As events unfold around me, I’m always thinking about what would happen next, if I were telling the story. What the obvious next move is, or which twist I’d employ. Where I’d add conflict, or humour, to dry, dull events. How I’d find a way through the maze to a happy ever after.
Great practise for writing books. Less good for dampening down any natural tendencies towards melodrama.
For instance, I spent yesterday in a mild state of ongoing panic, for no good reason at all. On Tuesday, when we dropped the daughter at nursery on my way to the station and the husband’s way to work, I noticed a sign on the door informing us that the hairdresser would be in the next day.
Fantastic, I thought. The daughter has, unfortunately, inherited my hair – something I fully expect to have thrown in my face one day, during teenage dramas, along with the tinfoil hat* I made her wear for her one-month birthday and photographed liberally. Anyway, it’s thick and wavy and uncontrollable. And in desperate need of cutting, since we hadn’t ventured to the hairdressers since February.
But she’d been fine on that trip – her first haircut – so I didn’t foresee any problems. I booked her in with the nursery manager, said “Oh, just a tidy up. A trim, I suppose,” paid my five pounds and headed off to work.
It wasn’t until my boss said to me, later that day, “Gosh, that’s very brave,” that I started to worry.
Not enough to cancel the appointment, though. Not yet. I sent her off to nursery with the husband, and settled in at my desk for my once-a-week writing day. I edited, I wrote, I plotted. And I worried, more and more, as the day ticked slowly by.
I started out concerned that they might cut it shorter than I wanted. By lunchtime, I’d progressed to utter certainty that they’d have shaved her head. By mid afternoon, I was having visions of the daughter snatching the scissors from the hapless hairdresser and effecting revenge for her new crew cut.
At hometime, I was anxiously waiting by the back door, peering out into the darkness, waiting to hear the gate bash open as she barrelled through it. I ate cake, drank tea, and paced the length of the kitchen, my imagination whirring inside my head.
Finally, finally, her little face appeared at the patio doors and I let her in, sweeping her into my arms, halfway through saying “Oh, my poor, beautiful darling! What have the terrible people done to you?” before I realised that, actually, she looked fine. Her hair was tidier, with sparkly clips in place on either side, and there was no sign of blood or trauma.
I looked up at the husband, who had been the recipient of at least one (okay, maybe three) concerned phone calls through the course of the afternoon, as my imaginings escalated. He shrugged. “They said she was fine. No trouble at all.”
If it had been my book, it would have been much more dramatic. Maybe real life has something going for it after all.*It could have been much worse. The husband made her wear a cabbage leaf as a hat a couple of months later. There’s video footage. I’m saving it for her eighteenth birthday party. Photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren