I argue with the fencing every year, and every year it wins. Low wire-mesh edges our narrow backyard, the house facing off against the sturdy cement shed at the rear. In the summer, we eat dinners on the roughed-in patio, chatting with our neighbour to the north as he stands over his barbeque, steps away. Two doors north a small table is arrayed with bright cloth and long-stemmed glasses; from our back steps we compare rat-trapping tips. South, we are gifted pears and grapes and marvel at the roses. Further south, a surly watcher sits, appraising us, smoke drifting. I long for privacy, a shady outdoor room with tall cedar fences, instead of these crowded cubicles. But each spring the flowers bloom, and I sit back and leave it be.
From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: fencing.
I discovered white noise with my second baby, an interactive creature finely tuned to any commotion that signaled something interesting going on in the world. Curled up like a comma at my side, lulled by the soporific warmth of milk and love, he needed only the hum of the small fan to accept our primal slide from waking into sleep. Each night, his small heart drumming beside me, I dreamed the flow of running water, the patter of rain, wind tearing through the trees, the roaring heat of a fire keeping us alive. Many months later, but all too soon, he grew out of both milk and fan, sleeping unaided and deep. I claimed the fan for myself then, as if my own fitful sleep had all my life awaited for its womb-like comfort.
From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: hum.
I arrived with a rabbit fur coat, worth several month’s salary in a country where there was so little to buy that all consumption was conspicuous. The coat was all wrong, and my mother conceded to buying us Canadian snowsuits, likely wincing at the flimsiness of the fabric, running her hands over it appraisingly as her seamstress mother had done. Those snowsuits are long gone, but the long leather coat my mother brought with her still hangs in her closet, as does her father’s leather jacket and her mother’s fur. And the cotton sheets we brought in our suitcases, my childhood sheets, are still crisp and intact, while year after year the newer ones wear and tear and are discarded.
From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: durable
I learned English at the age of six, slipped it on like a mermaid’s tail, dove right in over my head and never stopped swimming. I still take secret guilty delight in searching for grammar mistakes in print, those lumpy rocks that try to sneak in among the pearls. My mother, after thirty-six years in Canada, still blithely mixes up “the” and “a”, but on the eve of my wedding my nascent father-in-law commented admiringly: “Your mother is an excellent communicator.” I needed twenty more years to learn to speak the truth like she does, and perhaps I have not learned it yet. It takes more than technique and a tail to make a mermaid.
From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: grammar
I dole out the world to my children in palatable spoonfuls, pacing out truths about dangers and horrors a little at a time, gauging their readiness, giving them space. They’ll need to drink the whole bitter brew at some point in their lives, I tell myself, they’ll need to face everything ugly and cruel that humans do and have done, but not yet, not all of it yet; they can’t stomach all of it yet. Is it the very definition of privilege to be able to protect them when they’re young? Or is it my deepest parental instinct to do whatever I can to show them the beauty of the world first?
From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: “spoonful.”
I came to Canada at the age of six, on a LOT flight from Warsaw. I was crammed into a single stern passport photo with my mother and two sisters, the imminent birth of the younger of which had kept us grounded in Poland when my father left six months earlier. My grandmother stayed with us at the airport hotel, her crying joining that of the baby, none of us sleeping with the planes loud overhead. We said goodbye early the next morning, her only child and her only grandchildren. On the flight my sister and I ran up and down the aisles for hours, wreathed in late Soviet-era cigarette smoke, fueled by handfuls of candy from the flight crew: the darlings of the skies. We didn’t know that we could never really go back.
For 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt “Canada.”
When I was younger, I did my best writing at 3am. There was magic in the silence, in the feeling that I was floating alone in a limitless universe, in that middle-of-the-night state of exhausted delirium that got my fingers flying. Perhaps, in that nighttime haze, I briefly stopped taking myself so seriously. It was never a practical system, although doing another degree when my children were tiny and sleepless, I could sometimes alternate writing paragraphs with nursing a waking toddler. Nowadays, I treasure sleep beyond measure, shockingly even more than I treasure creative output. Instead, at any and all times of day, I practice opening the hinges of my brain; I let my eyes glaze over and grab at stray images as they fly past. Sometimes, if I can catch the tail end of a sentence, the rest will come dragging slowly behind.
From the prompt “younger” in 100 Words: the Beauty of Brevity.