For this writing competition, we asked you to write about the complexities of family life and what happens once a family gathering is over. We had some very realistic and imaginative scenarios but we loved these winning submissions. Congratulations to the three winners.
1st Prize: £500.00 Vicky Thomas
2nd Prize: £300.00 P. Thompson
3rd Prize: £200.00 Ginny Jones
After the Visit
by Vicky Thomas
I’d never known such turmoil in my life. I come from a family background when children behave in a certain way and the word of an adult rules. Apparently, it does not here in this new family environment of mine. I felt like a fish out of water. The children, millions of them it seemed, had an answer for everything and they were downright cheeky too. They drew on the walls of the bedroom covering the new wallpaper in stick-like figures that would never resemble art, no matter how many cocktails I consumed. One child had broken their bed, apparently, doing a somersault on it even though they had been well and truly tucked in that night. Another had swung on the curtains in an attempt to close them, the result, a wooden curtain rail on the head. It had been a whirlwind of family entertainment and activities the like of which I had never experienced. Chaotic, dramatic and frankly, bewildering.
I felt drained, no, exhausted. I also felt overwhelmingly grumpy and contemplating serious life decisions. I was way out of my depth here. So, what tied me to this never-ending torturous line up of family events? My love for Karl. He was perfect, in so many ways, if only his family were not breeding like rabbits. The worst part was, he loved every second of the time he spent with them. He transformed from a serious man working in a high-powered job in the stock markets, one who came home stressed, tired and more than a little irritable, and yet now, he was a born-again teenager. The metamorphosis should have been recorded in the Natural History Museum as frankly, it was staggering.
One girl, adorable to look at, had turned into some demonic creature. She had been fostered into the family so initially, I felt sorry for her, but unlike me, she seemed to revel in her rebellious antics, encouraging the others to take their pranks a step further. The more rebellious she became, the more distant I felt, from them all really. I hated that I felt this way. I wanted to be this kind, caring maternal figure, but, I just couldn’t relate to this huge family group. They all shouted over the top of everyone else. The noise was deafening, and that was just the adults. Individually, they were all nice, but together, it was like an aging group of delinquents. The children were left to run riot, it didn’t seem to matter about my broken fence or, the new trail of hurried footsteps beating a trail through my newly landscaped garden sections. They spent hours shrieking from the tops of trees and I had to beg their parents to go and haul them back down. I felt like I was the chief health and safety officer.
Finally, the self-announced party animals decided to leave and if I’d had the energy, I would have danced with joy, but my head pounded, and my brain was frazzled. Of course, I kept all my inner irritability to myself, my opinions were locked away and I was deeply ashamed that I couldn’t let go and join in the fun. I wanted to but, it just wasn’t my way. I felt I had alienated myself from his family and didn’t know how to make it right, or, even if I should.
A hand-written note shoved at me from the delinquent child as she left dragging her new mother in tow made me question things more. She’d actually thanked me for putting up with her. Imagine that, a teenager who understood what an effort it had been for me. It seemed, she’d been questioning her own place in the family, not able to accept that as a thirteen-year-old, there was a family who would accept or even love her. My apparent calmness and acceptance had in a way, been soothing, offering consistency. Then, she’d realised that everyone within the family was different and that we all had a place within it. I cried when I read those words because this young, troubled teenager had given me something that I couldn’t give myself, permission to be who I am and to accept that we are all different.
So, after the family event and once peace was triumphant, I found myself accepting that if I loved Karl, I had to love all aspects of him and his crazy, family and I will. It just may take some time. Perhaps earplugs might help next time.
Note: We only ever publish the overall winning submission as this enables the other prize winners to place their stories elsewhere. Entry implies acceptance to these rules.