Sunday, 22 February 2009

SNAPSHOTS: Lauren and Aaron

Dear reader... This was a task in which I took a scene and wrote it from two different POVs. I find it interesting how one's writing takes shape and alters when you re-write the same scene from another’s lens or worldview i.e. the details, the observations, the choices, etc.

A brother and sister visit their elderly mother in a nursing home.

A sour smell hung in the air. Though similar to the tell-tale odour of charity shops that I frequented – here, it felt intolerable. More stale somehow. I tasted the mucus rising to my throat. It took every ounce of willpower to stop myself from covering up my nose with my hand. It wouldn’t do. And I didn’t want mother to imagine that I thought it was she that stank. I fidgeted with my handbag, fumbling for a stick of gum while Aaron began to make small-talk. I popped the Spearmint in my mouth and started to chew. It was our first visit to Cedar Lodge Nursing Home, on the leafy-side of Erdington. ‘This all looks very nice, mother. You settled?’ I heard him ask as my mind wandered, taking in the space. It was a simple room. On one side of the window, slightly ajar, was a washbasin; tucked beside, stood Mother’s folded-up wheelchair. Next to it: a desk where the posies we’d bought from M&S now rested; and a chair, that I’d earlier pulled out to sit on. To the far side: a narrow high bed, where mother sat propped up in a C; and an armchair, which Aaron had decided on. Fleeting, I noticed the strawberry hue to his face. I knew he needed a cigarette. Mother was in full flow, chatting animatedly: ‘… the garden is so therapeutic… lovely to see the bluebells in bloom…’ I heard her say. Above her diminutive head, a Van Gough replica of The Olive Trees. I knew the painting well having studied it in great detail at Leeds Art College. Such delicate beauty weaved in its artwork of swirling trunks and branches; a voluptuous epitaph, I’d written in one of my assignments. Beneath the frame, a sharp contrast; mother’s gnarled features. Mother had been handsome, if not a sterling beauty, once. But the good looks had long faded over the course of eighty-nine years. All that was left heaped before us; her leathered frame, her thin smile. Instinctively, I reached across and stroked her hand, caressing her fingers, a mangle of knots. Fingers that had held mine on the first day of nursery, wiped my tears on my wedding day, and cuddled her grandchildren. Fingers, that no longer clung to the tresses of time.

A slight irritation crept into my voice during Lauren’s phone call. The appointment had been booked. We were to travel down to visit our mother. It’s not that I didn’t want to see Mother but the time scheduled simply hadn’t suited my timetable, and I’d been forced to take the afternoon off. Lauren and I travelled separately. We met in the lobby of the Cedar Lodge Nursing Home at 2. Visiting hours are between 2 and 4; apparently, the residents – as they call them – need their rest before dinner. As we settled into our hour with mother, I thought she looked rather well. Perhaps, a bit frail, but that was to be expected at her age. I propped her up on the bed using four pillows, and then buttoned up her cardigan. I offered to make her a cup of Tetley just the way she liked it: weak, milky. ‘Water will do me fine,’ she declined. So, I filled up a glass, found a straw, and helped her with the drink. She took several sips before giving up. I placed the cup on her tray, and made myself comfortable in the armchair at the foot of her bed. Since her stroke, conversation with Mother has been a challenge. As usual, Lauren left me to do all the talking. I asked her, if she was settling in well. That set her off. She went into her ramble, which now sounds like a muffled slur, and it’s bloody hard work listening out for the few words or phrases that still make any sense. I nodded and grunted a lot, while Lauren remained quiet. I knew she had a lot on her mind. Marianne’s divorce was taking its toll; she and her three children were lodging with Lauren for the foreseeable future. It was a difficult situation. I understood why she just sat there with a vacant gaze – that is, until she leant over and took mother’s hand. It was at this point, I realised I was gasping for a cigarette.


lissa said...

I like the two perspective, each seems to know the other really well, and it says they have a close relationship, Lauren seems to more into the details of things while Aaron seem to more of matter-of-fact kind of thinking, I don't know, I just sees it that way

I did a similar idea, if you care to read them -

the sweet
and the mischievous

Anonymous said...

you capture the ordinary and make it extraordinary... the gift of a very good writer....

now where is my cigaret?

Lilly's Life said...

Excellent writing. It was as I imagined how a male or female would capture the moment. One so descriptive and one so matter of act. A lovely combination. Although I really liked the way you started Laurent's pice about the sour smell. You know I got 'that' immediately and it stayed with me while reading - made me sad too. Old age is for heroes.

Lilly Jones said...

Brilliant idea, reading the same tale as told by two different people. It could actually result in two completely separate, if not different, stories.

In fact it reminds me of how our lives played out... or rather how our memories captured our lives so far. The way mom, dad & I tell the same story, one would think we speak of three entirely different events. Sometimes I even wonder whether I was the one there at the event they are talking about or maybe one of us has amnesia and needs medical attention.

Keep inspiring us all.

Vancouver Canada Homestay said...

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Much Love..Sandy :)

Rogue said...

Two perspectives on old age and parents. One saddened the other bothersome. Quite unique this Cath. It shows how two people, viewing the very same event can take away very different views on what has just transpired. As always Cath, well done.

CathM said...

@Lissa: Yes – your insight is spot on. I’m looking forward to reading your work and commenting!

@Paul: I luv when you stop by (smile)... by the way – you a smoker (I'd never have guessed it)?

@Lilly’s Life: I like that thought “old age is for heroes” – beautiful!

@Lilly J: Thanks for comments. Very true about how POVs unfolds in reality!

@Vancouver Canada Homestay: Thanks for strolling in and leaving such a positive comment.

@Rogue: Yes – I love the way you’ve captured it “one saddened the other bothersome”. As always, it’s lovely when you visit!

@George & John & Greener Bangalore & Michelle &Khaled KEM & Vancouver Canada Homestay: You are all welcome to my blog space! I look forward to staying connected with your sites too!

Linda S. Socha said...

This conveys such empathy to me.I love the comparision and the contrast with the gender approaches. I see you as a talented writer gifted in creating connection with their words. Thank you for sharing this

Louise said...

@Lilly's Life : Old age is for heroes. I LIKE this idea!

@Catherine : It's an interesting exercise in imagination. You even have different voices for the two people. That's not easy to do. I enjoyed reading this.

Khaled KEM said...

Hi CathM

I am glad to discover your blog and a talented writer. I enjoyed reading your piece about Lauren and Aron visiting their sick mother. I appreciate the details in your writing. I always consider it a key for a good piece of writing.

I am glad that you are getting some of your work published. It deserves to be published and shared by all of us.

I will take the time to go slowly over the other posts to enjoy more of your work.

As for your question I do my PhD in microbiology and immunology but I have been writing poetry since I was 14 years old.

Until next comment take care.

Khaled KEM said...

I just wanted to add one more thing but it would not be appropriate for that piece. What about the mother's?
Her point of view of both of them, even in her disturbed mind.

Just a thought!

CathM said...

@Linda: Thank you... yes – it is always fascinating working across genders as a writer. I must confess, I find it harder to write from a male POV.

@Louise: Yes – it was a useful exercise I did as part of my course. And I found it very helpful in moving my writing forward.

@Khaled: Lovely to make your acquaintance. I do hope you do take your time and read some of my previous posts. Thanks for responding to my Q re PhD - hmmmmm, a scientist and a poet... a great combination! Indeed – it would be interesting to write a short piece from their mother’s POV. A very good suggestion:)

Ponderer said...

Perhaps Lauren has more of a bond with her mum as most daughters do. Tis the maternal instinct in us. Wonderful perspectives Cath, :) Cheryl

CathM said...

@Cheryl: You might be right there (smile)... thanks for stopping by!

English Hopeful said...

Once again Cat, I love your writing. You did really well on displaying the two very different POVs.