OCCASIONAL COMMENTS ON PSCHO-ANALYTIC MATTERS + CONTIBUTIONS fromMICHAEL ROLOFF Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Bombing Screen Memory

This is a brief comparatively simple excerpt, 
with prefatory note, from "Screen Memories"
 the self-analytic memoir of my German-American youth.




differs from, say, its extreme opposite, a short term immediate recollection of, say, yet one more fly among hundreds alighting on the hide of your horse, in that as a memory it can be recalled life long, in that it is an event that can be replayed in the mind, even though it occurred in earliest childhood, and 99 percent of the other flies have been forgotten, but not this particular horse fly that administered an unforgettable sting, say, on a child’s nose!

In the instance below, two bombs, twins it appears, falling and detonating in some woods in May 1940. leaving craters that look like freshly dug graves, we have an instance where I was able to verify the first bombings of Bremen, in May 1940, preceded by the RAF dropping leaflets warning the population of the impending bombing, which came as retaliation of German bombing of Rotterdam, and of course of these craters that gradually filled up with detritus from the trees, and one of which served as an entry to a nearby underground network of badger and fox tunnels which I started to elaborate into an underground bunker of sorts on my return to Fir Place in late Fall 1943,  which Fir Place I departed because the bombings, my caretakers like all caretakers being frightened for the safety of their children.

A screen memory thus collects a variety of experiences of all kinds, it is emotionally cathected, danger, a disruption of normality are its characteristics.

However, screen memories are not pure, like that one horse fly that just sat down on the horse’s ass and that it’s tail shoed away.  Just another swipe among many. Screen memories contain distortions that time, memory work introduces, revisions into the directions of normal expectations, but also revisions in the directions of prettification.

By age four I had had it appeared a number of experiences of thunderstorms, part of normal summer at the latitude I lived in in northern Germany. Thus my recollection of being awoken by the near simultaneous explosion of two bombs added lightning flashes that I as a four year old in my four year old’s bed might have seen if they had been lightning flashes and if I had been awake say around midnight, but the flashes that the two exploding bombs emitted in woods 100 yards away were not would not even have been visible if I had stood by the dormer window something that at age four I would have been unable  to look out of. Memory distorted in the direction of normalization. The glass shards from the broken windows are recalled as dew drops and the drew drops are assumed to be tear drops – indeed I may have literally cried, but I certainly was tearful inside upon leaving Fir Place, not only because of the Place but also for leaving my mother, possibly the wire-haired terrier Poetter, and unhappy at the prospect of traveling with a governess who was already a hated and feared person. Over-determined unhappiness! The German shepherd Marcommitting suicide is pure subjective imputation – Mara was terrified, as I may have been too, she was trying to escape her enclosure and her collar caught accidentally on top of the fence. A host of consequences from these two bombs made them, made the event memorable, and the memory was re-inforced by subsequent bombing experiences and my interest in the two adjacent craters. It may also have been re-inforced by the preceding, far richer, and more complicated screen memory of two toy trains colliding head on in a make-believe tunnel the preceding Christmas  - I at least do not, find myself unable to ascertain these lines of re-inforcement, they remain unconscious, unconscious fault-lines. 

In the instance of the two toy railway engines colliding inside the tunnel, where my father’s plan had been for them to pass simultaneously – as a feat of engineering and control – I suspect I was the only one witnessing this event for whom it then served as the heart of something I call “catastrophe”. My father grieved a bit, he looked sad, at his father in law, once again I suspect, throwing a playful wrench into the proceedings. None of those present could have imagined that my psyche would make the use it did of this event. In the case of the first bombing attack on Bremen I suspect that most kids my generation, in Bremen, and in other cities, everywhere, carry the trauma of the first attack with them, which may or may not have become over-layed with repeated experiences of the same kind.



We, I, really must imagine someone I named Gabriel, what appears to be a thoroughly goodified four year old lying in his child’s bed clutching his toy monkey, Marke Steiff
one of whose ears is moth-eaten or has Gabriel chewed it off?, there is the sound of airplanes way overhead a brummen, a grumbling sound that is continuous but not loud enough to wake him or he is too deeply asleep and then there is a flash and a thunder clap, simultaneous, a nearby explosion – about 100 yards off - that shakes the ground and the house that shatters the window glass and that therefore wakes him out of his slumber even before the dream-work can attribute, accommodate the catastrophic event to something kinder that might keep him asleep one second longer – a lightning strike?      Well, there was a flash! However he could not possibly have seen it, not even if he’d been awake and stood by the window that looked out on the woods, and he would have been too short at age four to be able to look out, and it is most doubtful that the flashes of the two near simultaneously exploding bombs would have been visible through 100 yards of fir trees.                           However, lightning and thunder had not shattered the windows to date or shaken the ground so that it quaked!
   I reared up tossed the Steiff Monkey, my security, leapt out of his bed and rushed to the window that looked out on the woods, opened the two window panels, broken shards lying all around and heard Mara, the German Shepherd, yowling hysterically in her enclosure, a yowling that became more and more high pitched and then suddenly ceased, throttled.   - That is the screen memory the immedidate memory of the event.
   There is a roar that grumbled away in a north-westerly direction very much like a fading but oddly continuous thunderstorm.                     It took Gabriel a long time to fall back asleep, hugging his Steiff Monkey, and when I awoke early, earlier than anyone else, I sneak down the staircase and walk out onto the veranda and notice that the window glass has shattered and that shattered glass in the flower heads mingles with the dew and reminds me of tear drops.      It is the month of May, it is Spring 1940, this has been the first actual air raid on the City of Bremen.


      It appears that I walked out to Mara’s Zwinger [enforcer] enclosure on the section of the lawn to the right that was not entirely visible from the veranda, a well-shaded square 100 by 100 foot area which bore the name “croquet play ground” – and was shocked, frightened by the sight of Mara hanging slack by her collar from the highest wire of the enclosure.           Klinner, the foreman, came by about the same time and told me that two bombs had fallen near the riding rink, twins, leaving two craters, like graves he said, that large and deep, right next to each other, and then Klinner cut down the dog and carted it away in a wheel barrow. The story went, so Klinner said, that the British bombers were afraid to actually penetrate the air-space over Bremen which was defended by dirigibles with razor wire sharp enough to cut the wing of a bomber, which is why they dropped their bombs at the outskirts of town. Tales that are then remembered a life time, certain tales are.
This pretty much approximates my recollection of what I call my, Gabriel’s “Expulsion from Paradise,” in Spring 1940 and of the screen memory that formed around it, the inception of the years of the “Brummer”, the sound of bombers in the sky. Handke compares the bombers to hornets {Die Hornissen} I to these large horse flies which also have quite a sting and with which I was far more familiar from the horse and cow stalls than with the far more dangerous hornets – if you had asked me what airplane was comparable to a hornet I’d have said “Jagdflieger,” fighter planes.
 It appears that I was as suicidal-minded and projected that feeling onto Mara, who was merely terrified and was accidentally strangled when her collar caught on the top of the fence, since I had my own Zwinger, Ms. No, and was infuriated by then having to leave paradisiacal Fir Place. 
As compared to the first screen memories – the nightmare of the unicorn chasing me up into the Schneise and beyond & of the two toy locomotives that collide head-on, or mount each other! inside a tunnel - here I can’t tell whether it is also a perfect memory re-arranged so as to create a “likely story” -  a secondary revision in time. In this instance I realize that memory has edited the events, compounded them and rearranged them. The person I must call Gabriel, since I am indeed dissociated from him not only by time and space but also by fallible memory, was indeed wakened by two bombs that fell simultaneously next to each other about 100 yards off in the Fir Place woods, but lightning strikes and simultaneous thunder derive from other experience – both earlier and later in life - and signify the shock, not just of the totality of this experience – the shattered windows, the “suicidal” dog, the expulsion for Paradise which the bombs elicited - but of what followed: The several other close calls during bombing attacks, when the Zoo was bombed in Berlin and the sound of shrieking animals continues to pursue me, being in the primary school bunker  that was half above ground and covered with sod and looked like a kind of mass grave! Being in the  above ground beton bunker during an air raid while I am having my tonsils cut out at age eight and the bunker as in a continues earth quake the light of the operating table quavering, the B-17 whooshing barely over our house and crashing a quarter mile off, the in fact near continuous grumbling in the sky as of 1943 until late spring 1945 and the forever apprehension at planes overhead and the sound of sirens of all kinds. My first childish drawings at age 6 of bombers dropping “sausages” – shit!
However, the flashes of two 500 pound bombs exploding on the ground one hundred yards away cannot be seen through 100 yards of thick fir forest; perhaps the sound of thunder elicited a hallucinated lightning flash in Gabriel’s mind? I think memory was doing its work creating the screen memory.                                  The terrified hysterical shepherd indeed strangled herself with her collar at an upper part of the fence of her enclosure [The Zwinger] but “Enforcer” also referred to Gabriel’s governess whose orders whose numerous “nos” elicited Gabriel’s resistance and fury; say, the fury of a stubborn billy goat; the dog’s fury indeed signifies Gabriel’s near suicidal fury at having to leave paradise in company of his enforcer, his governess. In other words, the details have been over-emphasized, over-determined, slightly re-arranged, most likely why they have been remembered all these years – in lieu of all the forgotten ones, other less emotionally determined recollections seem not as accessible.                            The drops of dew in the flowers, not just the shattered shards of glass, signify Gabriel’s tears. However, since Gabriel can be said to have been crying inside since he was taken from his mother at age nine months, those tears, too, are over-determined. Loss loss loss. There was a time during the many years that I carried this book with me that I was going to call it “Irretrievable Losses.” This commentary in other words, appears to be necessary in telling this event which elicited hectic activity of the inhabitants of the villa with the result that within a day my father’s chauffeur and Maybach took Gabriel and his governess to the St. Magnus suburban station, a four year old sad little boy and a dowdy spinster. But before Gabriel left his paradise it appears he may of course have made one more walk, toddle about the forest as he would several times after during his life.







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MICHAEL ROLOFF http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html