Ever since a cruel boy had weaponised the concept to break her heart, Jodi had desperately tried not to turn into her mother. She’d discovered over the years that it was far from the worst thing that could happen – her mother had been kind, thoughtful and forgiving – and the heartbreak of losing her had been many magnitudes worse than being dumped by Andy Whitman.
Nevertheless, Jodi winced when she saw her mother in the mirror or caught herself using her voice. Which made it all the more confusing today, when the reflection before her wasn’t Mum. It was Grandma.
Not a true story. 😉
There’s a song on the radio these days in which the James Barker Band claims “They ain’t making new old trucks”. It’s a fun song and an understandable sentiment, but of course it’s nonsense. New old trucks are being created in unprecedented numbers. And so are new old ladies, which was the point of this story.
Trigger Warning: I haven’t written much misery recently. Maybe having kids makes it harder to write sad stories. But this one came to me and it needed to be shared. If I’ve done my job well, and especially if you’ve just been watching the UK’s Christmas adverts (McDonald’s in my case), it might bring tears to your eyes.
Little kids just take things for granted, don’t they? When I was in Kindergarten, I didn’t know it was weird to go to school nextdoor to a graveyard. Or to watch your teacher sneak out and eat her lunch every day beside a small grey angel statue, come rain or shine.
We collected leaves between the headstones and took rubbings of their intricate carvings, but we never went near the angel. It was Ms Connor’s special place.
Two weeks ago, Rochelle shared a picture from long-lost Fictioneer Doug, this week she doubles down and shares not only a photo but news of another member of the FF old guard, Ted. I don’t normally read past the picture, but today I scrolled on to look for the news. So glad to hear Ted’s nailing the stroke rehab – sending him all the best for ongoing progress. The news came with a request for Rochelle that no doubt inspired my story too. I hope you don’t mind me hopping on that bandwagon, Ted.
Joey seemed nice, thoughtful. Becca wanted to believe she’d chosen well this time. When the clocks changed, she started getting home in the dark. “I’ll leave the porch light on,” he said. “Like a lighthouse steering you into safe harbour.”
But Becca had a history with porch lights – Mom used to turn it on when Pop opened his second bottle. Not all lighthouses stand at the entrance to ports, some warn of dangers lurking just beneath the surface.
Outside, Becca swayed on a stormy sea of doubt, before heading for Joey’s lighthouse and praying it was the good kind.
My photo today, so a long extroduction follows my story. If you just want to read 100 words though, they are immediately below the image.
The perfect job sits at the centre of the Japanese venn diagram for happiness: Do something you’re good at, something you love, that pays money and contributes to the world.
That job seems a long way away – for nine years my time’s been spent providing for, teaching and generally raising two boys.
Sometimes I make mistakes, but if I can be judged by who they are becoming, I can’t be doing too badly. My role allows Jon to earn the family more. Our boys are our contribution to the world. And I love them.
They are my ikigai.
Last year, the kids were home for a LOT of school. One week they studied Venn diagrams. I love venn diagrams, and the boys like to be stretched so I pushed them to make something a little more complicated than the 2-part ones the teacher had set. Hence made this 3-part diagram with rings for “lego”, “red” and “living” things. And a pink truck which is outside all the rings.
Around the same time, a friend introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ikigai. The way she explained it is as set out in the first paragraph of my story. I have since read other explanations which suggest that this may be a westernised version of the original concept, but the venn diagram nature of her explanation appeals to me. I had something very close to the centre as a lawyer, many years ago, but have struggled to find the same balance in my post-law working life.
I once wanted to be a teacher. I watch my kids’ teachers though and I don’t know if I would be have been good at it. I love teaching, but I wouldn’t love the politics or the crowd control. ‘Home schooling’ the boys for so much of the last 2 years has been hard but there have been triumphs too. They loved little personalised extra challenges I set them, things that a teacher managing a class of 25 couldn’t possibly have time for.
When Rochelle posted my photo, I percolated it in the shower. Would I write a memoir about the history of this picture? A piece of silly fiction about the various items in the image? Ikigai came back to me and I considered writing about my quest for that balanced job. I read a little more about ikigai and came across a link about finding it outside of working life, or in a combination of work and life.
Sebastian turns 9 tomorrow. I’ve been a parent longer than I was a lawyer. I’m still searching for the perfect job, but perhaps I have already found my ikigai.
This week’s picture is from a long-time former Fictioneer. The story wrote itself and when it came out at 99 words, there could only be one word needed to complete it. Miss you, Doug.
I was new. He’d been there forever, or so it seemed. The man in the distance: always there with a friendly wave and a shout across the abyss. The word itself was foreign, alien to me, but the tone and the wave were welcoming. He made me feel at home, like someone had saved a space for me in this strange new world.
After a while, his appearances became less reliable, and then one day, he was gone. I was settled by then: comfortable and safe. I no longer needed his waves, but I missed them all the same.
This week’s photo could have been taken for my story a couple of weeks ago. So much so, that I decided to add a part 2 from a different perspective. If you know Melanie’s story at all, you might wonder who this is. I had Mrs Mwanna in mind to begin with, but now I’m wondering if it could be her Dad. Up to you.
Thank you to Brenda Cox for this week’s photo. Not sure why WordPress isn’t letting me caption it direct.
The merry go round’s gone to rack and ruin.
That’s what I think when Melanie tells me her theory about God. The man in the middle is too busy spoiling everyone’s fun to notice the paint is faded and the horses have lost their smiles.
I know the emperor’s naked, but pointing it out would be counterproductive. For me, the beauty could never be the horses anyway. For me, it’s the little girl in the bright flowery dress who still sees gleaming gold and prancing ponies. The girl clutching my hand, squealing her delight and enjoying everything about the ride.
I’m not sure about this week’s story. I wrote a 200 word version and have edited and reworked it so many times, I can’t tell if it loses the point. I’d love to hear your feedback, good and bad. And apologies in advance for using the C word when it’s barely even October!
The Christmas After
That first Christmas after Mom left, Shannon knew things wouldn’t be the same. Last year, she’d got a big doll’s house with only a small tear in the wallpaper. Her one-legged Ken carried Barbie across the threshold and Dad had made little furniture out of cardboard boxes.
There was no big gift this year, but Dad appeared at the door holding a folded square of paper. “Christmas a little lean this year, Bubblegum” he said.
In Dad’s shaky handwriting, the note said “IOU: One afternoon window shopping”.
“Thanks!” she said, trying to mean it. “I only got you a hug.”
Busy day today, so no chance to write a story for FF. Hopefully I’ll manage later in the week but as a placeholder, I’m sharing an old FF story which I was reminded of recently, and which Liz Young’s picture fits so well with today.