I entered two short story competitions last week. I took a piece I’d written as part of London Lit Lab’s Saltwater Folk Tales and had a go at extending it. I’d love to know what you think.
‘I want to remember that I’m scared of wind. I don’t want the dreamcatcher to catch that bad dream because I don’t want to get sucked away.’
‘Do you mean if you forget about being scared of the wind a storm will carry you away?’
‘Yes. So I need to not forget that I’m scared.’
He was so candid.
My son asked me to make him a dreamcatcher. It’s unclear to me where he, in his five years, has learnt about catching dreams but he is specific:
‘I want it to catch my bad dreams, you can hang it in the window so they can’t get me in bed when I’m asleep.’
To him this is a logical request. Whilst gathering string, casting about for something circular, I tumble.
I tumble. I tumble into is he happy? Will he always or mainly be so? Am I enough? Truthful enough? Bold enough? What am I shaping in him?
Simultaneously he inspires me, he shows me worlds made magical, intriguing, wondrous. Is that why his fears devastate me? They are intruding on this idyll of him. Do they not make him richer? Adding light and shade to his existence.
‘How do you spell Wednesday?’
He interupts my writing to ask. We’re in bed, ‘the big bed’. The dreamcatcher hangs from our ceiling light.
I don’t want to be sucked away either. Moved forcibly against my will, separated from him, our home. He understands there are forces bigger than him at play. This dawning powerlessness.
I could dig a trench around our house, I could heave rope into place tying knots at the windows. Perhaps an impermeable skin will set and thicken.
I want to give him a set of building blocks. They are well worn, smooth at the edges, corners just discernible. They fit nicely in a battered cardboard box. You need the whole set so they don’t rattle around. They’re for courageousness, curiosity, resilience. They sit alongside empathy, strength and creativity. They’re warm to touch, weighing firmly in the hand. I have so much carving to do.
We talked about our hopes for our son, agreeing if we could give him the skills to remain calm, to not be anxious, we would have done a good job.
We’re collaborators. I’ve not made something with someone else before. Each day we marvel at our handiwork, suggest improvements, changes in direction. I wonder how fruitless this is or whether its actual purpose is palliative. We are soothed by the concept we have an influence.
His apparent bad dreams
His eyes watering when
he tells us.
How I can see he is holding something in to avoid upset
Where is this learnt?
We have stopped waking to the news. I check in with my mum - I remember the radio playing all the time, but what did you do if something too scary came on? ‘Yes we turned it off.’
What is too scary?
parents dying -
His future loss of innocence settles coldly on my chest.
He uses patterns to make sense of the world.
His problem solving abilities have been noted at parents’ evening.
I didn’t know I had this superstition. As I wind the string around the frame I avoid a five pointed star. I resist pulling feathers from the cat’s toy. I don’t want to unwittingly conjure any more malevolence - any more intrusion.
Sometimes we stare at the moon together.
The sharing of distance, of perspective -
I like this.
I’m saying ‘look how bright the moon is’.
I’m saying ‘we’re tiny, I hope I can always help you’.
I weave the thread, batting away the cat who has misunderstood the task at hand. Or he’s lightening my heavy heart, reminding me of play - the importance of play when parenting.
I had an idea I’ll make you a bigger dreamcatcher.
It will take all our strength to form the circle. Every day we’ll choose a glass bead from the box and thread it on. We’ll collect calm nights together.
I want to watch him all night.
His unlined face.
I’ll be poised nearby my rod ready
watching the waters for ripples
a hint of tremor
I can swoop, kingfisher blue
Hold up the moon.