Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My mother and I

It was my mother's yahr-zeit, the anniversary of her death this week. She died on February 12, 1993. She was a feisty old lady, though she would never admit to being old, she just stayed young for a very long time.  But it was my childhood memories of her that I recalled this week. I thought of her as the criminal who got us in to the opera performances at the zoo without paying. With my overdeveloped sense of what is right and what is wrong, and I can only blame my mother for that, I thought that it was quite wrong to sneak in to the performances without paying, but the show was all sold out, there was no other way. The animals in the zoo were all dead, eaten during the siege of Budapest, but during the summer they had great opera performances there. This must have been the summer of 1948, shortly before we emigrated to New Zealand. The operas we saw were Madame Butterfly, with the Japanese American soprano, Tomiko Kanazawa and Faust with bass Imre Pallo as Mephisto. Going to the opera was part of our preparation to moving to New Zealand, where we didn't expect to see opera, go to concerts, see plays. Poor old Laszlo Rogatsy, a talented young Hungarian baritone, with a promising future was living and starving in Germany after the war. He was deluded into coming to New Zealand by immigration officials who assured him that opera, yes. of course, every small town has an Opera House in New Zealand. They forgot to tell him that they had buildings, but no opera company. We knew better. My mother and father took us to concerts, to the National Theatre, where we saw a marvellous production of Richard III, a dramatic rendering of Petofi's Janos Vitez. We were equipped with a library full of books, which include great classics, but hardly any children's books. My father also tried to prepare me for the unpredictable hurly-burly of a new unknow country. I went to fencing classes, boxing classes, neither of which proved to be of any use to me in later life. But the music, the books, the cultural baggage stayed with me and defined who I am. My unscrupulous mother who didn't pay for our opera tickets knew what she was doing. She also helped me to hurdle the huge barriers of the English language, helping me to decipher the social studies and science textbooks, the totally inappropriate difficult and irrelevant English texts. And whatever I did, she supported me and was proud of even my smallest achievements. What can I say, I was very lucky with my parents.