Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE N.5

Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE N.5

EILEEN COWIN, Lost in Translation from the Mad Love Series, 2017 5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist

Not just self, maybe before
by Rosanna Albertini

The apricot tree was a large umbrella spread over a square piece of ground sown with potatoes. A green hedge separated this part of the garden, the hole for garbage and the henhouse, from the pine tree and the rose garden. After the beans had been completely harvested, I used to move the sticks into the potato field. Because they were five time higher than me, I pretended they were poles for building my favorite space: a sort of teepee made out of wooden sticks crossed at the top. Before the dew was frost on the clogs, almost never before November, the soil was soft enough to keep my construction quite steady. It was a difficult achievement for a seven year old; my home was often falling apart like a house of cards, scratching my arms legs and feet – but the final contentment was beyond description. I had my own house, and an unrestrained mind freedom. I didn’t mind of all those strange people inside the big house. They weren’t usually able to find me until dark, but it must be said that quite often they also forgot I existed. If they called, I believe I did not answer, sitting as I was on the inner curve of the moon. In summertime, before the grass was cut, it was even easier to disappear in tunnels through the blades, or astride the branches of a pear tree. God knows what I had in mind, lots of stories that were all vividly true since pretending is not lying; pretending is a secret work that one does not share with anybody. Besides, I was encumbered by theological doubts. Perhaps because people were not yet feeling safe, immediately after the end of the war, and quite often children died young, the local Catholic community (four nuns and one priest attended by his sister) had probably decided that children, at least, had to die sanctified, having received the sacraments at age six and seven. The elementary school started at age five, a year after we could chew the doctrine book listening and memorizing, rather than reading. It was easy: Italian or Latin, it did not matter. Because of the long skirted people who had told us that our heart had to connect to those words, we were seriously charmed. Our families never knew how influential the Catholic rituals had been on our small lives. We did not know what it is to be smart. Naive, dumbfounded creatures, my friends and I were a group of about fifteen children not really capable of separating the fairy tale territory from the church discipline. Like a small army wearing pink or blue overalls, each of us brandishing one carnation, we walked to the cemetery at every funeral. Not to chat or burst out laughing were the hardest things, being the circumstance only a normal death in which our feelings were clearly not involved. Did we even have feelings? Maybe not, I don’t remember. And now, as I look back at those years with no rules, I see the strange tall people in the big house must have loved me very much, if they left so much space around me.

EILEEN COWIN, Merely an Episode from the Mad Love series, 2017 5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist