Welcome to the “BACK OF THE DRAWER” creative challenge!
Brought to you by WEP (click image for more info) and hosted by Denise Covey and Yolanda Renée. Their directive:
“Rummaging at the back of the drawer, you find…. a clue to a murder/mystery or a note from an old flame…. a key to an old house…anything really. Could be interpreted any way– a broad prompt for you if you don’t like February to be all about Valentines. But if you’re a romantic soul who does, go for it.”
Since I’m not a fan of “Hallmark” holidays (i.e. invented by the retail industry to fatten their coffers), my contribution is another chapter in the ongoing “She Chronicles”, a series of vignettes, told in the third person by “she who shall remain nameless”. Click HERE for previous installments.
THE “SHE” CHRONICLES
Her eyes swept over the familiar contents of her mother’s room. Theirs had always been a contentious relationship; the strains softened by decades of physical distance. Now it was over. The 92-year-old woman had passed away peacefully, and it was time to sort through her belongings. “I’m an orphan” seemed like a silly thought for a sexagenarian, but that was her current reality. When her father died in 2011, she knew the next few years would be stressful and so they were! Between her mother’s ailments, medical expenses and discontentment, she had experienced high levels of anxiety.
Finding the right home had been a challenge. She lived over 4100 km (2500 mi) away and therefore needed a facility with one on one, 24-hour care. Fortunately, she found such a place; a large bungalow in a lovely neighbourhood with space for six residents. The owner and caregivers were all dedicated to the well-being of their charges, and it gave her some peace of mind. Her mother, on the other hand, was miserable and bombarded her daughter with phone calls, complaining about every little thing. The street was too noisy; the food was terrible, she couldn’t go out when she wanted, etc. It was only in the last two years, bedridden and suffering from dementia that the old woman became appreciative.
Feeling a mixture of relief and sorrow, she opened the first drawer. Damn that packrat mentality! Her mother kept everything, from old receipts to newspaper articles. Cleaning out the house had been a nightmare, but this would surely be easier. After all, it was only one dresser and a closet.
Among the useless flotsam were several documents of historical and sentimental value; birth, death and marriage certificates, report cards, even her old baby shoes! Best of all, she was delighted to find a large box of family photos, many she hadn’t seen before, going back to the 1920s. Once again, she was keenly aware that everyone, except her, was gone. Who would go through her belongings when the time came? There were no children to pass things on to.
Her task seemingly complete, she checked the drawers one last time. There was something jammed at the back of the middle one. It was a letter from her father, addressed to her mother:
“In view of yesterday and also the several times in recent days that I have spoiled things through drinking, I hereby pledge to you, in writing, that I shall from this day forward not touch alcohol again. This pledge is given so that you may have a better chance for a happy life and so that I will not lose my self-respect.”
Stunned and tearful, she read it again, flashbacks cascading over her like giant angry waves. All of those ruined weekends and holidays, when she was left to fend for herself as her parents hurled invective at each other. If only this letter had fulfilled its promise! Yes, there had been peace for a few months, but chaos inevitably returned, over and over again. It was not until 1987, after sustaining severe injuries in an accident, that her father took his last drink. Her parents had separated several years before, and this brought them back together. He spent five months in the hospital and rehab, trying to regain the use of his shattered right leg and swore off alcohol and cigarettes during that time. To his credit, his resolve never wavered, and life became more pleasant than it had been in decades. Not that her mother was ever truly content. A perfectionist mindset precluded that. There was always cause for complaint!
She shook off the bitter memories, folded the letter and added it to the “keep” pile. Why did she want to hold on to this reminder of her dysfunctional childhood? To drive home the point that she had overcome her disadvantages? Or, could it be a compassionate connection to her late mother, whom she hadn’t felt close to since childhood? The answer eludes her.
All episodes of The “She” Chronicles are jagged fragments of my life.
They are told in the third person by a nameless protagonist
to allow for a modicum of emotional detachment.
Have you found something interesting at the back of a drawer? Do tell!
Looking forward to your comments. Full critiques welcome.
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