Another week and another Charli Mills prompt.
October 15, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has an expectation met or missed. It can be an implied expectation to your reader, or a character’s expectation for an outcome. Think of how expectations can direct a story.
Expectations are high. What will we write?
Let’s start with the word itself. It reminds me of my hubristic youth, my sesquipidalian tendencies. See, like Stephen Fry I enjoyed losing myself in the dictionary, digging out new words. It might have started at the smutty end – discovering priapic was an unalloyed joy; and callipygian was not far behind (yup, a deliberate pun) – but the love of words has never left me. Spelling though is different. I’ve always been a somewhat inconsistent speller. So while I loved showing off my new found vocabulary, I rarely did as well when I wrote them down. In one essay I said (if memory serves) ‘Great Expectorations is one of Dickens’ best loved books’. Quite why I made that error I know not. It’s not even a word. It gave my English master yet another moment to treasure as he ladled humiliation on me: ‘So Le Pard the great master’s classic is about what exactly? A long anticipated spitting contest?’ For my classmates it introduced them to the concept of schadenfreude even if the little toe rags didn’t know the word.
One relative, of the half empty variety admonished me to ‘Expect the worst even if you hope for the best.’ Pre the jubilation and liberation that came with the 1960s (when it wasn’t only hopes that were high) it was thought better to constrain expectations, hold people in their place, stop them getting above themselves. Better to stifle hope than risk disappointment. I’ve quoted him before, John Cleese as Brian Stimpson in Clockwise: ‘It’s not the despair Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.’ That was to be avoided at all cost..
Fortunately I grew to full maturity during a more enlightened time when hope was encouraged as was an expectation that you would do something with it. An expectation that I would take advantage of all the world had to offer was placed on me by my parents. While my father set the family temperature my mother set its philosophy. She had many life lessons she intended to pass on to the Archaeologist and me, one of which she repeated at length. We did not owe our parents anything. They wanted a family, and they were lucky enough to have two sons. It was they who owed us for giving them that gift. It was her way of reducing the burden of guilt that she knew children tend to have towards loving parents who they inevitably and rightly abandon as they grow and spread their wings. She expected us to leave and get the most out of life. She damn nearly demanded it.
It’s a philosophy I buy into. My two treasures are their own people. I expect of them high standards in their effort to use all the skills they have. I expect them to experience as much as life has to offer. So far so good. But I don’t not expect them to feel obliged to come and visit me. Hell, I just bribe them. Fantastic when they do come but it is their call.
The time will come when there’s a clash, when we test this idea. It happened with my parents. When I expected them to be there for me and they had other plans. Part of growing is to realise you mustn’t burden others with your own expectations and be disappointed when they aren’t met. ‘Always be pleasantly surprised.’ That’s my philosophy. If you do something and expect a return or reward then, unless there is a contract, you might be disappointed. Better therefore to do whatever it is for it own sake.
I know that is a mighty big piece of motherhood and apple pie. I know we are all bartering and bargaining with our own and others time and emotions, but to achieve otherwise is my goal.
This has become a bit serious so, to lighten the mood, what about a bit of Python and expectations…?
And so to Mary, who we left in Scotland trying to come to terms with her family in turmoil. If you haven’t followed the story so far, a weekly episode in 99 words, here is the link.
One step forward
Mary sorted through the holiday post; Paul made tea. He said, ‘The lawyers?’
‘What’s he want?’
‘He has dropped the court case.’
Paul sighed. ‘Thank God. That’s it then, is it?’
Mary folded the letter carefully. Why did he think everything could be so neatly tied up? Had he forgotten she was adopted? Rupert, her half-brother was her Father’s only natural child.
‘Are you ok, love?’
She let herself be held. ‘I need to know, Paul.’
Paul stroked her hair.
Mary wiped her eyes. ‘We’d better have him round.’
Paul shivered as a cloud crossed the sun.