This morning as a needed distraction, I finally got around to working on one of the writing prompts from 642 Things to Write About. On my summer bucket list, I had hoped to try out at least one writing prompt a week, and today’s attempt was a good reminder that I need to stay in practice! (Perhaps I should add that goal to my Autumn Bucket list this year!) It has been quite a while since I’ve done any creative writing, and I definitely need some brushing up. However, without further adieu, I’ve decided to share what I came up with today here with you.
The Prompt: A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson
There were six squares in each window pane, and each one could form the perfect picture frame for a scene outside. Eleanor thought about this, sipping her morning coffee and adjusting her viewpoint for each square as though she were looking through the lens of a camera. That little blue house across the road looks just right at this angle, she thought. The simple, cottage-style house fills the right two-thirds of the frame, and leaves the left third of the frame open for the green bushes on the bottom and the arching, yellowing leaves peaking in at the top. Yes, Eleanor nodded to herself, composing a picture in thirds often makes it more interesting.
Eleanor slurped her coffee and considered the flavor filling her palate. This morning’s coffee was an autumn blend, matching the fall shadows blanketing the trees outside, the brisk air, and the calm feeling that came over Eleanor every year after summer had passed. With the autumn coffee lingering on her tongue, Eleanor took a bite of a homemade coffee cake scone, closing her eyes and trying to recognize individual flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice.
She had so much time to bake these days. It was something she always loved. She sometimes donated her baked goods to church-related organizations, brushing people off when they tried to approach her and ask her about her delicious recipes. Her nose would crinkle up and she’d hobble away, waving her hands as though she were shooing a fly. It had always been difficult for her to accept compliments, though she secretly loved the attention she got for the things she made. She remembered her grandchildren going wild over her jam tarts when they were little. Each tart would be shaped differently, and Eleanor used several jams as fillings. Apricot, raspberry, blueberry, kiwi…the tarts filled the table like a rainbow.
Eleanor smiled as she remembered their tiny little fingers reaching for one tart after another. She lightly touched the smooth surface of the same table the tarts had been spread across years ago, tracing the knots of the wood in several places before reaching for her coffee cup and gazing back outside.
Those are new neighbors, Eleanor observed, looking out a different window pane. A young man and woman carried cardboard boxes from a blue station wagon into the quaint red brick house. The woman wore a simple white cotton tee-shirt dress with navy blue leggings and flats, her long strawberry blond hair pulled into a loose pony tail. The man wore jeans, loafers and a three-quarter sleeve plaid button-up shirt. His dark brown hair was a little long and messy, his smile wide and happy.
Eleanor shifted her focus to the boxes. The last time she moved must have been thirty years ago or more. What had she brought with her, from place to place? Books, bowls, blankets. Cats, cups, and candles. Usual things, she supposed. Eleanor wondered what would fill the red brick house across the street–what would be neatly unpacked from all of the boxes as the couple made their house a home. She stood from her chair and held onto the wall for support as she made her way closer to the window that framed the young couple moving in.
Pushing a stray strand of silver hair from her face, Eleanor squinted outside, trying to make out the faces of the couple. She started, suddenly, eyebrows raised with a look of disbelief. Could that be… No, no. Eleanor had thought she’d seen her grandchildren all over town for years, realizing she was always wrong, always creating an embarrassing scene. It had been so long since she had seen any of them. That’s how life worked, she supposed: over time, people spread out all over the globe and got caught up in life, forgetting about grandmothers. There just isn’t always time for grandmothers.
This man across the street looked so much like Noah, her very first grandchild. As she watched him, Eleanor felt a sense hope and comfort in his smile, something familiar in his expression and in his eyes. How would Noah have ended up here, in a house directly adjacent to his old, lonely grandmother? And furthermore, why wouldn’t he have told her, or come to visit? Surely if Noah were to be that close in proximity to his grandmother, it couldn’t inconvenience him much to stop by for coffee. She played the scene out in her mind, imagining Noah giving her a great big hug, saying it’s been so long and does she ever make those tarts anymore?
Eleanor shook her head and pulled herself along the table back to her coffee. She slid her cup and her plate over to the opposite side, sitting down in front of it with a new view out the windows. It couldn’t be Noah. Eleanor turned her attention to her scone, pushing crumbs onto her fingertips and bringing them to her lips. She squinted up at the blue, cloudless sky out the window. Six new squares to contemplate now, Eleanor thought, and she took another sip of coffee and tried to push Noah from her mind.