Living the Dream

As a young girl, I always dreamed of becoming another Lucy Maud, devouring books sometimes three and four on the go at one time. Now, here I am, 50-something, and the dream keeps coming back to me. When Magpie Tales started publishing their prompts, I couldn't resist. My first few attempts were shared with a very select few - and it is thanks to their encouragement that I am emboldened to share with more of the world. Read, enjoy (I hope), critique, and tell me what you think.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Gift

This week's prompt from Magpie Tales:

Jane hauled boxes up from the basement, and plunked them down in the living room.  It was time to start packing up this room, ready for the big move.  Well, actually a small move, short move, down-sizing move.  After more than 30 years in this big old house, she had bought a small home in a seniors’ strata complex, small kitchen, small living room, small yard, small garage, small storage space.  This meant, of course, sorting through everything and making the big decisions: keep for use/display, put into storage boxes for maybe someday passing on to children/grandchildren, send off to the local thrift store.  The boxes were already labeled accordingly.

The bookshelf was first – so many wonderful reading hours.  Some classics, some children’s books, some gifts, some textbooks, some favorites.  None went into the thrift-store box.  Books were just too precious to give up.  As Jane worked her way around the room, she was very aware that she was avoiding the mantle.
The blue plate sat on the mantel – pride of place since Jock had given it to her their first Christmas together as man and wife.   His pride in the gift shone in his eyes, as he said, ‘It’s a commemorative series, they make a new one every year.  Some day we’ll have a wall of blue plates, just like my mom’s.’  Jane could just barely suppress her shudder, as she thanked her new husband.  How could she tell him that her idea of art displayed on their walls was not a bunch of plates, particularly blue, her least favorite color?  More blue plates had never been forth-coming, and Jane often wondered if Jock had somehow sensed her lack of excitement – not that it wasn’t a pretty plate, just that she didn’t want 50 or 60 of them.  And at that point in their lives, they assumed they’d have decades of  life together.

After Jock’s death, the plate had remained in place – her mother-in-law often remarked at what a wonderful husband her son must have been to have chosen such a perfect gift, and Jane didn’t have the heart to put it out of sight.  But it was a reminder of Jock’s apparent inability to discern her tastes when he chose gifts for her – like the purple dress that she thought made her look like an eggplant, and the mix-master because she once said she’d like to make bread, and the plastic pink roses ‘so she could have her favorite flower in the house year-round’.  The list wasn’t long, simply because Jock had passed away at such a young age, and Jane often wondered if the gift selection would have changed as they grew older and he got to know her better.

Oh, well, that wasn’t meant to be,and most of the gifts had found their usefulness.  Jane had outgrown the purple dress just naturally, and it had gone to the thrift store.  The mix-master was actually very practical, Jane did eventually learn to make bread and sweet rolls, and over time it had worn out and been replaced.  The plastic roses – well, Mhairi had cut the heads off of the stems one day for an ‘art project’ which was now in a box marked  ‘Mhairi’s Memories’. 

There was only this blue plate left – and it was a precious memory of young love and a caring husband who tried very hard to please his bride.  But, was it to go on the mantel in the new house, or was it to find its way into a storage box for the children to decide its ultimate outcome some day in the future?

Gradually the room was emptied of all the small items – pictures, ornaments, crystal candy dish – and all that was left was the mantel.  The clock was put into the ‘new house’ box, the candle sticks were placed into the ‘thrift store’ box, the seashells from their trips to the coast were safely stored in a ‘storage’ box.  As Jane stood and stepped up to reach for the blue plate, her foot caught on the edge of the hearth, and she plunged forward, both hands coming up to stop her fall, her left hand knocking against the plate and down it came – landing in pieces on the stone hearth.

Well, it wasn’t going to be a visible memory any longer – but Jane was near tears as she placed the pieces very carefully in the ‘storage' box.


  1. Poignant piece, Peg. I can't bear to throw broken dishes away. I have a huge old crock full of shards. I keep thinking I'll do something creative with them, like mosaic a wall!

  2. You capture the sentimental value of the dish very well. Often it's hard to let go of these precious gifts.

  3. many times we don't realize how precious something is until it's broken or gone.
    Nicely done!

  4. ah, i felt th tightness at the broken plate. you just reminded me of finding the pieces of a blue willow plate as a child in the dirt and thinking i had found treasure...nice magpie!

  5. This was so sad for me, that her husband never knew what his young bride would like and yet because he had given the plate to her in love, it had become her most precious gift. A lovely story I could have read more, I think some of this must be you.. books too precious to give up!!

  6. I am coming to like these characters you have created. Interestingly enough my plate ended up on the floor in my story....but it was on purpose. ;-)

  7. beautifully written, very touching!

  8. Another broken plate! I wonder if that refelcts the collective subconscious opinion of most Magpieres about this particular plate, or plates in general. I liked your story. I like Jane and I find myself looking forward to what is going to happen to her next. Great job, Sis.

  9. Ah, what a sweet story - the end was unexpected but it was touching that she saved the pieces.

  10. This is lovely, but I can't help feeling sad for her, that she had to receive all those awful gifts, though they were well-meant, and then to have her husband die.
    I wonder though - perhaps she is crying in relief at not being forced to make the decision, to have it made for her. Maybe it will be better to think of her husband and remember his thoughtfulness than to see a plate in a hated colour and remember how he didn't know her well enough.

  11. vivid and enjoyable!
    awesome tale!

  12. I was not expecting the ending. Great writing. I loved it.