THE LEARNING CURVE
The first “adult” writing for which I was paid, was a piece that involved both Thanksgiving and Christmas and was published in Woman’s Weekly on 22 December 1979. I can scarcely believe that it was 27 years ago.
It’s far from polished and I’ve had to fight hard to stop myself from rewriting it completely, giving it a little Liz Fielding sparkle, before publishing it here. But the whole point of reproducing it is to demonstrate that no one springs, fully formed as a novelist; that it takes baby steps to build the skill, the voice. This was my first step.
A reader shares a charming idea with us and tells us the background story, too.
Some years ago I arrived in Bahrain in the middle of summer, with temperatures regularly up to 104?F. I had with me my ten-week-old baby, William, and I was joining my engineer husband, John.
John worked long hours, leaving home at 5.45 am and not returning until 8pm quite often.
Alone all day with a new baby, and without the support of a loving family, I was often depressed and near to tears.
Then one day, as the weather cooled and people actually went out into their gardens, a neighbour noticed William and came over to chat. Her name was Becky and she helped me back to a more balanced view of life, and restored my sense of humour.
She had two children, Eddie and Amy, and her husband was in the US Navy and away for long periods of time. She filled her days sewing, baking and having “socials” and she included me in all these activities.
Becky decorated her house for all occasions. Hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day; shamrocks and green ribbons for St Patrick’s; bunnies and chicks at Easter. But it wasn’t until Thanksgiving Day that I discovered how far my talented friend could go when it came to making her own decorations, for on this day Becky raised her Christmas tree, and I have never seen one to match it.
It stood from floor to ceiling and only the glass balls had not been made by Becky.
Think of any cartoon character from Snoopy to Mickey Mouse, think of any toy, from a rag doll to a drum, think of any fairytale character and it was there. All were made from felt pieces and it took my breath away.
All though the long evenings when her husband was at sea, she had stitched her love into her decorations.
Every year she made a decoration for each of the children so that when they left home they would have the start of their own collection.
I knew that I had to have a tree like Becky’s. Every year I add some new characters to my tree. Ours is a more English selection than Becky’s, of course. Paddington Bear, Rupert, the Magic Roundabout characters. Noddy and Big Ears hang alongside Charley Brown and his dog.
This year we returned to England and William has discovered the Mr Men and they will adapt perfectly to felt. Our own special addition is a felt portrait of our little girl who will be nearly two this Christmas.
We don’t hear much from Becky, her talent was human contact, not letter writing and the last we heard, she and her family were posted to Hawaii. But we’ll never forget her, because her tree brings us close each Christmas and because we named our daughter Amy, after her little girl.