Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rainbows in Real Life

This is my entry to this week's Indie Ink Writing Challenge. The challenge I received is at the bottom of the post.


I walked into the building with a skip and a jump. Today I was going to see where my Mommy worked. Our playschool was closed today because it was take your children to work day. She hadn't wanted me to come to work with her, but our babysitter said she couldn't watch me this morning. Also I cried and cried till she caved. I was so excited that I was going to see what Mommy did everyday after she dropped me at the daycare. I imagined that it must be something magical, with rainbows on the walls.

But something seemed amiss. The walls really needed a coat of paint. And the stench of something unpleasant teased my tender senses when I walked through the corridors. "Mommy, what happens when we walk all the way to the end" I asked, filled with curiosity that all five year olds have. "To the rooms", she said and started talking to a woman using some big words I couldn't understand. I spent that time hopping on one leg and trying to guess what those rooms were for.

Soon we reached my mother's office. Like the rest of the building, the room had a dark aura about it. I was glad to see my mother had hung the pictures I had drawn on the wall. I made a mental note to draw her a rainbow soon. I sat on a chair that was too big for me and started working on the lollipop that my mother had given in exchange for good behavior.

The woman who had accosted my mother in the hallway came in with another woman and a boy. The woman looked pale and haggard with some ugly welts on her face. The boy looked about my age, but he didn't respond to my friendly wave. He looked scared and his clothes were too big for him. He hid behind his mother and looked at everyone with his big brown eyes. My mother talked to them and pressed some random keys on her computer. She asked her colleague to lead them to the dining hall and assured them they were safe here.

"Mommy, can I play with that boy later? Please? What's his name? Does he go to play school too?"
My mother turned to me and smiled sadly. "He can't play with you today. He is not well. He hasn't had a meal in two days. After he eats, he is going to visit the doctor."
I felt bad that I hadn't offered him my lollipop. That's why he didn't wave back at me. Maybe his Mommy had made broccoli for dinner the last two days. I really hated broccoli.
"Sweetie, do you realize these people and everyone who is in those rooms are not well. They don't come from happy homes. Most of them don't even have homes. Some of them don't have enough to eat. Sometimes there are parents who don't love each other, nor their children. This is what we do, we try to help them, give them a place to stay, food to eat in the hopes that they get better soon."

Tears welled up in my eyes and I forgot to swallow the bits of the lollipop in my mouth. I couldn't believe that there were children without a home, a Mommy to bake cakes, a Daddy to throw you up in the air and catch you and ice cream every Friday at dinner.

"Mommy, can we empty my piggy bank at home and buy all the kids candy?"
My mother hugged me with tears in her eyes. Many years later, she told me that she had never been more happy and sad at the same time than at that moment.


This challenge was very difficult for me. At first, I wanted to write a funny piece about a child who doesn't understand what her parent did at work everyday and the parent struggling to explain it in a way that the child can understand. But it didn't go anywhere, I think pathos is easier than comedy. :) It's been a while since I was a kid and I don't have any children, and so writing about parent-child relationships was hard (my challenge last week was also about the same relationship) But I think this is the beauty of the challenge, it forces you to go outside your comfort zone and actually write.

My challenge was:
4/28 is take your daughter to work day. Imagine this is your first time going to see your mother or father's place of work. What does s/he do? What do you see? Who do you meet?

Thank you Melissa for the challenge. I hope you like what I did with it.

I challenged Wendryn to write about rain and she has a beautiful post up on the topic.


The Onion said...

children are innocent and really don't see past their immediate world, do they? I liked where you went with this.

Stefan said...

That was a nice read, although I did feel like I was five and about to cry for no reason at one point, which means your words were extremely evocative.

Excellent job m'dear!

supermaren said...

You did a great job getting the perspective of the little girl. I'm glad you were able to go to this place, even if it was outside your comfort zone.

K said...

You did a very nice job rising to this challenge, it is a tough one even for a parent. Seeing ourselves through our children's eyes is a sobering task, it forces us to get a good look at who we say we are and what we claim to do. I think your piece captured that sentiment beautifully.

janani said...

Thanks everyone. I am reading other people's challenges today and boy they were toughies! I feel like a wimp for crying over this one.

Marian said...

i love this, so very real. when my kids were very small, i worked in a domestic violence program. my kids thought it was fantastic, so child-friendly, and it was. really hard to talk about what mama did for work. just the concept of "work" by itself is difficult. you described it really well!

Anonymous said...

This is stunning. You have an awesome mother. And she would be very proud of this piece, really hard warming.

Kat said...

Love how you show the innocence of a child and their view of the world.

Anonymous said...

Nice job with the challenge! I submitted it w/o knowing who would get it - if I knew you'd done something similar before, I wouldn't have chosen this, sorry! That being said, I like the elements you chose for the child to focus on (smell, look of the room, lollipop, etc). I think you could have expanded on the dialog between the mother and child - would be a great place to show how challenging it is for an adult to explain the world to someone so innocent. Good read, and I hope to read more from you :)

janani said...

Thans everyone. In case I didn't make this clear in my post, this is fiction. My mother is a wonderful woman, but she didn't work at a shelter.

Melissa, please don't apologize. I sound so ungrateful, cribbing about your challenge when it got me to writing something outside my confort zone. You are right, it would have been better with some more dialogue.