This is something I wrote during and after my recent workshop at Fitzwilliam College, Uncovering Connections. I might add to it, change it around, or put it into a story. That’s the fun of making these small bits of writing. It was a great night and a lot of people wrote and read their drafts aloud. It’s been a while since I’ve posted something like this on the blog – time for a change of pace.
‘Please, come find an object, painting, or photo that seems to hold a story for you. If you choose an image, imagine stepping inside the frame: What do you hear? What do you see beyond the borders? What is missing? If you choose an object, how does it feel to hold it? What does it remind you of? Who was the last person to hold it?’ I paused to pick up a small wooden toy, ‘But if you choose this little truck, be a bit careful, as it’s fragile.’
They all came to the table in the front of the room, looking through photos I had pulled out of old scrapbooks, postcards of paintings, a wooden box, a small leather coin purse filled with plastic pirates’ gold, a champagne cork, beach stones, worn smooth by sand and waves.
One young woman went straight to the wooden wind-up truck.
As they wrote, I watched them, having given them the instruction to ‘keep their pens moving.’ Every so often, someone would stop, pick up the object or gaze at an image, turn it around, and start writing again. I love the sound of pens scrabbling across paper. The young woman gently rolled the truck back and forth across the blank page in front of her.
After an initial spurt of writing, everyone paired up and shared some thoughts or bits of writing. I wandered through the room, eavesdropping, eager to hear their stories. When I got to the girl who chose the truck, she looked straight at me,
‘I chose this because you said it was fragile. But, I thought “It doesn’t look fragile.” I wanted to write about that, but got stuck.’
I looked at it again. Was it fragile?
It didn’t start off as fragile. It used to be as sturdy as the chubby fingers that drove it over the carpet, under the dining room table, and around the sofa. The spring was new and strong; when wound tight it would unfurl and send the truck zooming through the hallway, clattering down the stairs. Buzz buzz buzz it travelled between his mother’s legs as she spoke on the telephone to her sister and past the dog’s basket. It weathered sandboxes and rainstorms and being chased by the cat and stepped on by the houseguests.
The fingers grew longer and the palms lost their perpetual stickiness. The truck rolled under the bookshelf and began to host spiders and dust bunnies, keeping company with stray marbles and lost jigsaw pieces. The boy looked for it, but his attention was caught by other toys, other games.
It would be hard to say just when it became fragile. Was it during the years it was packed away in storage? Was it when the glue that held the stickers dried out and the blue windows began peeling off? Or did it become fragile by being lost in memory, out of use, atrophied by neglect?