Thursday, April 30, 2015

Creative Writing: Setting

This week's creative writing assignment was to write a story where setting plays an important role. The result isn't completely satisfying. First, I simply ran out time and wasn't able to finish the story; and second, writing about one's parents is a difficult task: objectivity is impossible, and memories fade over time. Here's an initial attempt at describing my mother, an appropriate theme since Mother's Day is on May 10th.

Moving Away

How could you compress a lifetime into a one bedroom apartment. Deciding what furniture to junk, donate, or keep was easy. Not so with the clothes. Mom had trouble getting rid of clothes. They'd been her passion. As I watched her sort through the stacks of sweaters, blouses, pants, and dresses, she'd comment on this or that item. She remembered the exact details of each purchase. “I bought this with your cousin Lisa for that cruise in 72,” she said as she held up a polyester earth-toned blouse. 

“Mom, you've hardly discarded anything. You'll only have one closet at the new place. I don't know where all this stuff is going to go,” I said. 

Absorbed in her task, she merely replied, “We'll find a place,” caressing each item as she carefully placed it in the packing box.  

Glancing around the sparsely decorated bedroom, I noticed that things hadn't changed in forty years. Everything looked worn, like Mom. There was grandma's faded quilt covering the rickety brass bed, the red lacquered jewelry box filled with her precious baubles sitting atop the dresser, and the mahogany dressing table littered with ointments, oils, lotions, and sprays. The wallpaper was peeling, the ceiling fissured, and the carpet threadbare. The rest of house hadn't fared much better. The water heater needed to be replaced and the roof leaked. The new owners will have quite a job on their hands, I thought as I went into the living room.  

I wish she'd taken as much interest in the house as she did with her clothes, cosmetics, and jewelry. I picked up a dusty photo album poking from under the couch. Thumbing through, I found a picture of my graduation. As usual, Mom dominated the photo: she in the middle, me and sis off to the side.  Her hair was perfectly styled, her face coated in foundation, mascara, lipstick, and eyeliner. Boy did she love make-up. Not so much these days. Turning the page, I saw our pictures from the Disney World trip. Again, Mom front and center. She'd even cropped one photo, excising dad and sis, leaving only herself and Cinderella's castle in the background.  

The bookcase at the far end of the room contained only a few books, gifts from relatives. Most of the shelves were devoted to souvenirs and tchotchkes picked up at yard sales. Mom rarely read, and when she did it was Photoplay or People

(To Be Continued)

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