Daily Archives: January 15, 2014

Old Writing: Part 6::The Birthday Present

This is another of my writings from Creative Writing 101. I still have the figurine which looks slightly different from the description, but I probably was writing about it from memory. My English professor was quite kind in his words about this one too, although he had some doubts about the analogy of my anger and a volcano — I guess he didn’t know me that well.

The Birthday Present

Last Saturday I woke up so late that I heard the crunch of the mail truck on the gravel in front of our house before I had even finished breakfast. As it is a race at our house to bring the mail in, I jumped up and ran to the front door only to see Bob, my cousin, coming from the direction of the mailbox carrying several white envelopes of various sizes, a colorful postcard and a small package. Seeing the package made me forget the lost race as I yelled, “MY PRESENT!”

My birthday, a month before, had been accented by a telephone call from Jeremy, my boyfriend in England who informed me that my gift was on its way, but had to be sent sea-mail because he didn’t have the money to spend to send it by air, having just returned from America. Since I enjoy looking forward to a present, almost as much as I do getting one, I waited quite patiently — the first week at least. After that, I began to become anxious for its arrival. In one of his weekly letters, Jeremy hinted at the identity of the present. He hinted so thoroughly that I guessed what it was — a ceramic figure. Jeremy also said that he hoped it wasn’t broken. I wasn’t worried about that though — he always took the greatest care when wrapping a gift to be sent through the mail. Now the present had arrived.

The small brown package, tightly bound with the sort of tape with nylon strings in it, was addressed to me. The return address was Jeremy’s. As I struggled to open the package, dented due tot he horrendous treatment the postal system gives mail, and empty feeling began to form in my stomach. My heart began to pound as I turned the parcel upside down and small bits of white plaster fell to my lap. My blood pressure surely rose as I tried to rip off the top of the box. All this time I was saying, “Oh it’s broken; oh no, it’s broken, I know it!” — not daring to believe that it truly was, assuring myself that the plaster chips were from the bottom of the figure or the box. After much effort to break the tape, Bob offered the use of his knife which I angrily, but thankfully, accepted and proceeded to cut the bindings. From there the task was simple. I opened the inner box and unwrapped the tissue paper, exposing the figure — with two horrible chips. The anger and disappointment which had been working its way up from the pit of my stomach suddenly erupted with the violence of a volcano; awful accusations, like red-hot lava spilled from my mouth as my temper reached its peak. I re-wrapped the gift, ignoring my family’s remarks on how cute the figure was, and placed it back in the box.

Later that day, after doing the dishes and eventually cooling down, feeling guilty as a result of my dreadful scene, I removed the figure from the box and once more unwrapped it. Tears stung my eyes as I recalled how terribly I had acted. I hadn’t even thought of the love that had been sent with the gift. The figure, which I had neglected to even admire before, was of two small rabbits cuddled under a black and white polka-dot quilt. One rabbit was soundly asleep, while the other had one eye open, looking at its partner. A black cat was curled behind the knees of the sleeping bunny — just where my black cat sleeps.  The chips, less serious than I had previously thought, were on the same side, but at opposite corners. Part of the fluffy blue pillow and a whole bedpost was missing. Luckily there was plaster of various colors, shapes and sizes at the bottom of the box. Without further thought I found my Elmer’s Glue, plaster filler and watercolors and set to work to restore my birthday present.

Although the figure still isn’t “good as new” and anyone can tell it was broken, I wouldn’t trade it for a perfect one. Too much emotion — on both sides of the Atlantic — has gone into this small ceramic figure to be dumped as worthless trash.

Old Writing: Part 5::Memories of a Mountain Street Apartment

The following bit of writing was the piece that made me realize I could actually write. It was written for my Freshman college creative writing course and the teacher wrote “A very effective reminiscence. Well detailed writing with strong focus.” He also asked me to share it aloud with my fellow students, some of whom said it made them want to cry. I could tell that my classmates really liked the story and it made me feel proud. It is not 100% accurate — I actually lived on Chapel Street in Elgin just after I was born, but everything else rings true.

Memories of a Mountain Street Apartment

Google Street View of 324 Mountain Street
Google Street View of 324 Mountain Street

The first five years of my life were spent at 324 Mountain Street — the upper floor of a two-story, green and white wooden apartment house with a screened-in front porch. Especially memorable is the small pink room where I slept. I used to place all my stuffed animals on either side of me when I went to bed, alternating them each night which one would sleep next to me so no one’s feelings would be hurt.

Once I was playing with my mother’s friend’s son, Mike, while our mothers gossiped in the kitchen, which was on the other side of the wall from my room. I had acquired two new cans of Play-Doh and we were seated at the little wooden table with matching chairs, making red and blue Play-Doh cookies. We shaped them into round, flat disks and put them into the make-believe oven to bake. When they were “done” we would pretend to eat them. But Mike, being two years my junior, thinking that these were real cookies popped a red blob of Play-Doh into his mouth. I screamed, bringing both mothers into my room. A second scream and Mike was being held upside down to extract the Play-Doh from his mouth. I was happy when the mass of Play-Doh and saliva was on the table, not because I was particularly worried about Mike, but because I was glad my Play-Doh was safe.

Another memory of that house was my portable, striped red, white and blue three-speed phonograph. I had about two dozen yellow 78s from such shows as The Mickey Mouse Club and various Walt Disney movies. I used to sit, all day, listening to both sides of each recording, sometimes making the voices slow down so they sounded like Alfred Hitchcock. Many of these records are still in my possession and, scratched up as they may be, I still have fun listening to the sounds of my childhood.

Finally, I remember our black Cocker Spaniel, Archie. He had black curly ears that looked like he had just been given a permanent and a long black tail that, along with his ears, flip-flopped as he ran, which he seemed to be always doing — up and down the back steps and around the back yard — his ears and tail, flying in the wind. I can still picture my father and me chasing Archie and laughing all the while. Archie’s special trick was to run down the long flight of stairs to pick up the mail and paper and deposit it at my father’s chair. Once, when I was sick, a free sample of pink Princess Dial soap was left by the mailman, and Archie, with a little coaching from my father, brought it to me. I was positive Archie did it to make me feel better. One afternoon I heard my mother calling Archie to come up the back steps. He was sitting at the bottom with large frightened eyes, whining, unable to climb the stairs. My mother wrapped him in his old tattered blanket and we, along with my father, drove to an animal doctor. My mother and I waited in our red Buick while my father and Archie disappeared into the brick building. A while later, my father re-appeared, carrying Archie’s blanket, but no Archie. I was later told that Archie had hurt his back and had been put to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer. I waited a long time for Archie to wake up again so we could play and he could get the mail and paper, but I learned, too soon, that when doctors put animals to sleep they don’t ever wake up.

Through the five years of my life at 324 Mountain Street many incidents occurred, some vivid, others not so clear and others practically faded away or completely gone. Some memories are happy, others sad and some just memories. Childhood is the most impressionable time of life. Memories, such as the ones mentioned here will be with me all of my life.