Post #74 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett
WELCOME TO WOMEN’S MEMOIRS CONTEST VALENTINE’S DAY READATHON
This is the fifth Valentine’s Day Memoir Contest story to be published in our first-ever ReadAThon. In this blog, we’re announcing the Grand Winner for our second category — Worst Valentine’s Day that Turns Positive. Each hour, for 11 hours, we are publishing an award-winning Valentine’s Day story.
We have four categories–
Worst Valentine’s Day
Worst Valentine’s Day Eventually Becoming Positive (Might Take Many Years)
Best Valentine’s Day
Most Humorous Valentine’s Day (In Retrospect, If Not at the Time)
and are publishing the award winners in that sequence. For each category, we publish the winner followed by the runner(s) up in alphabetical order.
Worst Valentine’s Day (Becoming Positive): Grand Winner
WHAT IS LOVE?
We are not traditional celebrants. We have been known to forget each other’s birthdays and we don’t buy presents at Christmas. It’s not that we don’t give each other gifts: we just prefer to be spontaneous rather than programmed by the calendar.
We tend to remember the date we met, 3rd February 1985. Twenty-three years later, we even remember the date we were married. But not necessarily on the right day. Last year an email from my mother reminded me it was our wedding anniversary. So, as you might imagine, Valentine’s Day doesn’t appear on our radar at all, which is perhaps why I was so astonished when he led me into his studio one February 14th to find his drawing board opened flat and decorated with a circle of flickering tea-lights. He’d poured glasses of our favourite red wine, prawns were sizzling in butter and garlic, and two filets mignon were waiting to be seared.
It was a meal he’d been preparing in secret all afternoon, while I worked in my writing shed in the corner of the garden. He was leaving and entering through the back of the house, taking the long way around, down the drive and into the side door of the studio loaded with shopping bags, pans, plates, silverware and cloth napkins.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Blods” he said, using his nickname for me. “I thought it would be fun.”
And it was.
Later that evening, after we’d abandoned the table and washing up in the studio until the next morning, after we’d gone back to the house and curled up on the sofa in the house to watch a movie, he remembered he hadn’t locked up. Less that a couple of minutes later he was back.
“The studio’s on fire,” he said.
“Yeah…,” I laughed.
“I’m not kidding,” he said.
And he wasn’t.
It was like a scene from a satanic ritual. All it needed was a virgin and a flaming crucifix. A circle of fire, that had previously been tea-lights, was burning through the top of the drawing table, melting the rigid plastic that in turn was dropping onto and melting the floor protector. The fire itself was easy to contain with wet towels but what we couldn’t understand was the network of thin black strands everywhere, hanging from the wooden beams, from lights, from the tops of windows and doors, like soot covered cobwebs.
“Synthetics,” the insurance assessor told us a few days later. “When plastics and synthetic fibres burn they give off fumes that harden into strands.”
We did laugh about it in the end. After a heated exchange about who was supposed to blow out the candles. After the insurance company had hiked our premium. After we’d pondered on Valentine’s Day and the word, synthetic. We laughed.
We’ve avoided, perhaps more consciously than we realise, any February 14th celebrations ever since. But one February, while I was working away from home as a writer-in-residence, I was fishing around in my purse in the middle of a workshop for a pen when I touched something I didn’t recognise. I pulled out a small, handmade book, with red and gilt wooden boards.
“A Little Book of Wonder,” it said on the first page, in his handwriting, and on the next: please read slowly and carefully. . .
I turned each page.
read read read read
write write write write
Fire in my heart. I carry it with me always.
Lynne Rees, The Hungry Writer