You can read the story here. It’s about identity within the normal day and thoughts of a mother and child, a theme that’s a constant in my writing over the last few years. The Mum in this story is a composite of my Mum and myself. The daughter is a composite of myself and my daughter, as wee ones.
When I was writing the story I was picturing the first house my parents bought in Aberdeen. We moved up from East Kilbride in the first wave of the Scottish oil industry manning up with freshly pressed engineers for drilling out the liquid gold. Aberdeen was growing bigger suburbs every day. Us kids in the new Barratt, Bett and Wimpey estates springing up on previous green belt knew to keep off grass that still looked more brown than green, or someone would shout at you.
Summers seemed hot and long back then, pavements and roads were fresh tarmac black with bright white highlight stones and clean grey kerbs. When a new street was going up, dust from cement mixers travelled then rested; sometimes on the shiny dark green and burgundy leaves of newly planted rose bushes, other times on windows now proudly called double glazing. Trees were never taller than anyone’s Dad because they were all so young – the trees, that is. It was harder to tell the Dad’s ages thanks to beards, interspersed with bald heads, suits, briefcases and randomness.
Skinny Rowans and Cherry Blossoms were sternly tethered with rubbery black straps to thick posts that would hold them upright in winter storms. Then, suddenly, a building site we used to hurry past, turning our faces from the dust in the breeze emerged as a new thing. A Supermarket. We packed groceries into brown paper bags, marvelled at corridors of food, toilet rolls and milk in boxes and wondered if our accents would turn Aberdonian or American.
I remember that time vividly and always fondly. It’s impossible to speak for anyone else, of course, but memories and photos suggest strongly that we were all happy there, very much a family and part of a brand new community.
When I started to write the little girl for this story it was clear immediately that I couldn’t filter more recent memories of my daughter as a toddler out of the building imagery. She and I are very alike in so many ways and memory fades and blooms depending on what the triggers are, I guess. So, I took the story of some shoes I was given by my Mum’s new friend Mary and imagined how they’d be on my daughter’s busy feet, hanging the story off small events I remember from being my Mum’s totey, brown-eyed girl. This is how I go down memory lane with someone who isn’t here anymore; I take my imagination and time travel a bit. It’s good to take someone from the present on these trips, it anchors me in keeping moving forward and feeds the hope of being fondly recalled in my kid’s memories too.
I hope you enjoy the story. It was a treat to write it. My incredible writing tutor – Helen Lamb – told our class a few months ago that shoe memories always hold stories. She was right. What pair do you remember, from when you were wee?