In a recent post, writer Sarah Duncan wrote about change in fiction: people want to read about it, she argued. Why? Because they "want to know how a character reacts to that moment of change." We have to deal with it in life, and having read about how others do so helps us recalibrate when that happens. We are constantly having to rewrite the ending to our personal story so having lots of examples to draw upon helps us see how to proceed.
On Friday our son, Bob, left home with only the barest notice. I actually didn't know what to do with myself. Usually when something discombobulating happens I phone all my friends and by the time I've told the story a number of times, and been given lots of sympathy, I can at least get on. But, if I'm honest, I felt a bit pathetic this time: Bob's twenty five, he's left home before, we, I, knew he wouldn't be here forever; would anyone see his leaving home as a hitch? So I just posted something about it on my Facebook page and left it at that. This did get me lots of sympathy, and also a couple of emails. One from by best friend in New Zealand, Mark, and the other from my sister, both asking for the details. This allowed me to verbalise and thus get some purchase on the scene; just like writing a story. Here are the edited highlights of my replies, they were almost identical:
Once he'd had a spot of lunch and packed, off he went. Stevie arrived just in time to see him go, though I'm supposing Bob would have hung about for a while had he not.
I cried. Stevie wandered around like a benevolent poltergeist. We went out for supper.
On Saturday I went to clean the attic rooms Bob has been occupying, and found an infestation of moths had eaten my antique kilims. We went to Glasgow to stock up on a few necessaries.
Obviously we stopped for lunch, can you tell what we had?
Yesterday I walked into my workroom and could stand the colour of the mahogany table by the window no longer: a dark reddish brown, like a cancerous stool, it sucks the light out of the place. So I painted it. Farrow and Ball Parma Grey, it's the colour of Kentish skies now.
I realise this is mostly a picture of a melon, but you can get an idea of the paint job.
Bob's like me, we both take a long time to turn things over in our minds, assess all options, process, incubate, whatever you want to call it, but once the period of gestation comes to an end we have to act. We can sit still no longer. He'd been back here for just over a year. I knew he'd be leaving, at some point in the near future, I'd sensed a pattern change. I just wasn't quite ready for the action.
But, thanks to the variety of fictitious scenarios I've read, and seen in plays and films, I had lots of vicarious experience of dealing with change, so haven't chewed off my own limbs in despair. In fact, now the shock has dissipated I'm happier than ever: my son is off on a new adventure (and only an hour's drive away), and I have a table that doesn't piss me off every time I walk in the room. Sarah Duncan, I agree.