Going Back

(Some time ago Paula, the author of the blog Lost in Translation, published a stunning photo in one of her posts. I told her in the comments that I could imagine a story coming out of it. Her response? She would love to read one. This story is for you Paula. And published for your Thursday Special as I have come to enjoy free writing from photos.)

Photo credit: Lost in Translation.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Lost in Translation.wordpress.com

As I approach the house from the bottom of the hill, a flood of memories overwhelm me. Memories of my childhood. My father. Always so tall and gruff, directing our lives even though he was so often absent from it. The restrictions. The pain. The overwhelming sense of failure. I pull off the road and switch off the car. Staring up at the formidable-looking walls, I breath in deeply. I had left this place as soon as I could. And with no intention of ever coming back. I had felt no guilt at leaving behind my mother, a woman who had lost herself in the shadow of the man she had married. My desire for a life free of restrictions, free of the pressure of the belt on my shoulders, had so motivated me that I had walked down that road willing to shut a door firmly on my past.

Yet now I was back twelve years later. When I had left this place, I had struggled; I had felt hunger and deprivation. And yet I had gloried in a life in which I made my own choices. A life in which I Β was free from the giant who had stifled my every move. I feel my chest tightening in response to the thoughts of my childhood. He was on his deathbed and had called to me. Why had I answered his call? I still had not figured out the answer to my question.

Taking a deep breath I turn on the car and drive slowly up the hill. The dark clouds forming in the sky reflect my own turbulent thoughts. I had to remember that I was my own person now and that I was successful in my own right. I had to guard against falling into the traps of the past. Pulling up in front of my childhood home, I notice the front door opening. I see before me the woman of my past. She is dressed the same as she always was, and yet there is a difference. Her head is no longer bowed and, as she walks towards me, I notice that she takes her steps with determination. Gone is the mouse scared of the lion. In its place I see someone who more confident of what her place is.

“Mom.” Thin arms enfold me and I feel the wetness of her cheek. For the first time I realise the pain she must have gone through with my leaving.

“I am so glad you came. It is important you see him before he dies.”

She leads me through the door into the hallways of my past. The air smells musty and the gloom mirrors the complete silence in the house. My footsteps lead me to the door of my father’s bedroom. Steeling myself, I walk in. Adjusting to the gloom, my eyes focus on the man in the bed. No longer is he a giant with a strong hand quick to punish. I see before me, instead, frailty and helplessness. The stroke had robbed him of his fierceness, his independence. Now he relied on the whims of his wife to help him eat and even wash. As his helpless eyes looked at me, I understood my mother’s words. I felt his power over me loosen its hold and slowly ebb away. Now I knew why I had come back.

Β© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

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43 thoughts on “Going Back

  1. This story deserves to be published in a literary magazine. It has given me goosebumps. I am flattered that you have used my photo to come up with this masterful piece of writing. It is powerful in style and in message. Thank you, Colline.

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      1. I really am, and I look forward to reading more creative writing from you. How does it make you feel? When you finish these stories? I know they are not based on your life, but still it must be therapeutical in some way…? I mean being creative has an empowering effect on our psyche.

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        1. I feel a great sense of satisfaction That I have been able to write down in words what I imagined in my mind. I have learned to love being creative with words. It makes me feel good πŸ™‚

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              1. Thanks, Colline, when things come to worse I put on my headphones and immerse myself into music ;). My flat is generously heated to 27 Celsius πŸ™‚ – the advantage of being in the first row of apartment buildings attached to a thermal plant πŸ˜€

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  2. a castle on a hill will tumble down becoming a destroyed hut. “The restrictions. The pain. The overwhelming sense of failure…” – we have to overcome those times of childhood, adult means: free & independent!

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      1. Yes, Colline, I agree. And so many of us may not even realize the early impact of others on our life who may not even be our parents, i.e.. classmates. The encouraging words of certain teachers, helped me to find courage and confidence where I was not able to easily find it elsewhere or in myself. Sometimes life’s difficulties can bring back haunting memories of early hurtful comments from others. We may not even be aware of the actual comments as we soldier on, but they are there nagging at our self doubt, perhaps strengthening it.

        I like the comment of frizztext: adult means: free & independent. I try to remind myself of these things and that to be sensitive as I sometimes am is to be childlike – something I would love to leave behind and find constant confidence in middle adulthood.

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  3. Colline, could you please finish these stories for us. Your summary writing is always enchanting, captivating. Now I want to know why she returned and how it is that her father held no power over her any more…or will that feeling of oppression slowly return. You write in just a few paragraphs, a summary for a great novel. Really, this is an art.

    Each of these paragraphs contain rich background information and pique curiosity and interest. Each could easily be expanded upon and lengthened out into chapters.

    If I want to look for some great writing inspiration, Colline, I have only to look to your summaries. May I borrow one or two. LOLOLOLOL.

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    1. I have learned to use photos and pictures as sources of inspiration. How I wish I had discovered this technique earlier when I had more time on my hands to sit in front of the computer and explore my imagination. Now my paying job takes my energy and my brain and physical body is tire when I reach home.

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      1. Oh, yes. I do remember this exhaustion. Me…soon to be exhausted again (fingers crossed). When do you find you are best able to write? Early in the morning? Late in the evening?

        Funny, you mention pictures and photos as sources of inspiration. This was a technique I remember the teacher using to get us to begin to write when I was attending grade school. I always enjoyed studying the image, then letting my imagination run wild with it.

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        1. (My fingers are crossed for you too)
          The best time for me to write is in the morning when the house is quiet and everyone is till sleeping. At that time of the day, my brain is not tired and my imagination is not hampered with fatigue.

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  4. Powerful. Very powerful. I disagree that you should expand the story. I love it the way it is. In such short story, you enveloped so much emotions and stories within it that are better left to interpretations or imagination. Incredibly writing, Colline.

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