In This Lifetime

It’s Carry On Tuesday again.

Today the prompt is a quote from a Robert Frost poem –

A lantern light from deeper in the barn

Shone on a man and woman in the door

Here is my story –

Carrie could hear herself walking in the rain. She remembered the joke Johnny Boy used to make whenever he went out in wet weather – I’m walking on water, he said. She felt a tug at her heart as if a fingernail was lodged there, pulling at the tissue. She would probably never see Johnny Boy again. Her little brother that wasn’t.

Carrie was glad Lucille had been honest enough to tell her she was adopted. It explained a lot of things, mainly different perspectives. She had never thought point of view was genetic, but she realised now that it was. Her point of view was so opposite to Lucille’s, so contrary, that it was a relief to know they were related by familiarity and not by blood.

She hoped her real mother would share her point of view.

It was a shame about Johnny Boy. Carrie loved him, really loved him. It surprised her, considering he was not her biological brother. It made her reassess the nature of love and how people form attachments. He was cute, funny and tender-hearted. He had sat at the window as she walked away, watching until the rain fell so thickly that all you could see was water. She knew he was crying but he didn’t show it. His dignity made her heart splinter.

And now she was here, hundreds of miles from her old home, hearing herself walking in the rain towards her new home, wishing she hadn’t worn her old boots that let in the water – she was squeaking like a rusty bed spring and every squeak filled her with fear. Fear that her new mother, her real mother, wouldn’t like her, would tell her the real reason she gave her away. I couldn’t stand the sight of you, she’d say.

Carrie knew she was imagining the worst case scenario. It was something she’d learned from Lucille. Thinking the worst keeps disappointment at bay, she’d always said.

Carrie knew she was wrong to imagine the worst because she’d spoken to her father, her real father, and he had reassured her that her real mother would be over the moon to see her. Over the moon. They were his exact words.

They were conspirators. Keeping her arrival a secret as a surprise to her real mother, Madeleine, who had given up hope of ever seeing her daughter again in this lifetime.

In this lifetime. It sounded so final. So sad. Perhaps there was a chance of seeing one another again in the next lifetime, but what if you didn’t believe in such things? What if this lifetime was the only chance you got and it already had a line drawn underneath it?

Her father had told her why her mother had put her up for adoption. They’d both been 16. From strict Catholic families. There was no question of them keeping the baby. Of keeping Carrie. There was no discussion or debate. It was not their decision to make.

Madeleine had fallen ill when they’d taken Carrie away. Richard, Carrie’s father, knew it was grief, but her family called it the histrionics of a spoilt child. Richard couldn’t see what was spoilt about dying inside because your own baby was going to be raised by someone else. A baby you loved before she was even born.

It had stopped raining. Carrie’s jaw was twitching with nerves and cold. She saw a farm in the distance, neatly manicured and felt her blood drain into the puddles at her feet.

A barn stood in a field by the house. It had a red roof. Carrie thought she would decorate it with lights at Christmas, maybe a reindeer and sleigh. It would be the most festive barn in history.

The barn door was open. Carrie heard baby animals within, goats, she thought. It sounded like they were calling for someone. A lantern light from deeper in the barn shone on a man and woman in the door. They were holding a little black goat. The woman was singing to him gently.

Carrie pulled off her knapsack. Put it at her feet. The man saw her, squinted into the dark.

Richard? she called out. Father?

The woman knew straight away. She put down the goat and ran towards her.

My child? she asked over and over. My child?

Carrie and Madeleine stood in the dark, holding one another as little goats nibbled at their shoes. The light from the lantern in the barn turned their faces russet as apples.

When they could bear to be parted they sat at the kitchen table talking, laughing, weeping for all they had lost and all they had yet to gain. Their points of view merged like milk in tea.

Madeleine had never had another child.

I didn’t deserve it for letting them take you away, she said. I tried to find you but you were gone.

Carrie knew Lucille had closely guarded her identity. The woman was an expert at subterfuge. She thought of her mother, crying with eyes that were the same as her own for all those long, lonely years, while Lucille did her best to not ease her mother’s pain.

Carrie held her mother, stroking the faded yellow hair, trawling for the right words to say. What could you say when in this lifetime ended up meaning today not never? In the end she said nothing. She knew it didn’t matter anymore, the days apart. She was here, right where she should be. Where hope was shaken out of the past like a scarf in the wind.

19 thoughts on “In This Lifetime

  1. What a beautiful, touching story. And as usual, told so well by you Sel. Great use of this lovely prompt too.

    My first mother-in-law (who was a dear person) lived this story, almost down to the letter. We cried buckets when her daughter came back to her, many, many years later. She had been raised by distant relatives and treated well but she always waited and wished for the day to see her “real” mom again. What a beautiful reunion that was.

    Hugs, G


  2. Beautiful. Great moment of life, this line:

    What could you say when in this lifetime ended up meaning today not never?

    You said it so perfectly. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. This is so lovely. Beautifully spun. His dignity made her heart splinter., how true is that. How much does it break your heart when you see someone in obvious internal turmoil trying to appear stoic. I like the part about the baby goats nibbling at their shoes, too. ๐Ÿ™‚


    What an amazing story. That will make me cry if I think about it. I am so glad they got to see one another again!

    Things can change in an instant. I think that’s what I was trying to say. And that you should never say never. You just never know!

    I’ll come and read yours shortly. Amazing to think we followed a similar theme. I appreciate you stopping by!

    I’m beginning to like happy endings a bit more. Too many sad endings in real life. I don’t need to write about them too!

    It kills me when I see people doing that. Nothing will make me cry faster than that, particularly if it’s a child involved. I like the bubby goats too!

    So glad you liked it. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.


  5. Hmmm…I really liked this story. For some reason, the first three paragraphs were jarring for me. I don’t know why. Perhaps because they weren’t as hopeful? Weird, I know. I loved the rest of it…the dreaminess and the sort of pastoral fairytaleness.

    Sigh. Probably too sunburned to leave cogent comments. Carry on, my love.


  6. Ugh, Selma. Do me a favor and skip the comment I made earlier. I’m an idiot before breakfast and clearly should not be commenting on anybody’s blog.

    Bleck. I feel all yicky inside.


    So glad you liked it. ๐Ÿ˜€

    No need to edit your comment at all. In fact, I agree with you about the first bit. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with the story then and I think it came through. I always value your opinion and appreciate you being honest with me. It’s all good!


  8. lovely, I like the story and the walking on water bit, I think families don’t always have to be blood, I like that about Carrie and her brother, still it’s nice that Carrie finally meets her biological parents, sometimes the not-knowing makes one’s life a bit uneven, causes you rethink your every step


    Right back at ya!

    I knew a woman who adopted a child ( I actually went to school with the girl) who denied the birth mother news of the child for years. It was extremely painful for all concerned. There are so many issues surrounding adoption. Definitely no easy answers!

    I agree with you. I have many people in my life I consider family who I am not related to. Sometimes it’s just an undeniable connection.


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