The following is an excerpt from Mother’s Grave, a novel written by Keijo Siekkinen –grand old man of the Jyväskylä literary scene. Mother’s Grave was nominated for the Finlandia Prize in 1985. Translation by Willie Lahti
You didn’t think that way. You didn’t think of words like I do, that somewords have their own name and that they are fat or thin or sturdy or light. I have read that if you start to think about words too much, play with them, it’s a sure sign that schizophrenia is well on its way. I don’t think that I am crazy.
I realize pretty quickly that a potato is a potato and if you intend on boiling potatoes with their skins on they can’t be too starchy. A starchy potato falls apart and then turns into mush in the pot and good food is ruined. Folks from Häme may be indifferent on the subject because they eat their potatoes with the peels on anyway, or at least Untela from Linnankoski’s Refugees ate his like that even though he was a wealthy and powerful landlord. You wouldn’t have eaten your potatoes with their skins on except for roasted potatoes like we made when I was small. We’d dig potatoes and make a fire and put potatoes and turnips in the hot ash, and then when they were done we’d toss those hot potatoes with our fingertips and eat them. They were good. You were never crazy although your stories always progressed in a roundabout way. I wasn’t able to listen to them all the way to the end and then when I realized what you were getting at it was too late. I was married and I had to listen to someone else’s stories, and I didn’t have time to sit in your kitchen and figure out what you were trying to say. And you did have something to say. One time you threw a cup of coffee at me. It was the only time that you were truly upset or at least that I remember. After the cup and the coffee hit me and I asked you for a clean shirt you laughed. You were so sweet and lovely then. I was on my way to school. I understood you, my little mother – silly tired little girl.
I’m sitting in the old boat builder’s workshop on the lakeshore. It wouldn’t be too far of a trip from here to Leppävesi and Ahola and then Ylämäki where you lived when you were a girl. This place is like a big cabin. I’ve got the doors open. In the morning I was watching a pair of goldeneyes. They swam with dignity. They were in no hurry even though they still have to get things done before summer is over. You were scared of water, lakes. You didn’t dare go to the construction workers’ lake cabin because Kari and I would
swim and splash and clown around in the canoe. You were afraid that we
would drown. We didn’t drown; we didn’t dare because you always swore you would beat the daylights out of us if we did. the sauna to the lake and didn’t seem like he’d ever come out. He just sat on flat rock that was near the shore. He laughed and splashed in the water like he was playing around on purpose. I could tell that he wasn’t really playing.
There was fear in his eyes; he was listening to his heart.
I imagine that I’m not in a hurry either. I’ll get everything taken care of this summer. I’m not sure if I’ll get the nest ready, not sure if there are ducklings on the way or if they will make it to the water. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my marriage. It’s an extraordinary marriage, I think it is as old-fashioned and enduring as you and dad’s marriage was. Pauliina just turned sixteen. We’ve had conversations. We share things. You were working too muchand maybe you were already too old, even though you were only thirty-six when you had me, actually you were thirty-seven by then. That’s how old I am now. Anne was like a mother to me already then. Anne is your daughter and will be fifty this fall. Pretty soon you two will be the same age. Dad has stopped being afraid of death. It’s not like he’s waiting for it but he’s not running away from it either. He laughs more and laughs more freely, as if understands things more easily now.
I don’t need to think about death, nobody does. I need to cut my umbilical cord. It needs to be severed before it rots. I think I should learn to walk with my own legs so when I am as old as dad I don’t need to be a builder of impossible worlds like he is. This world is beginning to be in such a condition that it can’t handle healers and redeemers anymore, these mother’s sons. I One time dad went from went outside; there is sorrel growing near the doorway. Its flower is small, the white petals have wine-red streaks and in the throat of the flower is a yellow crown. It’s been years since I’ve looked at it so closely. I tasted a sorrel stalk; it tasted salty, but not as salty as it sometimes does.
white petals have wine-red streaks and in the throat of the flower is a yellow crown. It’s been years since I’ve looked at it so closely.
I tasted a sorrel stalk; it tasted salty, but not as salty as it sometimes does.
The writer aims to be the most overeducated bartender in the city of Jyväskylä