The Interlude, William Sergeant Kendall, 1907

The Interlude, William Sergeant Kendall, 1907


A few months ago, a malicious third party made a comment about my mother, whom she had never actually known, that created distance between my mother and me. It was a puzzling, obscuring distance my mother had never occupied during her lifetime.

She is long gone. The tears that were once fresh have dried and I cannot call them back. Though I often quote her or tell some of the Tales of Rachelle, I seldom actually think of her.

But that does not mean that I am not emotionally grounded

in my mother’s love. Because I am.

That being the case, a claim about my mother that threatened to put a veil between us (not the veil of death, which is irrelevant to the mother/daughter intimacy) was terrifying to me. It was like having the props kicked out from under.

That must have been why, a few nights later, she came to me in a dream. It’s the sort of thing she almost never does, possibly because she does not want to intrude, in a day-to-day way, in my present life.

The dream announced itself as a dream. That is, first it showed me a frame, like an empty picture frame, set in space. Then a smaller frame was seen within the first. Then, there was Mother.

It was she, there was no mistaking her emotional signature, though I could discern nothing of her visually. There was no picture inside the two frames.

“Emotional signature”? What am I talking about? I am talking about the most unique and inimitable tenderness, carrying within it the force – of profoundly knowing me, of the most direct and unqualified recognition – and of the intuitive rebuttal to all that had been falsely alleged, which had attempted to misrepresent us to each other.

Was it really she?

To think otherwise would be to make everything a projection, fanning out from a solipsistic center with no outside to it. It would be to deny that there is any such thing as a relationship

a real me

that is not you –

a real thou

that is not I.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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2 Responses to “Intimacy”

  1. Ken Kaplan says:

    “Come into the silence of solitude, and the vibration there will talk to you with the voice of God, and you will know that the invisible has become visible and the unreal has become real.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda … Yes Abigail, it was she.

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