The Power Of ‘Perhaps’

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Last week I wrote about a little girl who grieved by the water’s edge because her parents were frolicking in the water while she stayed on the shore, alone. The image still haunts me, and so I have tried—in the only way a writer knows—to imagine her  growing up years.

Her childhood must have been bleak.  How, otherwise, when her parents offered only a cool indifference? I imagined Sybella—my name for her—as a small, slender child who was always dressed well, who was fed well, but whose emotional wellbeing was never served. Did her parents attend her school events? Did she always watch the closed door to the auditorium in hopes that this time they would come to see her dance, or sing, or speak lines in a play? And on her high school graduation day what would happen? Perhaps this:

            While the principal droned off the names of the graduates, Sybella fidgeted in her maroon and gold robe. Her mother had given her the money for the graduation robe, so she had hoped that this time she and Daddy would come to the ceremony.. Now she looked across the rows of faces for her parents knowing that they would not be there after all. Her father’s boss was giving a party for his employees in Ashville—it really was a big deal–so of course he and Mama would have to go. “You don’t mind, do you?” was what her mother had asked and had not even seen her daughter’s disappointment.

Sybella’s stomach twisted into a tighter knot, but she tossed back her head and put on that look of indifference she had perfected through the years. It didn’t matter. No, it didn’t matter. Sybella turned her involuntary sob into a cough….

No, no, no! I don’t like this at all, and I’m going to change the scene. Writers have that option—something that Life sometimes lacks the power to do. So, now, what if Sybella had met, along her way, a caring teacher and… oh, why not?… a best friend with a loving family?

The graduation robe felt uncomfortably warm in the hot June sun, but she didn’t mind for here she was. In a few moments she was going to be called by the principal to receive her diploma. A quick glance across the auditorium showed her that her parents had not changed their minds at the last moment, and why would they? A party at the boss’s house trumped a graduation any day. Sybella’s heart twisted into a familiar knot.

            Still, she’d made it, right? Here she stood with the rest of her lighter hearted classmates, and unlike some of them, she knew where she was going. NCU Chapel Hill and a full scholarship was her reward for years of hitting the books. There would be years of studying… and then a graduate degree in pharmacology. That was her trajectory, that was what Mr. Morganstern had drilled into her head from the moment she had stepped across the threshold of his classroom. ‘Study and succeed, Sybella. You have a brain—it will take you as far as you want to go!” That had been her mantra for four years, and when she saw Mr. M’s bulky form sitting with the other teachers, warmth eased the painful heartknot.

 And… yes, there in the third row were Molly’s parents ,and the irrepressible  twins who were each holding up hand-written cardboard signs. One of them said, ‘Congrats, Molly,’ and the other proclaimed, ‘You GO, Syb!’

            With a mixture of determination and hope Sybella stepped onto the stage and walked towards the rest of her life.

            Now, isn’t that a better story?

If somehow we changed

            One small action, one quick word

            Marvels might ensue.

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

12 responses »

  1. Bravo! Well done!

    To me, the shoes represent that Sybella left her past behind and rejoices in her promising future. Love it all! This becomes a combination lesson about life and writing exercise.

    Maureen, you’re amazing. Thanks.

  2. Dear Maureen, your story — hard hitting and changed is a reminder that despite the neglect and even emotional and physical abuse people face in their lives, some manage to triumph no matter what the odds. Through their own courageous efforts and with the help of caring mentors, neighbors, relatives and friends, they battle on — survive and even thrive. The human spirit can be remarkable. Some turn the tables on what seems to be their expected legacy as a result of stories and books that authors like yourself offer as alternate realities that are really within their grasp.

    Keep those stories coming!!

    • Hi, Fran! Thank you for your kind comments. I did feel better after rewriting the little girl’s history. Isn;t it strange that some can turn adversity into triumph and others will just sink under it? Life is interesting, I always say!!

    • Thanks, Annie! I feel better about her, too. It’s sad that what we hope, what we believe, and what we write about can’t be what is happening in real life… but maybe what we write does point the way to something better. Ah, well. We can but do our best.

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