Write On!

Lanie and Fred

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

by Jill Clingan

My writing prompt was to write a story based on this photo.  When I looked at the photo last week, I thought through different scenarios for a story.  Perhaps they just had their 50th wedding anniversary party.  The couple is still in their party clothes (I named them Lanie and Frank one early morning).  If I had on that dress I wouldn’t want to take it off yet, either, even if the party were long over.  Frank’s tux might be a little tight on him.  I think he had knee replacement surgery a few months ago and got a little hooked on daytime TV rather than walking the neighborhood.  Now that he is dancing again, though, maybe he and Lanie will start going out to the VFW and spending their Friday nights sweeping across the dance floor.

I even had this idea that while they had danced and laughed through their 50 years of marriage, their life had been hard.  Maybe doctor bills had piled up or bad investments had drained their nest egg.  Maybe they had lost their home, and then for their anniversary their sweet children bought them this tract house in a modest but friendly neighborhood.  They were dancing outside because they had a backyard again and because Lanie could once again hang clothes on the line.  Maybe their children had blindfolded them and taken them to this undisclosed location and voila!  Here was their surprise 50th wedding anniversary celebration and gift of a house all wrapped up into one happy day.

That’s as far as I got in the story, though, because I kept getting stuck on the clothes on the clothesline.  What is hanging there, exactly?  I see some lavender pajama pants with lace trim.  Are they cotton or a polyester blend?  They look kind of big for Lanie.

And what is that green thing in the middle?  A slip?  Knee-length pajama pants?

Whose plaid pajama pants are hanging on the right?  Lanie’s?  Fred’s?  Those legs are awfully wide.

And then I started to panic.

I am supposed to come up with something creative to write from this photo prompt, and I can’t get past those blasted pajamas hanging on the clothesline!

The most creative thing I could come up with is that their children, whose silly sense of humor matched that of their carefree parents, hung out the pajamas the two of them had been wearing since the 90’s.  Perhaps that is the secret to a lasting marriage: long-wearing, tacky pj’s.

Actually, in a moment (just one!) of distraction, the pajamas on the clothesline reminded me of my neighbors growing up.  The wife’s name was Laynie, now that I think about it.  She always hung her bras and underwear on her clothesline.  And her collection of wigs.

Now that would have been a good photo story prompt.

I am obviously quite pathologically distracted.  This is a bad mindset for creative story-telling.

I need to quit looking at the pajamas and focus on the couple.

Ah, that’s it.  I keep shying away from focusing on the couple.

They do make me smile.  They look happy and carefree and in love.  I love Lanie’s dress—how fun it would be to twirl in that dress.  And I love it that when Frank isn’t wearing plaid pajama pants he can clean up nicely in a sharp tux.  I love it that they are dancing in their back yard.

But the photo bothers me.

Someday I want to look like Lanie and Frank.  Well, not look like them, exactly.  My hair will miraculously stay dark brown, thin skin will not stretch across a wrinkled face, and I won’t have dentures (doesn’t it look to you like Lanie has dentures?).  Also, Matt will still have hair, he won’t need glasses, and his ears won’t get big (were Frank’s ears always that large?).

But seriously.  Look at them.  Lanie’s head is thrown back in erupting laughter and joy.  Frank is grinning at Lanie with equal doses of adoration and joy.

I don’t look like that now.  Why would I believe I am going to look like that then?

If my children were taking that picture of Matt and me now, I would worry about how the laundry would look in the background.  I would insist that we take the laundry off the line, go put it away, and then come back outside to dance and take the picture.

By then, of course, the magic of the moment would be gone.

Let me give you an example.

Last week I had a meeting unexpectedly cancelled on Tuesday evening.  Matt then sent me the following email:

Maybe tonight we could pack a dinner and take a bike ride to a park where Amélie and I can practice our karate?

Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Doesn’t that sound like a moment to capture for the photo collage for our own 50th wedding anniversary celebration someday?

Here was my response:

That sounds perfectly lovely, but if we don’t clean our house tonight it has to be done over the weekend.  I hate to be a fun Nazi, but I want my house clean.  And I realize that if my appointment had not been cancelled the house wouldn’t get clean, but I was already stewing this morning about how we would have to clean over the weekend.  Maybe I can clean it today.  But I doubt it, because I still need to finish school with Amélie and start on dinner and figure out what to do about the field trips I don’t want to plan.

So much for a photo collage moment.

Would you like to know how Matt responded?

Ah.  Ok.  That sounds fine.  We’ll put on Footloose for the kids and clean!

And that’s what we did.  And Matt didn’t complain that he would rather have packed a picnic, ridden our bikes to the park, and practiced karate with Amélie.

If I can’t dance in my backyard now, with things like laundry on the line and dishes in the sink and floors unswept, how can I expect that my senior-citizen self will be dancing in my back yard someday with my senior-citizen husband while our tacky sleepwear hangs on the clothesline?

If only I could just be.

If only my soul were not devoured by duty.

If only I could forget about the clothes on my clothesline, don a twirly dress, throw my head back in unabashed, joyous laughter, and dance.

Last night I printed out that picture of Lanie and Fred.  I taped it to my bathroom mirror.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

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  1. I bet Lanie and Fred had to clean their house too. I bet she nagged him and he neglected her and I bet they pulled through and that’s why they laugh. That’s just me though 🙂 Thanks for always writing such wonderful pieces Jill. You are truly talented!

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