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The Easter That Wasn’t November 5, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Art & Photography, Fiction, Word Play.

I pulled the photo out of the shoebox hidden in the back of dad’s closet. Memories came flooding back.

I remember everything about the Easter that wasn’t. Everything.

The day dawned dark and cloudy.  The sun shone somewhere, but it couldn’t break through the insistent gloom which colored everything in our world a somber gray.  Everything.

Dad dressed us in our Sunday clothes, his countenance as dark and forbidding as the sky. 

While pulling up Timmy’s slacks, he started talking.  Rambling really.  I don’t think he meant for us to hear.  His words spilled out like raindrops.  Cascading tears.  Coating everything with wet sadness.  Everything.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  She was supposed to be here too.  With us.  Not gone.”

On our way to church, a neighbor stopped us.  She meant well, I suppose, but we didn’t want our picture taken.  We didn’t want to remember this day.  The Easter that wasn’t.  We just wanted it to be over.  To be behind us.  We wanted to leave everything behind.  Everything.

We stared at the camera, but the smiles wouldn’t come . . . no matter how hard she coaxed.   I wonder she tried at all.  Would she have smiled in like situation?  I doubt it. 

Even then, at age three, I questioned her sanity.

At the church, the minister greeted us at the door and escorted us to the front pew.  There, we sat, ramrod straight, staring at the casket.  And the cross.  Our backs to everything else.  Everything.

Dad’s words filtered back, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  She was supposed to be here too.  With us.  Not gone.”

During the service, dad didn’t have to remind us to stop fidgeting once.  That was never his job anyway.  That was mom’s job.

And now she was gone.  And everything changed.  Everything.  

* * * * *

I chose to write FICTION for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge:  A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words (“tell a story based on this picture”).

Image Source:  Michelle W ~ Weekly Writing Challenge


1. Gretchen Saathoff - November 5, 2012

Your dad looks a lot like mine! Same hairstyle. My dad was tall and lanky.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Hi Gretchen! This isn’t a cherished family photo . . . from my family anyway. Although the little girl’s Easter outfit is almost identical to one I wore at that age. Mine was yellow.

This picture came from the WP Weekly Writing challenge and this short story is complete fiction . . . telling what was going on behind the scenes just before and after the shutter snapped.

2. nuvofelt - November 5, 2012

The hardest of times. Thanks so much for sharing.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, nuvofelt. Fortunately for me, this post is Fiction . . . in response to the WP Weekly Writing Challenge. Having just lost my dad in June, writing about the loss of a parent did hit rather close to home.

nuvofelt - November 5, 2012

Well done, very graphic!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, nuvofelt. I write more non-fiction than fiction, but it’s always a pleasure to imagine a story into being.

3. suzicate - November 5, 2012

Way to work with a prompt!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Suzi! The girl’s Easter coat and bonnet pulled me in . . . I had one just like it at that age. Mine was yellow.

My Easters were sunny and warm and filled with smiles and all good things . . . no matter what the weather chose to do. Except for the year my grandmother died right around Easter. That was a tough one.

4. speccy - November 5, 2012

Great, Nancy!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, speccy. I’ve been reading the other submissions . . . people went in so many different directons . . . a CIA spy living a double life . . . a cuckholded husband holding the hands of kids he knows are not his . . . a mother trying to coax smiles from her family, etc.

5. Pocket Perspectives - November 5, 2012

Powerful writing!…thank goodness it’s fiction…but of course, shock and bewilderment over the loss of a loved one is universal.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Kathy. Good point. Our experiences of loss enable us to step into the little girl’s shoes and see how dreary the world looked to her that day.

6. Tori Nelson - November 5, 2012

Oh, whew. I’m so glad this is fiction. I was about to break my computer trying to hug you through it 🙂 Beautifully written, lady!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Aww . . . thanks, Tori! Virtual hugs are ever appreciated, especially at the sadder moments in life. As I wrote this, my heart went out to the wee motherless bairn.

7. colonialist - November 5, 2012

Beautifully done! A well-written and likely scenario for that picture. You should try a short story with P’Kaboo Publishers who are inviting them for an e-book-and-maybe-soft-cover; you really should!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Col! I appreciate your support. 😀

I don’t write much fiction these days, but I shall take a peek at P’Kaboo Publishers.

8. Mary Queyja - November 5, 2012

I was three years old when I attended, rather didn’t attend, my mother’s funeral. My Aunt Beatrice let me run back and forth across the church’s porch to entertain me during the memorial service, then took me after the burial to sit on the mound of earth where she explained that my mother was in heaven.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Hi Mary. I didn’t realize you were so young when you lost your mother. Death is hard to fathom at that age. I’m glad your Aunt Beatrice helped you through it. I didn’t attend my first funeral until age 13 . . . my grandmother’s. That was soon enough.

9. ryoko861 - November 5, 2012

For a minute there I wasn’t sure if this was real or not, then I saw that you chose to write a “fiction” piece. Wow, that was good!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Irene! When I saw this photo prompt, I had to dive in ~ that girl’s outfit is just like the one I wore at her age on Easter. Only mine was yellow, not pink. And my face was wreathed in grins.

ryoko861 - November 5, 2012

You can tell that those in the picture are pained about something! It really looks like they would rather be somewhere else!

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

In “antique” photos, people often stared unsmiling at the camera . . . in part, because they had to hold the pose for so long that I smile would begin to look forced.

But when I was that little girl’s age, especially when we posed for “dress up” shots, I generally had a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye . . . because something FUN was on the horizon ~ presents, cake, a party, a holiday dinner, or something else worth celebrating.

This family of three doesn’t look like they have anything to celebrate looming on the horizon.

BTW: WP is going to give us the “straight scoop” on this photo next week when they post the new challenge. I’m intrigued to hear what really led up to this snapshot.

10. kateshrewsday - November 5, 2012

Gracious, Nancy, amazing write! That was an fantastic piece. I love the doubting the sanity of the photographer but. It rang so true. Fantastic post.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Kate! I don’t post much fiction on SLTW, but this challenge tapped me on the shoulder as soon as I saw the little girl in the photo. She and her stoic little soldier of a brother.

And I had to wonder at the photographer . . . who chose to capture those grim expressions, rather than waiting for a “sunnier” day?

11. jannatwrites - November 5, 2012

This story is realistic, but I knew that it wasn’t about you simply because your mom stayed with you for a bit over the summer. (Good thing I knew that or I just might have cried :))

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Excellent powers of deduction, Janna. I’m pleased to report that mom is Alive and Well and Living in Colorado. 😀

12. judithhb - November 5, 2012

So glad that was fiction Nancy. It really touched me and I thought how hard it would have been for you – just 3 years old – and then I saw the ending. 🙂

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Judith. When I read fiction, I want to see characters behaving the way people would behave in real life. When the writing gets too far-fetched, I lose interest.

13. Booksphotographsandartwork - November 5, 2012

You really had me going there. I was thinking well it must have been her mom and the other mom she has been talking about is her stepmom. I sure don’t remember being three years old.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Linda. I don’t remember much at that age, but I do remember snippets of days here and there. I expect losing a parent, even at that age, would make a lasting impression.

And, you’re right, my mom is my mom . . . not my step-mom.

14. Patricia - November 5, 2012

So good! No…so great! I hope you write more fiction in the future. Captivating story.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, Patricia! So glad you enjoyed it. 😀

Maybe more fiction is in the cards for the future. Oddly enough, I added a Fiction category for SLTW just last night. I’ve started tagging the fiction posts I’ve done to it, but probably have a few more to dig out of the archives.

Patricia - November 5, 2012

I will check it out. But I am on a timer here you know…so it may be awhile.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Same here. I ran out of steam last night. Who knows when I’ll gather up the rest of them.

Time is our most valuable commodity . . . and pays dividens when we spend it wisely. 😀

15. sufilight - November 5, 2012

Very well done, Nancy! I almost believed the story just as we do when watch a movie and have emotions triggered.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks so much, Marie. I love it when I’m so engrossed in a story that the rest of the world falls away . . . it’s a mini-vacation. 🙂

16. Andra Watkins - November 5, 2012

Nancy, this story captures so many of these should-have-been moments. Well done.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Now you’ve got me pondering, Andra . . . wondering about what happened next:

* Did he remarry? Was the step-mother kind to his kids? Did she have kids of her own?

* Did he share stories of his first wife with the kids, letting them know who their mother had been? Or was it “mum’s the word”?

* Did he start drinking and grow disheveled? Or become a control freak with obsessive compulsive tendencies?

Andra Watkins - November 5, 2012

There’s always the series to explore those questions. That’s largely why I do them. 🙂

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

WP is going to give us the “straight scoop” on this photo next week when they post the new challenge. I’m intrigued to hear what really led up to this snapshot.

If the characters stay with me, or haunt my dreams, perhaps I’ll write more of their story. We’ll see.

17. Tammy - November 5, 2012

Ouch. I know that story all too well.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

It’s sad when kids lose one or both parents at a young age. Life is so precarious.

18. klrs09 - November 5, 2012

Loved it. What a great photo — the way they’re standing so stiff and apart from one another. You capture the bleakness quite well.

nrhatch - November 5, 2012

Thanks, klrs. WP picked a terrific photo for this challenge ~ one that made me wonder about the history behind it.

19. Jas - November 6, 2012

It was so emotionally charged Nancy. For a while I thought it was not fiction.

nrhatch - November 6, 2012

Fact is often stranger than fiction . . . fiction has to be believeable or it seems contrived.

In real life, people don’t have those same constraints. I often walk around in dazed amazement, shaking my head in disbelief at the antics of others. 😉

20. Perfecting Motherhood - November 6, 2012

Wow, that’s quite a morbid take on this challenge, and I liked it!

I don’t have time to come up with a story but I think I would have used a funny angle. As in, Mom is enjoying a day at the spa and Dad and the kids can’t believe they’re stuck with each other for the whole day. And that little girl is freezing her butt off because Dad forgot to put her darn stockings on…

nrhatch - November 6, 2012

Ooh . . . I like that, Milka! Maybe mom is dragging everyone to afternoon tea, or the museum, or to some other “affair” for which they don’t care. I checked out several other posts about this photo . . . and the stories went in so many interesting directions.

21. sweetdaysundertheoaks - November 6, 2012

And what a great piece of fiction it is Nancy. I was just hanging and hanging until the end! It took me a second to figure it out and then I read your explanation in comments. Very good!! More.. 🙂

nrhatch - November 6, 2012

Thanks, Pixie. Maybe I’m focused on FICION because I’m jealous of NaNoWriMo writers who are immersed in worlds of their own making and somewhat oblivious to the static in the real world . . . like last minute campaigning. Ack! 🙄

22. Divina F - November 6, 2012

I’m reading everyone’s response to this challenge, and I love how a lot of us are in agreement that this family is going to church.

I like your use of narrative voice here.

nrhatch - November 6, 2012

Thanks, Divina. I read quite a few of the submissions too and loved all the different directions they took . . . a CIA spy living a double life . . . a cuckholded husband holding the hands of kids he knows are not his . . . a mother trying to coax smiles from her family, etc.

I’ll be around shortly to check out your contribution.

nrhatch - November 6, 2012

As it turns out, I can’t find your contribution . . . can you shoot me the link here?

Divina F - November 6, 2012

sorry about that. I just changed my primary blog and some other things…

it’s here: http://gravityofgirl.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/weekly-writing-challenge-003-nov-06-a-picture-is-worth-1000-words-der-witwer/

nrhatch - November 6, 2012

Thanks. Interesting take on the theme. 😉

23. Three Well Beings - November 7, 2012

I like this piece, Nancy. You could surely take it and go on with it. It is a provocative photo, and I think you really dug into it! Your words would be a great opening passage to more!

nrhatch - November 7, 2012

Thanks, Debra. It does sound like the beginning of a longer story in which the narrator is going to explain, in first person, how everything changed. But I’m not compelled to write it . . . at this point, any rate. Just a fun little challenge.

I haven’t read all submissions (far from it), but my favorite is by Dianne Gray. She’s featured on the Fly By widget if you’re interested.

24. evesreflections - November 7, 2012

such a sad story, i can see it in the photo, the tension flowing from the dad to the children

nrhatch - November 7, 2012

If you need a laugh, visit Dianne Gray and check out her post based on the same photo ~ she’s featured on the Fly By widget.

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