Writing Assignment: FICTION: Prompt Plus Writing From Three Differing Points of View: “The Little Red Sweater”

Daryl held on to Cynthia’s hand in a robotic manner.  He wasn’t even aware they were holding hands as they strolled through Central Park with the bright noon-day sun peeking through the huge Oak Trees and creating funny shadow creatures everywhere, polka-dots of bright light and deep grays.  Cynthia could feel his distant manner but was determined to not let anything dampen her spirits this day.  Daryl was home, after three week’s absence, she was almost 25 weeks pregnant with their first child, a son, and a radiance shown out and around her that only a woman with child produces; especially her first child.

Daryl had spent the last few weeks in Boston, with his brother and sister,  going through their parent’s home and sorting out their belonging’s after losing them both at once in a tragic car accident involving a drunken driver.  As is often the case, the driver had no outward injuries to show from the accident.  The deep scars he would carry around the rest of his life were the emotional, hidden wounds he could never erase .  The accident had landed him in jail for a short stint and then on to a rehab facility where he was sobering up and facing the consequences of falling off the wagon, yet again.

The accident had disrupted six lives that would require time to adjust and heal.  Two , would never recover; Daryl’s mother and father.

Cynthia had attended the funeral with him in Boston then flown back home to New York to continue on with her work-from-home free lance writing job for as long as she could before the baby arrived.  She was glad to come back to New York as the heavy emotions back in Boston were hard to be around and Daryl’s unresponsiveness to her attempts to console him.  She felt it best to let the three siblings be of solace to one another and attend to the necessary details without her, the outsider, only in the way.

As they rounded the bend at the huge park, following the sidewalk running parallel to The Lake, they both spotted her at the same time.  A slight woman, probably in her late seventies, hunched over in deep concentration as her knitting needles “click-clacked” rapidly at the red wool object they were constructing in her lap.  They couldn’t help pass her by and Cynthia tugged at Daryl’s elbow, bringing him to a reluctant stop right in front of the elderly woman as they approached her and could see she was kitting some kind of small child’s garment.

Cynthia struck up a quick and upbeat conversation with the woman who inquired of her due date and the sex of their child.  Daryl sensed a feeling from the woman that they had interrupted her and that she would prefer sitting there, knitting in her own solitude.  He subtlety hinted to Cynthia that they be moving along but she shrugged him off.  She needed someone, right then, to help break the pent-up emotions between her and Daryl and persisted in this complete stranger as the source.  On and on she went with the woman nodding now and then and offering small tidbits of polite conversation.  Finally, the woman laid her needles down on top of the tiny sweater and looked up, catching the pain in Daryl’s eyes.  There was an unmistakable understanding that flashed between the two.

A softening occurred in the woman as a subtle smile crossed over her expression.  Daryl felt her deep, sincere compassion and that was all it took for his composure to melt.  His bottom lip quivered uncontrollably and his shoulders began shaking slightly with the pent-up emotion he’d been holding in for three weeks now.  He was the eldest sibling and had to be strong for the other two as well as most of the final arrangements and decisions fell upon him.  So much business to take care of at a time like that.  He had not given himself any time to mourn.  That look the woman on the bench gave him was an invitation for the walled up dam to break lose.  Daryl felt himself melt, all his feelings pouring down his cheeks, even through his nose.  Water was running everywhere and the mask he wore, once cracked, melted in uncontrollable waves of anguish. He had no control over his muscles, nothing in his taut body would obey him.  He was melting everywhere.

Seeing this, the woman motioned for Daryl to sit beside her on the bench.  Gathering some composure, his first thought flew to Cynthia who was growing heavy with child and at first he resisted and motioned for her to sit, but the weakness in his knees bade him sit.

In low tones, Daryl explained to the woman on the bench what had happened three weeks ago.  As he told his story, the details sprang up again, reminding him of the horror of that awful day.  He fought for composure and once, leashing his emotions back in, apologized for the outburst.  His attention turned again to Cynthia and he took her hand and pulled her down on the bench beside them.  She appreciated the invitation this time, as she realized how far they had walked and sank down next to him.

This time, Cynthia allowed Daryl to lead the direction of the conversation, realizing the deep hurt and pain needed a way out.  The woman on the bench, seeing the constraint between these two and easily summing up the situation before her, softened and turned her attention to Cynthia, a new mother-to-be who was caught in the cross-fires of this recent tragedy, a victim of sorts.  She needed a husband, and soon-to-be new father, to be there with her 100% as the time drew near for their first child’s entrance into this life.  So many people, so many needs.

The woman asked if they minded, if she could get their phone number and explained that when she finished the little, red, wool sweater she would like to make it a gift for their baby.  Both Daryl and Cynthia were deeply moved by her gracious gift and gave her their phone numbers then after a little more polite conversation felt it was time to move on.

After Daryl and Cynthia had moved far down the walkway and were but small, hazy outlines the woman on the bench also found the wall that she had closed off inside of herself break loose and brought the little red sweater up to her face.  She didn’t try to stop the tears falling upon it.  She kissed the sweater and promised her little granddaughter, that she would never meet, that she was passing it on to a new baby boy and hoped she wouldn’t mind.

She’d found the sweater, that she had started to make six month’s ago, discarded in her sewing basket in her sun room a few weeks ago.  She absently picked it up and began working the needles again, knowing its recipient would never wear it.   She had begun “click-clacking” away at the red wool sweater in a robotic trance.  Her own daughter, her only child, had been killed in a car wreck involving some teens who had stolen a car and taken it on a joy ride.   Rowdy and high on youthfulness, they had taken a corner too fast and left the road and plowed into the mother pushing her newborn in a stroller on the sidewalk where the car crashed and stopped abruptly as it finally came to rest against an ancient oak.

All three of the car’s occupants had died instantly.  Five angels soared heavenward in that instant.

The little red sweater would be a gift, tying these strangers together.  Little did either the young couple, due to have their first child nor the elderly lady on the bench know that there would be a lifetime bond created because two people exchanged a look.

 A look they had both been waiting for to set them free and onto their long, difficult, healing journey.

“Yellow, Wild Roses”

This is a true, short story:

Years ago, when my kids were all young, living in Panaca, NV; we were building a new house on a lot we had recently purchased in the middle of town.

We bought a very small 8 X 40′ trailer we hauled to the building site and lived in that while we were building.  With a family of five children crammed within, we were literally living on top of one another, like sardines in a can.  We did build an additional bedroom onto the trailer for the kids to sleep in.  We pretty much threw it up just to suffice our short stint till the new house was finished.  In the winter, ice formed on the inside around the door and window.  Sounds pretty dismal but looking over at the beautiful, new home going up made it all very bearable.

Everyone pitched in and helped on the building project, by the way.  I have photos of even my two sons up on the steep pitched roof helping their dad shingle it.  My ex-husband had a saying, “Small houses build character.”  That must be true because each of the kids coming out of this union are solid adults, true and capable. This is a great story in and of itself but today I am narrowing this broad story down to a particular moment in time, focusing on an incident that happened in this tiny trailer and with one son in particular, Ryan, our eldest at nine years old.

I was fixing dinner, the  house was in a shambles (as usual) and hot in the middle of summer with the screen door to keep the flies out and help the air circulate.  I was fixing supper over the small stove in the cramped kitchen area.  Ryan came through the screen door and I instantly began scolding him for not hurrying up and shutting the door behind him as he was letting the flies in.

Busy with fixing a meal, I didn’t notice his hands were clasped behind his back.  After he came inside and I quit scolding him, he pulled what he had been concealing behind his back, a huge bouquet of wild, yellow roses that grew profusely in the area.  I was so taken aback at this surprise he offered me and feeling very guilty for getting after him.

As I stood there, in the middle of dinner preparations, feeling very sorry for being so hasty to chastise him for “dawdling”, he went on to tell me in a meek little voice that he had picked all the thorns off of the roses.  What a mixture of emotions were swimming around in my head and heart.  Mostly, an overpowering feeling of love and gratefulness for this precious little boy along with feelings of anger at myself for ruining his big surprise.

This is one of those bittersweet memories, a mother stores her whole life in her memory bank, pulling it up either at will or having it flash across the screen at random times.  My “boy” is now 39 years old.  Rather shy and sensitive by nature still.  Having been through the “Hard Knocks of Life University” himself by now and much too old for me to take upon my lap and cuddle and assure him all is right in the world with a kiss and a hug.  How I miss those simple times, those easy fixes.

I hope I did something, somewhere along the road of parenting, that he can pull from his memory bank, to set him back on course when he feels life weighing down upon, a childhood memory to help get him through the hard spots.  He has grown into a good person, a responsible adult who holds down a steady job and his word is his bond. But, oh, how I love and miss that little boy of long ago, standing at my doorway with a beautiful bouquet of yellow, thornless, wild roses for his mother.

This is a story about love.  The purest kind.  When we give everything we have to give.  One of the greatest gifts Ryan gave me that day was to overlook my brash first reaction and wait patiently for me to calm down then pull his surprise out and offer it in his sweet, childish way, even explaining he had picked all the thorns off first.  I’d say, this is one of my most treasured gifts.

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Quote by Tasha Tudor from the book ” The Private World of Tasha Tudor” :

” When I’m working in the barn or house I often think of all the errors I’ve made in my life.  But then I quickly put that behind me and think of water lilies.  They will always eradicate unpleasant thoughts.  Or goslings are equally comforting in their own way.”     “…..Oh, it’s very soothing.”