Posted by : Wendy B Tuesday, 29 September 2015
I said I would write this year. I haven't. Well, that's not true. I've written a whole lot, just not what I said I was going to write, which are my own personal creative writing projects. Something about not being able to get in the right write space. There have been valid excuses. Significant job shake ups, the death of my mother. Still, excuses these are. I want to write these things, and I will. When? I don't quite know, but they are never far from my mind. Writing in general is never far from my mind. I have been looking for some time now for a good writing course to help me improve my craft. I know how to write, but there's always more to learn. But the courses I have found before were well out of my price range, and I know enough about writing to say that thousands of dollars isn't worth the financial investment. It's easy enough to find writing advice online, and one of the best ways to learn how to write is to read, which I do. But the advantage of a course is the focus and the feedback. So yay for the University of Iowa's How Writer's Write Fiction MOOC! At free, the price range is just right, though I am going to pay for the certificate.
So I'll be keeping track of my progress here. First up, is the Welcome Wagon introductory sessions to familiarize the students with the process. I've participated in MOOCs before. They are time consuming and the interactive process can be overwhelming with so many people involved. Working toward the certificate means I have to suck it up and deal, and I'm okay with that. Can't expect something if I'm not going to put anything in, and I appreciate that this isn't just about shoving your thoughts out into the ether and getting nothing back. The peer evaluation process is actually quite good.
The first assignment centred around bringing an object to life, introducing conflict, and finally, having the object resolve the conflict.
She knew I disliked colour. Black was my preferred attire. Not for any kind of gothic fashion statement. Just because I'm a simple woman. A subtle woman. The exact opposite of her. This was a compromise: a vibrant rainbow bouquet on a black background. It wasn't the first such dress she'd bought for me, but this was the one we both liked best. I imagined her seeing it in the store. Picking it up off of the rack and immediately deciding it was "me." I have to admit, she did really well with this dress. It fit perfectly. It hugged the right curves. Wasn't too tight. I loved the feel of it, so soft against my skin. I loved the way my toes peeked out from beneath its long skirt.
Her face lit up when she saw me wearing it for the last time.
Two weeks later, I wore it to her funeral.
It's back in my closet with the other dresses she'd bought me. Colourful companions, they gather together, whispering their memories to each other. To me. They all smell like her. Sometimes, I stand there, just touching them. Smelling them. Remembering. Holding on to all I have left of her.
Pink, red, and blue flowers on a black landscape call to me silently, like a hand outstretched, offering me one more moment. One more memory.
I slip the dress off of its hanger. It slides over my head. Soft cotton caresses my skin as it slithers down to my toes, embracing me. My tears are silent. I close my eyes and breathe her in, fearing that one day, that scent will fade away. One day, but not now.
Little arms wrap around my thighs, holding tight to me. "You smell like grandma," she says. She steps back as I kneel down to face her. Little fingers wipe away my tears. "Can I wear that dress when I'm older?"
I trace the lines of a bright pink flower and I smile.
"You can start with that pile of clothes on the floor," she said with a voice muffled by the closet she was currently digging around in.
At least she had specified "clothes" in those instructions because the room was covered in all sorts of piles. Piles of books. Piles of video games. Piles of ... I'm not really sure what those were and maybe I didn't want to ask. The clothes, I could handle.
"Just shoved them in a garbage bag and I'll drop them off at the donation centre later."
I plopped myself cross-legged on the floor in front of the little mountain of material and began tugging at the items. Out came a pair of ripped jeans, a shirt missing several buttons, a shirt missing the entire sleeve.
"Some of these clothes are just garbage," I said, trying in vain to fix the zipper on a vest.
"Fine, just dump them then."
A bright pink flower caught my eye and I reached for it. I shivered the moment I touched the soft cotton material, now worn and faded. My heart beat a little faster as I pulled at it. It was buried more deeply than I thought. I feared tearing it, but felt suddenly desperate to get at it. I shoved at the pile until the dress sprang free. I held it up in front of me and bit my tongue, fighting back the scream that threatened to burst from my lungs.
The vibrant rainbow of flowers faded into a not-quite-black background. The elastic was stretched at the waist. There was a little round hole in the sleeve. A burn? But worst of all, half of the dress was missing.
When I could finally breathe somewhat normally again, I spoke, though my words were clipped and hard. "What have you done to my dress?"
"My dress! I gave you this dress to wear, not to massacre!"
She popped her head out of the closet and stared at the dress with a furrowed brow. "Oh that!"
I was standing now and she came over to examine it, fingering the frayed hem. "I needed it for a Halloween costume. It was so great. I was--"
She was talking but I couldn't hear her. Her words were as muffled by my pounding heart. I was practically choking on my tears while she chuckled about some party and her friends.
"Your grandmother gave me that dress."
She stopped talking finally and looked at me. Whatever she saw in my face made her expression change into something darker. I saw her shoulders go back and her lips tighten in that way that meant her defenses were up and she wasn't going to back down without a fight.
"And then you gave it to me, mom. Remember?" Her words dripped with a challenge.
"Of course I remember. But I didn't expect you to tear it to shreds."
Her arms folded over her chest. "If it meant so much to you, then you shouldn't have given it to me."
"I'm sorry for expecting you to understand how much it meant to me when I handed it over."
"It's just a dress." She tore it from my hands and threw it on the floor. "It doesn't even smell like her anymore."
She turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. But I'd heard the way her voice hitched at the words.
I knelt and picked up the ruined dress, holding it to my face. My daughter was right of course. Mom had been dead for over a decade and clinging to memories bound in the material of a ruined dress wasn't going to bring her back.
I closed my eyes and inhaled-- and there she was in that strange combination of baby powder and spices and lavender and vanilla. The scent wrapped itself around me, whisking me to a meadow of bright flowers and warmth. When I opened my eyes, the dress was still in my hands, but it was whole again. Dark and lustrous, it slithered around me, coming to rest on my shoulders, nuzzling my cheek.
"I'm sorry mom," whispered my daughter. She knelt before me and I wrapped her in my arms. The dress wound itself around her, enfolding us both in its embrace.