“Nain” – A character profile

Welcome to the online home of Colwyn Bay Writers’ Circle. We are here to encourage and inspire each other to practise, share, and learn our craft of writing. We meet weekly in the real world to read our work and take turns to set writing challenges as “homework” for reading at the next session. It’s all very informal – none of us are tutors or professional writers, just people with a passion for story-telling and poetry, people like me who want to explore the magic of words.

This week’s assignment, chosen by Cath, was to write a character profile of about 300 words; it could be a real person, or an imagined character. I chose somebody I knew very well, and ended up with almost a eulogy. The process of writing it flowed in a way that surprised me. I enjoyed it, in a poignant sort of way, and I’m glad I wrote it.  Thanks, Cath, for the task!

Nain

She is a small woman, frail-looking but confident; her eyes know what they see and she will brook no argument. She is sprightly on her feet and possessed of an energy which belies her years. She has always been old, to me, as though she was born that way. Her skin is as soft as folded velvet and her hair white as clouds. She is the epitomy of independence and yet the lynchpin of our world, a brisk and determined free spirit and at the same time the rock solid pillar holding up the roof of our home.

She has long buried her griefs and they will not resurface until she nears her death; even then she will push them back into the locked drawer of her past – she is no Pandora. Only talk of the workhouse makes her shiver; that is the only fate I have ever known her to admit fearing – that, and societal disgrace. She is at her sharpest and least forgiving when she senses shame knocking at the family door.

She smells of lavender and Pond’s cream. When I enter her room I know I am intruding, but it holds a fascination for me, it looks like another age. On her dressing table there stands a single photo of a man I have never known, who has been waiting in the earth by the church for her since before I was born. She does not trust me with the thread she holds – the memory of him – that joins them; the thread it is too precious and too fragile to be entrusted to a child. There is mystery there that I will not unravel.

I am very young and she is old. Her many siblings come and go through our kitchen, keeping alive their own threads that shimmer like spider silk, all connected to this tiny woman who took on the role of caregiver and wage-earner when her own parents fell ill. One by one they pass on, though she is almost the eldest, leaving her to tuck the ends of their lives into her pocket whilst she continues, indominatable, making the most of 103 years. She seems immortal.

Once, towards the end, she wakes and cries; she is dreaming of her mother. We have never known her cry before. Now she has time.

©2015

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