Points of View: Three Tales in One

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** In case you noticed that this is the second post today and that things seem to have gotten temporarily out of order, yeah, this post was meant for Tuesday but somehow didn’t get scheduled. Oops! Let’s continue on with our lives now…**

Point of view is something I struggle with as a writer, mainly because of personal preference. I can understand that first-person narrative has it’s place, but I much prefer third-person. When you write in third-person, however, changing point of view can be tricky to accomplish. The narrative “voice” begins to emulate the main character, and thus if you change views to another character suddenly that “voice” doesn’t sound right anymore. That’s my experience anyway.

Today’s assignment aims to help us get used to switching points of view.

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene. Today’s twist: Write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.


 

The Man

Roger looked up at the trees as he walked, wondering what kind they were and whether one would look good in his front yard. He felt a hand snake into his and turned to smile down at Emily. She gave him a playful little wink and swung his hand as they continued down the path. They walked in silence. That was one of the many things Roger loved about Emily – she didn’t feel the need to fill the air with idle chatter.

A little further down the path there was an open area with a duck pond and a semi-circle of wooden benches. The only current occupant of the benches was a woman of about sixty, lazily knitting with bright red wool. Roger’s eye was drawn to the red knit creation. It was a very small sweater. A child’s sweater.

Roger stopped dead in his tracks, almost pulling Emily down in his abruptness. He felt a burning sensation rise in his throat, and before he could stop himself there were tears springing to the corners of his eyes.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Emily asked. She looked in the direction Roger was staring, and it was clear she didn’t understand.

“The sweater,” Roger croaked. Embarrassed, he swiped at his eyes to chase away the treacherous tears. “The red sweater.”

Emily’s eyebrows knitted together. She looked at the old woman and back to Roger again.

“It’s stupid,” Roger grumbled. He had no idea how he was going to redeem his manliness after this. “It’s just that… My mom… She was knitting a red sweater for the baby. She never got to finish.” Unable to look Emily in the eye, he reached out and placed both his hands on her bulging belly.”

After a moment, Emily wrapped her arms around Roger’s waist, and together they stood and worked through the moment. “It’s okay, honey. It’ll be okay.”

The Woman

Emily took a deep breath of fresh air and reveled in being amongst nature for the first time in days. She understood why Roger had wanted to stay sequestered away inside for a while, but she’d begun to get a little shack-wacky herself.

Speaking of Roger, he’d been staring quite studiously at the trees for quite some time now. She sidled up next to him and twisted her fingers into his. He turned at the touch and gave her a sweet, but sad, smile. She winked and pulled him along with a playful swing of the arm. She longed to ask him what he was thinking about, but she bit her tongue instead. She didn’t want to tormet him.

She rubbed her belly with her free hand as they walked. It was getting close. Any day now.

All of a sudden Roger stopped dead and Emily – still holding his hand – nearly went toppling over backward from her own momentum. She almost admonished him for stopping so abruptly, but when she turned to look at him she saw tears in his eyes.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked. She followed his haunted gaze, but all she saw was an old woman knitting on a bench.

“The sweater,” Roger replied in a hoarse voice while wiping tears from his face. “The red sweater.”

Emily frowned a little and looked back at the old woman. Sure enough, she seemed to be fashioning a small red sweater.

“It’s stupid,” Roger grumbled. He sounded like he was trying his very hardest not to burst into sobs. “It’s just that… My mom… She was knitting a red sweater for the baby. She never got to finish it.” His glassy eyes fell to the ground and his hands reached out to caress Emily’s belly.

She felt her heart break for him. It was going to be like this for a while, she told herself. He was going to keep being reminded of her by every little thing.

After a moment she wrapped her arms around her dear Roger and held him close. One day at a time, she told herself. One day at a time. Aloud she cooed quietly, “It’s okay, honey. It’ll be okay.”

The Old Woman

Ester chose her bench in front of the duck pond and gingerly lowered her old body down onto the seat. She observed the playful ducklings for a little while before pulling her purse onto her lap. She rummaged through the mess that was in the large bag. One by one she pulled out her two knitting needles, her ball of red yarn, and her most recent project.

As she readied herself to put the final touches on the little red sweater, the senior nurse thought about the reason she had decided to take on this particular project.

She should have retired ages ago, but she just enjoyed her work at the hospital so much. Taking care of people was important to her, especially at this stage in life in which she had no one of her own to take care of. So she stayed, and it was because she stayed that she had come across the Anderson lady.

Ester had only spoken to Mrs Anderson once, when she’d been covering a shift for one of her coworkers. The chart outside Mrs Anderson’s door had indicated that she was terminal, and that it would be any day now, but when Ester entered the room she was surprised to find the dying woman sitting up in her bed, hands busy knitting what appeared to be a little red sweater. She told Ester that the sweater was for her grandchild, whom they were all still waiting for. She said it all with a smile on her face.

Ester cried when she found out that the lovely, high-spirited lady had passed on before that grandchild arrived. She cried again when she cleaned out the hospital room and found the unfinished red sweater sitting in a drawer next to the bed. She decided right then and there that she had to finish the sweater. She would worry about tracking down the family later…when she had the finished product ready to give to them.

She was sure that having this last present from their matriarch would make them so happy. She smiled at that thought as the knitting needles clicked and clacked away.

A Childish Memory: Blessing or Curse?

I often say that when dealing with kids we should try very hard to remember what it was like to be one. I honestly believe that this is very good advice, but sometimes it can also be a bit of a curse.

When I was a little kid, I had a hard time sharing. Actually, I should reword that: I didn’t have a problem sharing when it came to other kids’ toys, but I was awful about it when it came to my own toys. The problem, I suspect, stemmed from when I was quite young and my cousin hid my Playskool flashlight while we were both staying at our grandmother’s house. When my parents came to pick me up it was still hidden and he insisted that he couldn’t remember where he’d put it. My grandmother did manage to find it before we left, but I was freaking out there for a few minutes because the thought of leaving a toy behind was absolutely unthinkable. It might seem like an innocuous event, but remember that small things can feel like a big, big deal to a kid. From that day forward I had formulated the belief that if I let other kids touch my toys they would hide them, steal them, or break them. Not a good attitude, but one I was powerless to expel from my head.

Now that I’m a parent, surprisingly, I find this attitude is still very much prevalent in the back of my mind. Recently we had our niece stay over for a night, and the two girls had a blast together, but every so often our niece would start playing with (what was evidently) the wrong thing, and my daughter would have a mini-breakdown. The first time it was her My Little Ponies. She had five of them lined up on the table in front of her when Niece ran over and took one to put in the farmhouse play set. Daughter looked like she was going to have the tantrum of a lifetime, complete with big, sooky, quivering lip. She couldn’t have looked any more upset if Niece had tossed the toy in a bonfire while laughing maniacally.

So here’s where “parent” brain began to have a vicious duel-to-the-death with “I totally remember exactly what it felt like to be in that position” brain. Of course I had to tell Daughter that she had to share, and that it was going to be fine, that she could have her pony back when Niece was done with it. But in my mind, while looking into those tear-filled little eyes, I was positively screaming bloody murder. Niece did absolutely nothing wrong (Daughter wasn’t even really playing with the pony at the time…it just happened to be physically in front of her), but my natural instinct was to tell Niece that the pony belonged to Daughter and to give it back right now.

This, my friends, is the curse of remembering (truly remembering) what it felt like to be a kid. Every time I try to teach my daughter a life lesson I get vivid flashes of memories from my own parents trying to do the same thing. The result is that I recall how frustrating it was to go through that as a child, as well as experiencing how frustrating it is from the adult’s point-of-view right this minute. It’s really just a vicious cycle of never-ending frustration.

Here’s another example to prove this wasn’t an isolated incident: food. I can remember, quite clearly in fact, my mother demanding that I eat my carrots when I was little. I hated carrots, and I couldn’t understand what was so damn important about my consuming them, especially when my father would side with me by saying things like, “There’s no point in trying to force it down her throat if she doesn’t like it.” Nowadays, here I am dealing with a picky eater who doesn’t even want to try things, and while I know that she has to have variety and that she can’t just get out of supper every night by saying she doesn’t like it, I keep flashing back to those feelings of, “Why would you force me to eat something I hate?!

I still believe that remembering what it’s like to be a kid is a good thing, but having too vivid a memory can definitely interrupt parental instinct a bit, and this is something I have a lot of trouble with. I’m working through it one instance at a time (while grinding my teeth down to little nubs), but it’s harder than it sounds.

Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid? Do you think that this makes it easier or harder to deal with children now that you’re grown? Do you ever have to restrain yourself from having childish outbursts because of how you acted as a kid? Please share!