Ten Views of Mum

Alex had been forced by The Authority to mix adults and teens in his PIA: Philosophy In Art class. This could get complicated, so he’d decided to keep things simple.

After an introduction to Japanese artist Hokusai, famous for his series of one hundred, thirty- six, and then ten more, views of Mt Fuji, the class had agreed – or at least not disagreed too strongly – to take ten views of various topics.

“Welcome to class,” said Alex. “I’m delighted to see that most of you have made it back. We could have done thirty-six views of things, one each! But you opted for ten views. So who’s first?”

A girl said, “What’s the topic?”

“Ah yes, the topic. Hmmm…” Alex kicked himself. Why hadn’t he prepared something? How stupid. “The first thing I can remember in life is my mother. So let’s start with that. Who can tell us something about their mother?”

“Are we going to draw her?” said the girl.

“Maybe later. Right now I just want you to use your imaginations. Think of as many kinds of mothers as possible.”

The adults were holding back for some reason; they were leaving it to the teens. More precisely, to the girl.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Okay, I’ll start – a mother is a woman who has given birth to a child.”

The girl made a face, others did too. “Why do you need to tell us that? Mothers are just mothers.”

He felt strongly self-conscious. Did these teens respect their mothers? Would some soon be mothers themselves? Why didn’t the adults say something? Were they scared of looking foolish? He’d known it was a bad idea to mix adults and teens.

“A mother is someone who has raised a child.” It was a boy at the back speaking. “I was adopted at birth. I don’t know my biological mother. Mother for me is the woman who fed and clothed me, and rubbed my knees and elbows when I fell in the street.”

A man in his forties said, “A woman can become a mother by donating her eggs, which are united with sperm and implanted into another person’s womb. It was the only way my wife and I could have children.”

“I was suckled by a wet nurse,” said an overdressed woman; she seemed to be a present to herself in yellow wrapping. “My own mother dried up. The wet nurse was a mother to me too.”

“Are grandmothers also mothers?” asked a boy. The class giggled and he looked down.

“Of course they are,” said Alex. They are…”

“I was raised by a stepmother,” said an old man. “She was a horrible woman, always cruel to me. She said that if I ever told my father, she’d tell him to send me to an orphanage.” This made everybody sad.

“We eat the lush fruits of Mother Earth,” said a woman that Alex knew was a poet. “Gaia gives us all.”

“In mythology there are mother goddesses – Hera, Durga, Amaterasu, Isis, Kwan Yin…”

“And don’t forget the Holy virgin – Mother of God!”

A boy shouted out, “My mother is a lesbian and recently got married, so now I have two mothers.” Everybody agreed that he was very lucky indeed.

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