A wise person once said “Do more of what makes you happy!”
Well here’s something that makes me happy: creative writing.
This is a series of short stories loosely based on my childhood. I find it easy to write when it’s based on some fact.
You will have to excuse the prehistoric drawings. I’m using Sony Vaio’s stylus – thoroughly recommend it but I do find the entire stylus-to-screen a little bit unstable when I doodle. How they can make it look good in the “Ads” must certainly be some sort of CGI as I definitely find it challenging. So yes, I usually draw better than this.
So here it is, my 1st short story starring my nanna, my cousins, some extended family and yours truly.
Episode 1: Sun Shower Kids
The flashes come every now and then. I remember the little adventures I used to have as a kid in the family compound.
I can still see their faces as if it were yesterday.
It all began a long long time ago…
I both loved and hated the rain. Just like I loved and hated my cousins Rafael and Joe who lived next door. They were allowed to play in the rain behaving like the rascals they were. It was like a game for them to come around and tease me knowing full well that my grandmother wouldn’t allow any of her own grandchildren out during days like this.
“No. I cannot afford for him to catch a cold and get sick” she would say. “You kids run along now and come back when the sun’s out.” she continued.
Of course they expected as much from my grandmother; she’s kind but strict. The real ‘motherly-type’ of nan that always wrapped her grandchildren in cotton wool.
I’m sure my great aunt thought of Rafael, Joe and her other kids in the same way but when it came to harmless fun like this, my great aunt was a bit more relaxed and let her children behave like, well…‘kids’.
Liz and I were different. Our mothers were always working and so we were left in the care of our grandmother. My mother was the 4th child and Liz’s mother, the 5th in a family of 9. We have 4 older cousins, all girls, from 2 of my older aunties. These cousins were not in the family compound however and they lived quite far, so we would only see them every other weekend. My holidays around the house were mainly spent with Liz. So much so, that I considered her to be my little sister.
Being in the care of my grandmother, meant that we had to comply with her rules. I guess my grandmother felt compelled to provide an added level of care with her grandchildren. Or maybe it was the fact that she had to manage a house with 7 of her own children by herself. Looking after a large family must have been ‘trying’. Not that Liz and I were really naughty kids mind you. It was more of the fact that Nan could not afford for anyone in her care to be sick. With such a large family, it only takes one person to spread it to all.
“Maybe one day you will understand my little man. For now, you will have to trust me when I say no.” she would gently say.
I would stare out the window watching my cousins run around as droplets of water hit the window.
splat – splat
Water hits the window, slowly gliding down before it hits the ledge.
This was torture. My cousins were celebrating the rain while I was kept indoors. This was no different to taking a child to a candy shop and then forbidding them from eating any.
“My dear would you like some fairy bread?” my grandmother would try to console me with our afternoon tea. “Don’t pay attention to your cousins. They will all get sick.”
I would begrudgingly take it. In fact I would have taken anything to ease the sight of watching them play.
I can see another small body wave her hands to join them. It was Julia, my great uncle’s step daughter. She also lived in the family compound and like Joe and Rafael, her mother allowed her to play in the tropical rain.
Now I had 3 wet cousins to watch.
I heard the door slam as Liz joins me straight from her afternoon siesta. She is soon disgusted to see Julia outside. She too would receive the ‘fairy bread compensation’ from nan. We were like siblings through happiness and pain – through the sun and rain.
“But why can’t we join them?” I would protest.
“Nanna – Julia is pulling faces!” Liz would cry.
“Now, now children. We’ve been over this a hundred times before.” my grandmother replied.
“Playing in the rain is simply no good for you two.”
I see a splash of water jump out from a puddle.
The tennis courts in the middle of the family compound were still under construction. When it rained, tiny puddles would form where holes in the ground stood. This was once a car yard where old cars and trucks lay. When the car yard was cleared a year ago, the ground showed visible signs of its old burden, with shape marks of old cars and equipment indented on the ground. This made the ground an easy target for puddles when it rained.
My cousins would focus on these as they would make for a good game of “Beat my Splash“.
I almost heard that through the window and the rain.
Rafael was yelling with joy as if he just stomped in the mother-of-all puddles. Being one of the older kids at 9 years of age, he was the ring leader by default.
He celebrates as we watch despondently. We watch his lips form words with fists raised in the air. We know he is bragging but we cannot hear him.
Splash – Splash
His younger brother Joe followed suit but could not replicate his brother’s success. Joe was the youngest in their family of 6. He is 4 years old, almost a full year younger than I, and only months apart from Liz and Julia.
Although he had other siblings to shadow, he sticks with Rafael the most.
splash – splash
Julia tried even harder.
Being the smallest of the group, her efforts yielded little success. She was thoroughly drenched by this time, masking her blonde hair and fair complexion. Although Rafael and Joe were products of mixed parents giving them distinct features, Julia would stand out even more. She was the only blonde kid in the neighbourhood.
Not that it ever mattered. Kids are kids, family’s family and we all looked after each other as if we all were siblings.
Suddenly, thunder cuts through the air. I could only think of the unfairness of the situation. In my young mind, this was the worst of the worst tortures. I would rather have another tooth fall out.
“This is so unfair” I would think.
I knew Liz would be thinking the same. There were not a lot of things to do during days like this. The brownout ruined our daily dose of Sesame Street. There were no iPhones, tablets or other devices. On any other occasion we would be playing hide-and-seek or house. Or I would talk to her about my favourite super hero and she would respond by talking about her favourite doll.
But I heard the rain outside before I could occupy myself with something else.
And of course, I heard Rafael and Joe’s call.
I guess in turn, Liz heard me complaining when she got up.
That I did hear. It was Rafael sounding shocked from a distance.
Liz and I ran to the window and discovered that the rain had stopped abruptly. We were as shocked as he was; it was just pouring a minute ago and now the sun was out.
“Nan, Liz and I are going out now. The rain has stopped” I proclaimed.
My grandmother sounded as surprised as we were. She looked across the window and noticed the same thing we did. Seemingly unconvinced by the dramatic ceasefire, her head turned towards the sky as if she was waiting for some final approval from god.
“Yes, that is fine children.” she says. “You can go meet your cousins outside now.”
No sooner had Nan finished giving us her approval that we dashed outside to meet our cousins, slamming the door behind us in the process.
Rafael and Joe had long disappointed faces but Julia had a grin.
“You guys just missed all the fun.” she says innocently. “We were jumping on all the puddles over here.” she points to the ground as if we missed watching the action.
I begin to inspect the ground which was deep muddy brown.
Rafael was standing next to a large puddle. This may have been the mother-of-all puddles that he proclaimed his. It is full of water now, a testament to the heavy downpour. He could have jumped on it like he did just moments ago, but was too stunned and stared blankly at it in disbelief.
In the meantime, Joe stood around little pools of water. He had a broken slipper with a dangling strap, leaving part of his foot on the ground. He is drenched like the other two, but he didn’t seem to care. He was more taken aback by the break in the weather.
“Did you see me Liz?” Julia asks as a droplet of water runs down her cheek. “I really wanted you to come out.”
“Nan doesn’t want us to get sick” Liz replies. “She just doesn’t want us to have fun I think.” She appeared to choke those words out.
I looked at Liz waiting for her to cry, but she is holding strong and fighting the tears back. We were in such a rush that she still had sprinkles of the fairy bread around her mouth. I saw her quiver and shake. Anytime now, she was going to start…then.
Unexpected tiny droplets of water hit my arms. I looked at the others and see light rain on them. We all looked towards the heavens; the sun was still out but some heavy clouds have gathered around it, and mist formed around the air. Over in a distance, a rainbow formed.
A sun shower! I’ve only seen this in a couple of other occasions from memory.
I was ecstatic!
Liz eyes widened and at this stage, I could not tell if she was laughing or crying …or both.
I was so excited that I found myself instinctively jump up in the air.
This is when it happened. Time moved still, like freeze frames and slow-moving pictures do. The 1st moment was when I jumped with my knees bent and the muscles in my legs tensed up expecting the upward push. The 2nd moment, I was in the air at my actions midpoint, with my legs tucked firmly into my chest and arms flailing to my side as if they were wings.
The final moment took me by surprise, as it did everyone else.
I landed with a big splash in Rafael’s mother-of-all puddles.
Traces of clear mud from the puddle went all over Rafael. It dripped from the top of his bottom lip right down to his shorts. I clearly did not have Rafael’s bulk and size to make a considerable impact and Beat-his-Splash but my point was made clear; I wanted revenge!
No, not towards Rafael, for he did not cause my situation.
Not towards Joe or Julia, for the way they gloated while playing in the rain.
Not towards my grandmother, who only did what was best for her grandchildren.
Not towards the heavens for the downpour, for these things come naturally and I understood the cycles of the sun and the rain.
I wanted revenge on the situation I was in; it was really no one’s fault.
Rafael looked at me dumbfounded. He might have been annoyed that I just finished his puddle, for the build-up would now take several minutes to refill.
I was standing there frozen in the moment, for what seemed to be like an eternity while my other cousins played in the background.
I saw a small grin form slowly in Rafael’s face. It soon turned into full-blown laughter and celebration!
And there we were; 5 children behaving like ‘kids’.
In the rain.
In the compound.
A wonderful piece of my childhood I carry with me.
Now that I’ve gone through this process of writing, I can well and truly say that the writing process and style is very different from what I am used to. Although I write a lot of documents and emails as part of my work – and there are a few transferrable skills – this entire short-story telling process is a lot more creative and different than what I expected it to be. This is great news, mind you, for I’m always looking for ways to extend myself and learn more about my boundaries…and about myself. I might just write a few more episodes as I have such fond memories of my childhood.
And I have a rich imagination to boot ;)
I would love to hear any comments particularly those who have gone through this style of writing for the first time. How did you feel after your first story?
Note: I have the sequel: Episode 2 “The View from the Umpire’s Chair” here.
On a final note, the day I finished my first draft, was the day we had our own sun shower here in Sydney.
This shot was taken in the morning on my way to work.
It’s as if this story was meant to come out of me :)
PC @ MMA
 You may have picked this up; Rafael and Joe are technically my uncles going by the family line. Because of our large families however, I ended up being close in age to some uncles and aunties. This was not unusual as some of the older children would have families of their own in their late teens / early 20’s while others would have children later in life (around the late 30’s, early 40’s). To simplify, I will refer to them here as my cousins.
 Not completely by herself. The elder children did help out since my grandfather passed away soon after they had their last child. When I say ‘help out’, I mean financially and with some housework. I cannot even imagine cooking and cleaning without a microwave, washing machine, dryer and all other household appliances you get these days. Needless to say, back in those days, cooking and cleaning were done by hand.
 I understand this message completely now. My nan is an absolute godsend to the entire family.
 This was not bread, butter and sprinkles. This was more my Nan’s special of bread, butter and sugar.
 We were kids after all.