her heart strings — to see a neighbour’s children at pm-school age bundled up in snowsuits climbing over the fence to go to another neighbour’s house to be minded for the day, well... To my mother there was just something wrong about that Pre-school children should get up in the morning and be able to scuff around the house in slippers and pajamas, watch cartoons, read comic books, play with their toys. And that was definitely the life that my sister and I had.
Of course, my mother had no intention of being just a housewife and mother. She firmly intended to go back to work once my sister and I were in school, and she did so. People who are perfect, or good, or who try (just to cover all the bases) to see the elusive middle course, in my experience, tend to luck into ideal situations to a greater extent than those folks who don’t have the aforementioned attributes. My mother ended up getting a job as a school secretary, which became her career for more than thirty years. So profound (I don’t use the term lightly), so profound an impact did she have on the staff and students at each of the three schools she worked at that the flood — flood — of written tributes from her co-workers on the occasion of her retirement was more than a little overwhelming for someone (God bless her) whose self- assessment has never risen much above “I try.” The outpouring of goodwill dwarfed the previous high watermark of acknowledgement — when she had been awarded Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Women’s Committee Woman of the Year honours in 1980. Many, many anecdotes of my mother having said to someone the right thing at the right time, which they had never forgotten and which had comforted them, motivated them or reassured them in a moment of despair, anxiety, or apprehension. So many lives that she touched, so many people she affected so deeply and upon whom she made such a lasting impression just by being who she is —just by “trying.”
And none of this, no part of her career, was at the expense of her family. Far from it. As a school secretary, her vacations were the same as her children’s vacations. For all intents and purposes, my sister and I had a full- time mother. When we were home before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m., she was home. When we were home for a week she was home for a week. When we were home for two months in the summer, she was home for two months in the summer. It was an ideal situation all the way around. Ideal for my mother, ideal fur her co-workers, ideal for her family. How many jobs are there for a wife and mother of which that can truly be said? Very, very few, I would maintain.
So when I write about Cirinists and Kevillists, the matriarchy and feminism, I write from a singular vantage point of having seen and having been a product of the perfect balance of each — genuinely effective Motherhood and genuinely effective Feminism, where neither effectiveness was diminished by the other.
Outside of the fixed parameters of my owe mother’s accomplishment, everything, in my view, gets a little skewed (to say the least). To even begin to address the singularity of my experience is to introduce large questions. Was I privileged to have a mother who struck the right balance? Is having a full-time mother a privilege? Is it a right? The distance between the two terms could fill many, many volumes of hair-splitting distinctions and still arrive at no proper conclusion, I think. There is no easy solution and no apparent “formula” which can be extrapolated. Every mother should get a job in the public school system if she wants to work and have her job not be at her family’s or her own expense? The corporate world should rearrange itself so that positions held by mothers have exactly the work/vacation ratio and parameters of the school year? The former is impossible and the latter (I’m sure we can all agree) extremely unlikely.
Anyway, my mother pulled it off. And made it look easy.
I just thought that all of you. . .and she. . .should know that that is what I believe.
I love you, Mum. Thanks."
This fifth installment of the essay was particularly resonant for me because it could easily have been written by me about my own mother. She too stayed at home with my younger brother and I. She too was instrumental in fostering my budding talents. I still have books we made together before I could read or write. (Monsters On Vacation, Zed in Outer-Space. Classics!) I would tell her a story, she would write down my words, and I would draw illustrations in crayon. Because of this words and pictures have always been tied together in my mind.
She too is a positive force to everyone she knows and is a mother figure to many children who are not her own.
My mom also started volunteering at our elementary school once both my brother and I were enrolled. She eventually become an aide to the Special-Education instructor. After I graduated high-school (my brother might have still been in school), she went back to college, got her degree in Liberal Arts and earned credentials to be a Special-Education teacher. Imagine the patience and care that type of educator has to embody. She still does this job today, supporting my father in early retirement after a layoff during the 2008 economic collapse, from a company he had been with his entire career.
I read this portion of Cerebus right after returning to California from a one-year visiting-professorship at a university in Virginia. While getting re-settled I was "visiting" my parents. I gave my mom the essay to read because I knew she would realize that I meant the words as if I had written them. She came to me, on the verge of tears, gave me gigantic hug and said, "I love you too. You are going to make me cry."
You heard it here, everyone, "evil misogynist" Dave Sim made my mom cry.
Who wouldn't laugh at the following verse?