Saturday, November 18, 2006

Back to my personal essay

I thought I should return to this for now as it has to be handed in on tuesday. I have finished writing it so I will post the rest tomorrow. Any comments would really be appreciated.

That day dad had taken us to school-me and my sister. This wasn't such a rare occurrence, occasionally when my mother was at a meeting or seminar. We always hated those days purely as it meant less time in bed-now it seems so petty to have complained about a measly loss of 15 more minutes. My mother had left early to go to Oban or somewhere, I don’t really remember where she was going that day or what for. All I know is that she was travelling in that direction, along the Rest and be Thankful, when it happened. That road was well-known for being treacherously twisty, with no run-off on either side...
It was an odd day, one of those in between sort of days. It was freezing and frosty but the sun was shining, the ice shimmering. At the ring of the school bell signalling the end of lunch, my friends and I began to hurry towards the school, glad for an excuse to get back indoors. I remember seeing my dad standing at the front of the school. We greeted him and he replied. But he seemed elsewhere. Distant.
It’s hard to recall him telling me, but I do remember great confusion. Mum had crashed. The car. Rolled three times. Ended in a ditch. But she was ok. She was fine. Shaken, but not hurt. It was “a miracle”; she’d walked out herself, with barely a scratch and a rip in her tights. I didn’t know what to say, oblivious to the sheer scale of this event. I had no idea what I was expected to say. My dad walked away as I followed the rest of the latecomers up to class.
Despite the shocking news, at the time my main worry was about what my teacher would say when I walked in late. I now realise how insignificant that was when my main concern should have been my mother. I guess that at such at that age, I was only 12, hearing that she wasn't physically hurt put my mind at ease. At the time all I could think about was what effect this would have on my life, how I would be affected. Now I realise how self-centred this was. What about my mother? What about the emotional hurt? What if she had suffered from nightmares? What if she couldn't face the wheel again? Such thoughts had never entered my mind at the time.

The next two periods had been a total blur. My friends kept attempting to make conversation to resolve the awkward silences. But that was nothing compared to the walk home…

My gaunt looking sister and I met up at the end of school. She had barely said anything the whole journey. I remember her telling me that she had cried during class – I didn’t understand, after all, mum was “fine”, but Emma had always been sensitive. Although Emma was only two years my elder, I now realise that Emma was virtually an adult, therefore she understood the connotations of mum’s crash. I was still a child, unaware of what loss could feel like. Emma had known how serious that day could have been; we could have lost a parent.

When our house came into view, my mouth became dry, a lump forming in my throat. I was scared. I didn’t want to enter my own home. “Come on”, Emma urged, her voice shaking. Apprehensively, we moved towards our house. As we reached the gate an unknown car came into sight. I looked at the confusion on my sister’s face.

“Is that-ours?”

“Don’t be silly,” replied Emma unconvincingly, “it doesn’t happen that quickly.”

I then began to wonder how we would live our lives, would we walk to school tomorrow? How would we get our shopping later in the week? Yet again I had thought of such petty things. After all, what did that matter?

The door slid open revealing laughter and music. We followed these sounds, which were coming from the living room. The first thing that had caught my eye was of course my mum, dressed in jeans and a loose shirt that I remember being buttoned wrongly. This was not my mum, she was always the image of perfection; never a hair out of place. I remember finding this odd, but she was smiling and laughing with a couple of her friends from work and my dad. At the time, although confused by the cheeriness of this scene, I took this sight to mean that mum was fine-laughing at her own foolishness. However, I now see that mum was just putting on a brave face, perhaps for my own benefit. Or maybe she was trying to convince herself that everything was, and would be, ok. I also now realise how shaken and terrified she must have been and that mum was not foolish-there had been black ice on the road and mum had tried so hard to redeem herself and get the car back on the road.


1 comment:

Chris said...

"I guess that at such at that age," - something amiss here! (take out "such at". Also, you need to deal withthe next bit - "at that age - I was 12 at the time - ..."
take a new para at "the next two periods were a blur"

"My gaunt-looking sister" is odd: say "my sister and I met up ...Emma looked strangely gaunt, as if she'd been hurt" - or something.
Watch tense - "she had barely said anything" ..and what "whole journey" Do you mean the walk down the road?
It's confusing, with the pluperfet tense ("Had..") when as far as I can see you're in the time of the narrative at that moment.

The last section of this - after the bit I've commented on - is a bit sloppy. Don't keep coming back to the present; it's possible to comment on your reactions at the time simply by the way you describe them. So you can have the voice of your inner thoughts at the time : "would we have to walk to school? How would we get the shopping? Visions of a newly-deprived lifestyle flooded over me, so that I was almost cross at my mother for landing us in this state." See how the you who is writing now is able to be critical of her 12 year old self without actually stating it - it's more subtle.

I'd like to see the bit where you first see your mother broken up into more paras, with perhaps some brief snatches of direct speech. Be a little less wordy - your impressions are good here, so express them with care.

I hope you have a good ending. You don't want it simply to trickle to a halt, but at the same time you don't want to be too heavy-handed. Did you find you/your relationships changed at all as a result of this?

Talk again tomorrow - I'm brain-dead after a dirve of 300 miles through the snow and sleet!