A Politician’s Mother

I have just returned from reading my son his bedtime story.

It was Harry Potter.

But not a word of it can I remember because my mind is rather too full of the orderly shrine which has been set up on the shelves next to his bed.

It is filled with items taken from a raid on the Houses Of Parliament.

The two chambers were closed when we went last Autumn, barricaded in by lavish PR tables giving out freebies. Mouse mats, pencils, post-it notes, leaflets, all bearing the crests of the two chambers.

Cheated of seeing the chambers themselves we raided the freebies mercilessly and came away with posh carrier bags full of crested tat.

The bags gathered dust the Winter long.

Until now: Felix discovered it and has arranged it all meticulously on his shelves. I was given a short tour.

“This,” Felix gestured expansively to one shelf lines with House of Lords mouse mat, “is where I put yesterday’s apple juice glass ready to go downstairs; and this,” (waving airily at another shelf lined with a House of Commons mouse mat) is for today’s glass. I have pencils and post it notes to jot down ideas here. And I am reading this. It is called called House Business.

“Because,” he concluded with polished assurance, “I have decided I want to be a politician.”

Easy, son. Don’t let all those freebies go to your head.

It is true that Felix has the mind of a barrister, and is known in the playground as “Charlie’s lawyer” for his services to the class card. But politics? Really? What colour?

Because his mother is a Red.

Is this how Stalin’s mother felt, when he told her?

Stalin’s mother, Ketevan Geladze, -Keke – wanted her son to be a bishop.

She was a serf, her father a slave-potter to a Russian prince, and she married a violent man who beat her within an inch of her life. But poor as she was, she wanted her son to be someone. Someone religious.

So she scraped and saved and got him an education, and in time he attained a place at the Tiflis Theological Seminary, a Georgian Orthodox college.

But you couldn’t make Joseph Stalin a holy man. He was expelled. He was so frightened of his mother’s reaction he hid outside the town for a while, with his friends bringing him food.

Later, after he had made good, he bought Keke a palace in the Caucasus. She spent her life living in one room there, writing letters to her son. He didn’t visit her much.

But at a rare meeting he is said to have asked her: “Why did you beat me so much?”

His mother answered: “That’s why you turned out so well. Joseph – what exactly are you now?”

“I’m like a Tsar,” said Joseph.

His mother snorted. “You’d have done better to become a priest, ” she retorted.

How different was Lady Randolph Churchill, Jennie to her friends; the flamboyant woman of many partners who came from an echelon of society as high as Keke’s was low. The inventor of the Manhattan cocktail, playwright, pianist, benefactress of soldiers in the Boer War, she was her own woman. I can find no record of her ambitions for her son; perhaps she was very busy living her own life.

Which role model to choose: the lonely babushka living in one room of the palace or the multi-talented society beauty?

Ah, if only life were that simple.

Sources for this post:

  • Simon Sebag Montefiore: “Young Stalin,” 2007.
  • Edvard Radzinsky: Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia’s Secret Archives, Anchor, (1997)
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45 thoughts on “A Politician’s Mother

  1. If only…….

    Can parents do more than offer the opportunities, share their thoughts and beliefs?

    Pushing children in the direction you desire seems so often to backfire, Stalins mum probably got a nasty shock when she reached heaven and could see the horror of her little boy’s reign.

  2. I’ve read about Jennie, but knew nothing of KeKe. Quite a gulf between the two. What a fascinating guy your Felix! Have a glimpse at how his brain works I can easily see the attorney, and maybe he can work his way into the political sphere and emerge with ethics that will please us all! Someone has to do it…why not someone raised with a mom who contributed some quality stuffing! We can expect good things! Debra

  3. If he becomes a politician for the right reasons, to make change for the good of the masses, that will be a ‘good thing’!

    (The route to get there may change his mind….)

    1. It’s a good story, that: the Russians are always good for a yarn! I fervently hope Felix reconsiders- but the book of his life by his mother would sell very well πŸ˜€

  4. I have to say that Barristers and Politicians are definitely related.
    Both are equally good at manipulating the truth.

    I knew a boy many years ago who wanted to be a politician. At my last school reunion I learnt that he is now a plumber!

  5. Wonder no more why anyone would aspire to politics . . . it’s the freebies!! πŸ™‚ (And, sadly, there’s probably more truth there than we know.)

    Children must follow their own dreams, but loving, early steering toward the right tools to acquire those dreams surely helps.

  6. This brings to mind our most beloved president, Abraham Lincoln, whose impoverished childhood and lack of formal education would never suggest all that he would do in his lifetime.

    I know that Felix will go on to do good works, Kate, whether in law or politics or something you can not yet imagine. I love what he has done with all his parliamentary “things”.

    You asked if I still had family in Greece. Yes, though they are distant cousins, high up in the hills of Sparta. Someday, I will make the climb and see my grandmother’s house, still standing, and the little church my grandfather attended and where his brother was a priest. Thank you for asking, Kate.

    1. Your family members are Spartans, Penny! Makes one want to burst out into storytelling…I hope you make that journey one day, and that we are lucky enough to read about it when you do. πŸ™‚

  7. Not being a parent, I cannot imagine what statements like these must do to a mother. However, I’ve watched friends who were amazing parents have children who ended up in jail, and I’ve watched a cousin whose mother went to jail turn out to be one of the most upstanding, accomplished people I know. That’s got to be the hardest thing about being a parent: the moment they take their first breath, everything you do for them is an exercise in ultimately letting them go.

    And, incidentally, I think I wanted to be a stage star or an ice skater when I was eight. I can’t remember now. πŸ™‚

  8. We know not what the future holds… but should we wait as it unfolds?
    When I was young, Kate, well much youngER (;)) I can honestly say that I never thought that I wanted to be a politician… and I never became one. I’m not that interested in politics either, for that matter, which I suppose would have helped.
    It looks as though Felix is already planning one of his future paths! Good luck to him! πŸ˜€

  9. Dear Kate, once again you’ve delighted me with a story about Felix. I truly laughed out loud when I read this line: “Easy, son. Don’t let all those freebies go to your head.” Such dry wit on your part right next to his enthusiastic pronouncement of his future!

    As to Jennie Churchill and Keke, I’ve never had children and so I’ve never had to choose a way to respond to their dreams of the future. I wonder though if part of their own response to that planning by any parent is tied to their own natural sense of survival. Getting in touch with what we need–beyond food and shelter–is somewhat essential to living a meaningful life. Or so I think. Peace.

  10. The answer is obvious: Multi-talented society beauty. Well, a multi-talented, MOTHERLY, society beauty. You’ve been doing it for years–why stop now?

    The image of Stalin hiding from his mother is priceless. And I love “crested tat.”

  11. I think one of the wonderful things you have done for your children is instil a sense of curiosity about all shades of the world, Kate – together with a loving home, you don’t get a much better start in life. Felix, re politics, just say, “No!” πŸ˜€

  12. Very behind on posts, but enjoyed this very much! It speaks well that Felix has politics on his radar at 8…too few children think beyond a sports star by that age!

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