The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 66, No. 2, June 2006 (Ó 2006) DOI: 10.1007/s11231-006-9009-3
THE CHILD WITHIN. KAREN HORNEY ON VACATION1 Renate Horney Patterson I am thrilled and extremely grateful that I am able to attend this wonderful celebration. I am the youngest of the Horney daughters. My father always said that the desire for a son was the father of many daughters. I was my parents’ last desire. In about 1924 my mother, excited about the newest idea that early childhood analysis would prevent neurosis in the adult, sent her three daughters to the Freudian couch of Melanie Klein. I will read from my Lazarus, What’s Next? A Memoir to take you to that time in our lives with Mother. As I lay on the hard, ominous couch, Melanie asked me to talk about my thoughts and dreams. Being a lively, healthy eight-year-old, I told of climbing trees and playing Indians. The therapist’s long reply startled my innocent ears. All my thoughts, she said, had to do with penis envy and anus play. Although proud of having been told to make the long trip by bus and subway to her office alone, I soon found a way to get there ever so slowly. Arriving late, I would dive not onto but underneath the terrible couch, with my fingers pressed firmly in my ears. Messy nightmares haunted my nights. Thus, on a rainy afternoon with nothing else to do, I suggested to Nati that we should write letters to people and drop them in their mailboxes. What fun I had writing all that I had learned on the couch and signing the letters, "Greetings from your Fart." It did not take long for my letters to arrive back home, along with indignant complaints. How my parents must have laughed, but with Father’s strictest face, he pronounced, "Nacki, you must go to every house where you dropped a letter and say, ‘Excuse me, I am Fart. I accidentally dropped something here!’ " With tears of shame, I paced back and forth in front of the first door. I had promised, so I had to ring the bell. A maid opened it, I rambled my sentence and fled. At home, I pleaded, ’’Please, was not one house enough?‘‘ My parents burst out laughing. Hugging me, Mother proclaimed, ’’So much for child analysis!‘‘ (Horney, 1999, p. 18). 1
This address was delivered on October 23, 2005, at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis, New York, celebrating the 120th anniversary of Karen Horney’s birth. Address correspondence to Renate Horney Patterson, 3041 Via Serena South Unit B, Laguna Woods, CA 92637, USA; e-mail: [email protected] 109 0002-9548/06/0600-0109/1 Ó 2006 Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis
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But what I really wanted to talk about was a side of Mother few people knew. I’d like to call it the child within. As a child she had devoured the multiple volumes of the German author Karl May’s Wild West novels depicting the American Indians with her idolized hero "Winnetou, " whom she portrayed in her games with her girlfriend. After she had passed on, we found at the bottom of her closet a package wrapped in old brown paper containing her childhood treasures. There were her adolescent diaries, two rag dolls, one white, one black, and a pennant with the name Winnetou stitched on. Yes, there was definitely a Winnetou in her. I laughed out loud when I read the memoirs of Mrs. Lederers, her secretary, in which she describes an evening walk down Broadway, shortly after she had arrived in America, and saw a striking woman with white hair and a brown face. ‘‘That,’’ she said to her husband, ‘‘must be an American Indian.’’ ‘‘No,’’ her husband laughed, ‘‘that is the famous Dr. Karen Horney.’’ Mother was very happy when, after fleeing Germany in 1939, my husband, my little daughter, and I settled in Mexico. She loved the idea of her daughter living in Mexico, where she could spend her vacations. And Mother came down from New York to stay with us regularly. Once, while we were staying in Cuernavaca with friends, a real American Indian chieftain had been invited to lunch. He looked as if he just walked out of her story books. Mother was thrilled. I remember her listening and looking at him spellbound as if she were a child seeing Santa Claus, or her idolized Winnetou. Gone were her searching thoughts; there was just the child within. And this was her greatest charm: she lived and enjoyed the moment, whether it was the markets, the villages, or their fiestas with their merry-go-rounds, which she had to ride every time. The vacations in Mexico she most enjoyed were those spent in the picturesque village of Ajijic on Lake Chapala, with the surrounding steep mountains, a stony beach crowded with fishermen drying and mending their nets, women washing their clothes, and children playing. Ajijic had one simple hotel but we preferred the primitive bungalows of an eccentric charming German, Don Pablo. Don Pablo believed in nature. There was no electricity, no running water; the grounds were unkempt weeds on which Pablo’s twelve dogs—all street-variety mutts—his chicken, and his three donkeys roamed freely. The kitchen was a dugout with mud floor. Nestled on its tiled roof were bottles and bottles of his homemade cognac, aging in the sun. There were scorpions and black widow spiders, but in spite of it all it was paradise. What made it paradise was Pablo’s warm personality, his delicious, simple fresh food, the view from the porch, and the wonderful people one met. Even then, in the middle 1940s, Ajijic was an artist colony, and Mother took painting lessons with
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one of the local painters. Evenings were often spent on the porch telling stories or singing German, American, and Mexican folksongs accompanied by Pablo strumming his guitar and enjoying his cognac from the kitchen roof. Once Mother asked, "Please, Pablo, let us sing the Mexican anthem." "Which anthem?" we all asked, "We never sang it." "Oh yes," she insisted, "my favorite, ‘La Cucaracha, la cucaracha ya no sabe caminar,’ etc.’’ "Mother," I burst out laughing, "Mexicans would be very offended that a song telling of a cockroach which can’t walk straight because it ran out of marijuana to smoke is their national anthem." There is a famous picture of Mother, which I have seen in several books, where she is laughing and holding a glass in her hand. The picture has many titles, the correct and not very dignified one would be: ‘‘The Celebration and Naming of Pablo’s Newest Donkey, ‘Alibaba.’’’ During those war years in the forties, airlines had a priority system and Mother, for one reason or another, was always the first one to be dumped off. One summer there was a hurricane. Again, I will read from my memoirs. "Well," Mother said, "if it’s not priorities, it’s a hurricane." Then, wondering what to do with the extra time, she suddenly smiled. "How about driving to San Jose Purua? I read in a gourmet magazine that they have an absolutely fantastic buffet on Saturday nights prepared by an Austrian chef. Today is Friday—let’s go." Off we drove through the mountains and down to Purua. There it does not just rain, it pours with a spectacular tropical intensity. But even so, we had a few dry moments in which to enjoy walks through the lush, fragrant gardens. How she loved the banana and orange plantations, the abundance of bougainvilleas, hibiscus, and other flowers. And, of course, we could not miss having a healing bath and smearing sulphur mud on our faces for rejuvenation. The buffet, a gourmet’s heaven, lived up to its fame. Our little old car sputtered and choked on the return trip. We prayed to our guardian angels to help push it up the steep mountains. And so, in creeping agony, we finally made it back home. A call to the airlines assured her of a flight the next day at noon. "Wonderful," Mother said. "Then I can still do some last-minute shopping on the way to the airport." So we shopped, but when she wanted to pay, she discovered that she did not have her purse. "Do you have my pocketbook?" she asked turning to me. "No. Maybe you left it in the car." We checked, but in vain. "I must have forgotten it at home. Do we have time to fetch it? I need my ticket and passport."
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"Impossible," Fredy answered, "You two take a taxi to the airport while I rush home and try to make it there in time for your departure." In the process of being widened, the only street to San Angel had become a narrow obstacle course. But Fredy had to try. While Mother and I took a cab to the airport, he tried to put wings on the old car. As soon as we arrived, we convinced the clerk at the desk that Mother had a ticket and that it, plus her passport, would arrive soon. "Please, please wait for her." Now came the slow torture of seeing the clock tick away. Would he make it on time? If not, how many days would she have to wait for another flight? "Sorry, Senora," the clerk said, "but we cannot wait any longer." Just as he finished the sentence, we heard over the loudspeaker, "The flight has been delayed by half an hour." Hurrah, we still had a chance. Again we paced back and forth, but no car, no handbag. He should have been back. Where was he? Once more the clerk approached us, shaking his head, and said, "Sorry, this is it." Just as we had given up hope, I saw a black spot racing at high speed toward us. With brakes screeching, Fredy came to an abrupt halt as he tossed out the bag. "What happened? Why did you take so long?" "I searched through the whole house, even under the beds but could not find the bag. Finally, defeated, I went to the bathroom and there it sat on top of the toilet." "Oh, no," Mother burst out with tears of laughter and relief, "What would Freud have said to that." And happily waving her bag, she climbed on the plane. (Horney, 1999, pp. 101–103).
This is how Mother helped us to be true to ourselves, to the child within.
REFERENCE Horney, R. (1999). Lazarus, What’s next? A memoir, Laguna Beach, CA: Laurel Press.