There was always an interesting moment in Frida’s life, it swayed here and there, to and fro, left to right, never ceasing in its excitement. She was far too busy to think about the past, that if faded there and then, never to creep up in her minds eye. Frida was far too captivated by the present that it filled her day with joy and diversion. She had too much fun to dwell on the past and too occupied to think about tomorrow. Mona made her live for the moment.
“Today, only matters, my little cherub,” Mona would cheerfully say. “We will be merry and all our worries will fade away. Every day is an important day, don’t forget that, Frida. What we will do tomorrow, will be for tomorrow to decide for us.”
And merry and dance they did. Frida had so much fun that she forgot about the things she was supposed to remember, and remembered what she was supposed to forget. Though, at times her belly grumbled and she went to bed without having much food, she was glad and grateful that she had Mona, who loved her and cared for her as a mother should. Mona indeed, loved her daughter more than any earthly possessions, more than life itself, but caring for a child was not easy and at times challenging. Mona could never stay still for very long. She was a wanderlust, driven by a desire to take in the sights and sounds of the world. Mona loved her freedom and with that, taught her daughter that life experiences are what made you stronger, bolder, and insightful. The world was Frida’s school, and it taught valuable lessons that school, those made of brick and mortar, could ever teach.
Frida saw very little of the inside of a school. The first time, she was seven, the second time she was eight and the last time when she had turned ten. Her father, Robert Otto had insisted she be brought up in a private institution so she can have a better education, become a better person, have a better life. Mona wanted couldn’t disagree with him, after Mr. Otto was Frida’s father and he had as much say about her up bringing as her mother did. Mona didn’t believe that school was for everyone. Frida was innocent and wholesome, carefully reared with the conviction of a spiritual pious. Mona wasn’t bold enough to tell Mr. Otto that schools were full of theories, never fully quenching the inquiring minds that come in fresh and pure from the outside. Mona never felt that questions are never answered, and most that emerged from these institutions were never joyful to learn beyond the walls of the system.
Mona wanted Frida to enjoy learning in her own way, to simply enjoy the quest of finding solutions and keep probing the puzzles. She wanted Frida to be inquisitive and be excited by her curiosity, and explore the things that she loved. But, Mr. Otto wanted the best for his daughter, and didn’t want it any other way and sent Frida to a very expensive private school. The school itself was indeed impressive to both mother and daughter, but when it was time to say goodbye, Frida wouldn’t let go of Mona. She begged and pleaded and wept, while clinging on to her mother.
“Frida,” her mother was feeling the same unwilling feeling of letting go. She had to convince each other that this was the right thing to do. “Your father wishes you to go to school, and like an obedient child you must obey. It is what he wants…”
“I don’t want to go,” Frida wept. “Please, take me with you. I promise I will behave better.”
“My child,” Mona had never been apart from her daughter since the day she was born. “We must both do something we dislike that is part of life. We are not going to like everything we do, but we must accept it and adapt, at least for your father’s sake. Who knows, you might like it.”
“I won’t like it, ” Frida said, “I know I won’t. I want to be with you. Why can’t I go with you?”
“We have talked about this,” Mona tried again. “I love you very much, but your father, insists you go to school. You know I want to take you, but alas, he has made up his mind.”
“I don’t belong here,” Frida said.
“Of course you do,” Mona replied, “you have every right to be here. I want you to at least try. It’s important for your father. He only wants what is good for you..”
“You never made me go,” Frida said.
“I never had a reason to,” Mona admitted. “Your father loves you and that is all that matters. You need to keep your chin up, now let me see that smile of yours.”
Frida couldn’t muster her smile.
“Oh, don’t be like that,” Mona searched for her daughter’s smile. “You could better.”
Frida wiped her tears and managed to smile a bit.
“We will see each other again. I promise,” Mona always kept her promises.
“When?” Frida hoped her mother would say tomorrow.
“Soon,” Mona said, “soon enough and we will go to Greece as we had planned this winter.”
With that, Mona kissed her daughter goodbye.
Frida didn’t find school as interesting as her father had said it would be. The lessons were long and it required a dep concentration for Frida understand, but no matter how hard she tried, the learning did not come easy to her. She was simply not enjoying herself, and friend were not easy to make. The other girls didn’t talk to her and who could blame them, Frida couldn’t relate to them. She had never been around children her age and this new situation made her uncomfortable. When she lived like a free bird, Frida held her head high, but now, she hung her head low, wishing she was somewhere else but here. Her courage was overcome by unhappy thoughts that yearn to be traveling to the four corners of the world. Frida, was quiet and kept to herself. She noticed a few girls that also kept to themselves, but she didn’t bother to talk to them. She missed her mother, she missed being around the adults, but the teachers were not like Mona’s friends. They were distant and commanded much authority. There was always homework to do, and little less time for anything else and soon she let her lessons slip.
Two weeks had gone by and Frida was more misplaced than ever before. She called Mona everyday, begging her to come take her away.
“But it’s only been two weeks,” Mona said. “You haven’t had enough time to digest everything about this school.”
“I feel left behind,” Frida wept. “I don’t seem to grasp what they are teaching. I don’t think I understand what they want me to learn. It doesn’t come easy. I don’t know what they want from me. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“It’s never easy, my love,” Mona said. “You must give a little bit more time.”
“How much longer?” Frida was hoping Mona would say a day or two, and was surprised to hear her mother say a month. Not wanting to disillusioned her mother she agreed. But by the third week, Frida did not make much of an effort. She became unhappy, and felt she was losing herself, and questions of uncertainty, and unwavering thoughts began to inject themselves in her thoughts. Her sense of adventure began to fade, and decided one day to escape. When she did, she immediately called her mother. Mona without a word of displeasure, picked her daughter up only to return her to the school. This kept on and on and by the end of the second month, Mona realized Frida was not suited to be institutionalized. Of course, there was Mr. Otto that had to be dealt with, and she made sure Mr. Otto knew what was best for Frida.
And just like that, mother and daughter resumed their lives on being on the road. And just like that, the memory of her time in that school faded.