Who was Ma in the story of BEGUILED? Here is a fictional interview conducted late in the story with the mother of Miriam. By now, she has a little perspective on her life.
KK: Ma, you were always so angry and critical of your only daughter Miriam. What drove you to treat her that way?
Ma: I never knew why I treated my Mimishke like that. I always regretted it later. Especially when I slapped her across the face. I love her with all my heart, but she was too much like I was as a girl. So talented with acting, with dancing and singing. So smart. And, believe it or not, people in my little shtetl told me I was pretty too, just like they always did when they saw Miriam. So, I don’t know… maybe I was jealous. She gets so much. I got nothing growing up. Just misery, fear, and then when the awful men came and violated my sister Minna, that was the end of my joy. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, nothing but pain. Seeing Miriam grow up to be such a wonderful girl, and all the attention that Pop lavished on her, made me feel worse about myself. I should have been proud of her, happy for her, but I was not. Only occasionally, and that passed quickly.
KK: Did you ever let Miriam know you were regretful about how you treated her?
Ma: I never told her, no. But, I hope my actions showed her. When she gave me her beautiful healthy son Aaron to take care of, when she trusted me to do that, then we could become friends just a little bit. We played with Aaron on the floor. I was in seventh heaven that Aaron loved me. He came to me more than to Miriam. I was like his first mother, not Miriam. Then I finally could let go of all my distress whenever I saw my daughter. Then I wasn’t jealous any longer of all the attention my Miriam got from everywhere, especially from Pop. Now we could be a family.
KK: What do you wish you had done differently with your daughter?
Ma: I wish I’d told her about how I was as a girl, about my life in Russia, about my dreams, how I had to give them up. How I never had the courage she did to try out what she loved all those years. I always did what was expected. Then that just made me angry, resentful, bitter. Maybe that anger even made me lose babies. Who knows? The body knows. If Mimi had known me more, maybe she would have understood. Maybe we would have had a happier life… who knows? I can’t do it over again.
KK: Thank you for telling me what is in your heart, Ma.