Login   Sign Up 


Wild child

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 04 August 2017
Word Count: 761
Summary: For challenge 648

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Wild Child
The past had me firmly in its grip as I sat staring at the photo.  Its edges were creased and its surface dulled after years of being tucked underneath my pillow but it had lost none of its power.  There were two figures, two and a half if you count the shadow of the photographer flattened on the grass.   The wind was doing its best to whip the woman’s hair across her face but one hand was holding it back as she smiled into the lens.   My head was turned towards her as if imprinting her memory onto my mind.
                My mother was a wild child.  Springing to life in the sixties when she was just sixteen, she fled her stuffy middle-class home and devoted her allotted time to following the sun in a bright blue van whose sides she painted with red and yellow roses.   When I came along, my early years were spent calling campsites my home and one of my first memories is of burrowing into the curve of her body as we sat around a campfire its flickering flames throwing a golden light on the face of a young man strumming on a guitar.  I was told the young man was my father but he was a shadowy figure who was sometimes there and sometimes not unlike my mother who was a constant presence.  From the time that I could walk I stumbled behind wherever she went.   It was she who taught me to read and write, it was she who taught me to ride a bike and it was she who taught me to love the countryside.  Her world was mine and my world was hers and I never wanted it any different.
                My childhood ended at the age of seven.   My parents went out one night in the rickety van and vanished from my life.  The clapped-out van’s brakes had failed at a critical moment.  Of course   I was too young to understand and waited in vain for them to return.   I never realised this would never happen and that my life had changed forever.  I learned that lesson later.
                Probably reluctantly, my grandparents took me in but I wanted my mother and no-one else would do.  Without her I was miserable and grew thin as I mourned.   It didn’t help that my grandparents had never understood their wayward daughter and whenever I tried talk about her their lips would tighten and the subject changed.   It wasn’t long before they’d had enough and I was packed off to boarding school ‘to be given a backbone’ according to my grandfather.   It took ten long years but finally I got my ‘backbone’ (otherwise known as a straitjacket) and after leaving school, too soon I joined the ranks of grey figures who haunt railway stations in the mornings.    In perfect silence, crammed shoulder to shoulder, with eyes glued to newspapers, our carriages sliced through the countryside as we were transported to glass citadels in the City.   But sometimes, particularly when the sun burst through the clouds, I glanced out of the window and something deep inside twisted as I realised I had lost something precious.   Despite this understanding, for years I followed this routine - the early mornings, dull days and late nights draining my spirit little by little.
                ‘It was what your mother would have wanted.’   The words were followed by light kiss on my forehead and I startled as if guilty then I glanced at my wife’s face, it was shining with excitement.  Stella was leaning over my shoulder, dragging my attention away from the photograph towards an advert in a glossy magazine.     A business was for sale, a small pottery in a Devonshire village.
‘We can afford it Eric.  The boys are off our hands now.  Just think you could sell your pots and I could run a small café, selling my cakes.   Let’s take a chance.  Please.’
I looked at my wife and then down at the photo again.   Until that moment I had honestly never noticed how like my mother she was.  Maybe it was just a trick of the light but for me it was enough.    A tight knot unravelled as I thought about it, no more early morning commutes, no more spreadsheets, no more board meetings, from now on it would be the earthy smell of wet clay, the screech of gulls, and the sparkle of sunlight on the waves.   I rose, returning her kiss as I realised that she was right.    My mother would have wanted it. 

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

michwo at 19:47 on 05 August 2017  Report this post
Have a look at Paragraph 4, Line 3 and Paragraph 5, Line 1 again.  I think you've missed out the word to in the former - tried to talk about? - and the indefinite article in front of light kiss in the latter.  Also wouldn't it read better if you wrote started rather than startled?
These are the nit-picks you'd expect, of course, from someone with tunnel vision like myself.
Again super no-nonsense storytelling that you make seem easy and a HAPPY ending too!
I'm hoping WW will contact me on Monday to renew my subscription, but, if they don't, I think I'll fork out £20 for another year anyway.as I'd at least like to see how my latest posting does: it's a companion piece to "Our Lady of the Carnival" I've posted today in the hope it might be looked at by one or two writewords members even though it is a translation.
I once read a book by Martin Turnell called "The Novel in France" or some such title and the first novel he discussed was a work by a 17th century writer - "The Princess of Cleves" by Madame de La Fayette which he described as characterized by 'passionate monotony'.  I think this is more or less the phrase I'd use to describe "The Court of the Sea".  Things get repeated in it - quite deliberately, but have I captured the monotony and jettisoned the passion?  Hopefully not.

Chestersmummy at 20:53 on 05 August 2017  Report this post
Hi Michwo
Yes, you were quite right.  Thank goodness for tunnel vision.   Glad you are thinking of keeping on with Writewords.  Will reply to your email. asap.

BW  Janet

BryanW at 11:36 on 06 August 2017  Report this post
I like your opening paragraph idea - and the avoidance of soppy nostalgia with the nicely subversive, but very real, shadow of the photographer imposing 'half a figure' on it. You cover a lot in your summary of life after the mc's parents' death - the grandparents' attitudes and values summed up really well. I'd have liked a (brief) explanation of where the 'backbone' came from (toughened by ten years of boarding school?). Then, your neat structure returns us to the photo and the resolution of taking up a more freewheeling life-style. Very enjoyable piece of flash.

Bazz at 15:32 on 06 August 2017  Report this post
Lovely piece Janet, a whole life captured and caught at it's most important and personal moment, one of reflection, clarity and inner truth.

scriever at 17:37 on 06 August 2017  Report this post
Nice story, Janet; I thought the moment was going to be to do with the loss of the mother, but much better to come along later, but not too late, in life. It catches, as Bazz says above, a kind of truth. 

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .