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Freud’s desk

April 23, 2010

When we were in London, we made a pilgrimage up to Hampstead so I could see Georgian houses and so we could visit the Freud Museum. I liked the houses. I loved the museum. I did not know that Freud collected antiquities, but he did. He set them up all around his workspace, on his desk, on the mantel, on shelves: small chipped figures of Greek gods and heroes, Chinese jade carvings, and even the death mask of a mummy. He said the past inspired him.

I have spent a lot of time staring at portraits of Mary and Mary online and in books, but I do not have any actual prints to look at. So, in the spirit of Freud, I have printed out copies of two portraits: one of Mary Wollstonecraft and one of Mary Shelley. I have put them in frames and propped them up on my desk (instead of taping them to the wall). Now I feel like I have two silent companions. Two friends. Two watchers. Since in my house, the only people who are framed are family members, I also feel like I have two grandmothers, two aunts or maybe two sisters here with me. Suddenly the prospect of writing their lives feels important and even exciting, like it did in the beginning. I am not really sure what Freud meant by “totems,” but I feel these images are somehow totemic — and I think I am using that adjective correctly.

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