Bee First dates (BNNVARA) was Jorke, 18 years old, international business student. He ordered a pornstar Martini from regular bartender Victor and talked with a tiny lisp, which made him seem a little younger. His date’s name was Jamie, he was 19 and a nurse. They were, they said to each other, looking for a best friend, but in man form. Someone you can say anything to. I do think there was a ‘click’ between the two. Jorke talked about his father’s early death without any worries. It happened about eight years ago. His father had eye cancer. He had surgery, but it came back. “A lot of drama and fuss.” Laconically: “It actually didn’t make that much of an impression.” He thinks he was 8, maybe just 9 and…. “There was all kinds of stuff happening around you?” adds Jamie. Yes, Jorke says, that’s how it was. And then come up with information about his father that he could not possibly have collected himself. “He was a complicated man.” And: “It’s good the way it is.”
I thought of Jorke when I saw the short film If she is not there (EO) by Wieke Kapteijns saw. A quarter of a century after his mother’s death, he goes looking for her. That search starts with: what is a mother? He googles it. A mother is a woman in relation to her children. And: a mother wants to see her child grow up into a happy, healthy adult. Then search for images. Madonna with baby, woman with newborn, mother and child. He studies the look, the mother gaze. “Mothers look at you in a certain way.” Next step: ask his best friend about his feelings for his mother. Ask if he has any videos from the past. Watch them. Watching a strange mother play peek-a-boo with a little boy who isn’t him.
Wieke Kapteijns has no idea. And the sad thing is, neither are his sisters Loulou and Roxy. They even guess the day of her death. His sisters were 4 and 2. He was 6. Too young to understand loss, too old to forget. The three want to talk about her, but it doesn’t work. “Difficult to talk about something we don’t know.” He takes one step closer: asking his father for the photo albums. Up the stairs to the attic, search through lost boxes, somewhere among them are the prints of who she was, preserved in three photo albums.
Chunk of granite
From ‘what is a mother’ Kapteijns comes closer to the question ‘who is mine mother’. We see her flutter past in shreds and fragments. He writes down, childishly and naively, what he learns. She had long brown hair. A beautiful smile. She is also a woman in a hospital bed in the living room. A toddler sister clambers over the railing on top of her, he gently and gently kisses her goodnight. What he still knows of her as a 30-year-old, he says in a telephone conversation with his father, feels like a “big bag with a heavy chunk of granite.” Dark, cumbersome and heavy. Yet the block should not splinter, he says. Otherwise he will lose what little he has of her. “That’s not possible,” says his father. “You were built from her. You can’t lose that.” I think there mine heart broke into pieces. From then on, Kapteijns really dares to look at who his mother was.
His father is also a filmmaker, and in the few years that she was a mother, he recorded what you want to know when the memory is no longer there. How she looked at her son who had just been born. Her angry look when he has to go to bed but is still bouncing around in the room until he hits his head. He roars. They comfort him forgivingly. And then he sees the look he’s been looking for all along. Her, exhausted at the breakfast table. One sister crowing in the high chair, maybe there is another one in her belly. He wants his sandwich cut into cubes. No, even smaller pieces. She tells him that he looks like a baby. How a mother looks at a four-year-old.
So yes. “She was there.”