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red writing hood link-up — unlocked

March 30, 2012

Happy Friday, and welcome to Chasing Maybes.  Today, I am linking up with the good people at Write on Edge as I respond to this prompt:

This week we’d like you to write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about a time someone crossed a line, legally or ethically. Explore the motivation of your character and possibly the consequences of his or her actions.

The word limit is 450, so come back Friday and share what you’ve written.

Here goes nothing.


Think of the ways people describe estrangement: “an ocean of distance between them,” “strangers in the same house,” “living separate lives.”

I hear you rise each morning to the tinny sound of your pink alarm clock.  You generously turn it off after three beeps and I’m able to ignore your padded footsteps through the house.  Soon you are gone for an hour or more, cutting through the dark neighborhood in soft shoes and reflective tape, faster at the end of your run than you were at the beginning.  I exhale when you return, drenched and lovely and unsmiling.  You pour your own coffee, pour your own cereal, and at once you are uniformed and gone to school.  Almost wordlessly, achingly, you are here and then gone.

“She’s a teenage girl, for God’s sakes,” your aunt Laura says, studying her neon-pink manicured nails.  “She’s supposed to hate her mother.  Why would you expect anything more?”

What I can’t convey to Laura, what I’m struggling to define here and now, is that I don’t believe you hate me.  Worse, you don’t notice me at all.  To say there is an ocean of distance between us is wholly inaccurate, for an ocean moves, roils with the changing of winds and the pull of the moon.  What lies between us is stony, immutable, a locked bedroom door.

Sometimes, I think of Enchanted Rock Park and that camping trip we took when you were ten years old.  I remember your eyes taking in the enormous pink granite dome above you, assured of the Tonkawa legend that ghost fires flickered at its peak.  When I told you the story of the white man swallowed by the rock and reborn, you nodded.  “Swallowed by the rock,” you murmured, and even then I prayed you wouldn’t seek the same fate for yourself.  Reborn to a new tribe, old life forgotten.  I saw it in your eyes at ten years old, this distance.

Forgive me, if you can.  I’ve offered you a safe and separate existence for all these years, and you couldn’t have anticipated any violation from me.  Still, you are sixteen years old and you are my daughter.  I gave you your first journal after that trip to Enchanted Rock, half-knowing you would dive inside it, unwilling or unable to return to me thereafter.  I gave it to you because you needed it, but I’m afraid of what I’ll find in its pages.  I’m more afraid of pulling my hair out, strand by strand, from another day trapped in this alien silence.


What’s in store for you this weekend?  Here’s to a long, spirited conversation with someone you love.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2012 2:17 pm

    Amazing. And that is, indeed, quite a line to cross. But you help us invest in this character, and it’s hard for me to blame her, even though I can’t fathom breaking that kind of trust myself. Which is to say, wonderfully done!

    • March 30, 2012 6:58 pm

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Venus. I’m struggling with making this mother likeable, multidimensional, and realistic, so I really appreciate your thoughts. Looking forward to visiting your blog!

  2. March 30, 2012 2:17 pm


    Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter became a teenager. Our story is different… she says she longs for more “Mommy Time” yet when she gets it, she often devolves into those very personal little jabs that only a child can give a parent. It’s those tiny needles that hurt the most, because although I see the intent behind them… the test to see that “Ah, yes… I have the POWER to cause this big adult a great deal of pain…” anyone else who looks sees nothing. Sometimes I don’t know whether she’s jabbing at me, or at the birth mother who abused her.
    Sometimes I’m sure she doesn’t know either.

    • March 30, 2012 6:56 pm

      Thank you so much for your feedback and for stopping by, Amy Beth. I think your experience supports the concept that mother-daughter relationships are complex beyond our imaginations. I really appreciate your input and look forward to visiting your blog.

  3. March 30, 2012 2:55 pm

    Oooh, I didn’t see where you were going with this until the very end. When you began, I thought this was about a married couple–I *love* that it’s about a mother-daughter relationship instead.

    Here’s my only concrit: This sentence–“I’ve offered you a safe and separate existence for all these years, and you couldn’t have anticipated any violation from me.” threw me off. It wasn’t until the sentence about giving her the journal that I understood where you were going. I think you could skip this sentence and put the after-Enchanted-rock sentence in its place, and the meaning would be clearer, sooner.

    • March 30, 2012 6:55 pm

      Kathleen, thank you so much for the feedback. I like the passage much better without that sentence, but wouldn’t have thought of deleting it on my own. I really appreciate your help!

      • March 31, 2012 7:29 am

        Glad to be of help! It’s a great piece.

  4. March 30, 2012 3:10 pm

    Oh, the distance between a mother and a teenage daughter…I worry for these moments myself.

    I think you can cut the very first line, the one with the quoted cliches.

    I like the way you tell of the distance in the running and camping stories, and I think they illustrate the distance, the silence, better than the cliches do.

    Also, I love the part about the ocean moving, but their separateness being more like a stone, an unmoving thing. It was very strong and telling.

  5. March 30, 2012 5:19 pm

    Beautifully written, yet so sad. Relationships between mothers and daughters are so complicated, just like relationship between fathers and sons. It always with the same sex parent that kids have issues with. I wonder why this is?

    • March 30, 2012 6:59 pm

      Isn’t it interesting how that works, Rebecca? Please let me know if you figure out why same-sex parental relationships are so challenging! Thanks so much for stopping by, and I look forward to visiting your blog as well.

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