When the Mood Strikes…
A man, a foreigner, not Japanese, stood on the street outside of a house. A second later a teenaged girl in a school uniform that I recognized as one from Sacred Heart, the local all-girls international school, wheeled her bicycle out of the yard onto the street and kissed the man, who was obviously her father. Not one second after that, a second girl who looked slightly younger than the first, but dressed the same way repeated the action of her older sister. With each girl, the father smoothed back her hair and kissed her forehead in a place my young daughter might call “the sweet spot” in the center. Both girls mounted their bikes and pedaled away and the father walked off in the opposite direction, toward the subway stop.
I stood transfixed for a long moment after that.
To anyone else, it might be just a typical domestic scene. The reason the scene fascinated me is because I am a writer. I kept thinking of phrases to describe it fictionally.
- Like every day, Mr. X saw his daughters off to school with a kiss
- If Mr. X couldn’t be there to send his daughters off to school, he felt like his day wasn’t started properly
- Like morning coffee, the ritual of sending his daughters off to school was a necessary part of starting his day.
- Though daughter A rolled her eyes when her father insisted on seeing her off for the day, she secretly loved that her father cared enough to kiss her goodbye.
- His daughters did not think much about their morning ritual of kissing their father goodbye, but years later when they looked back on their high school years, that was the one bit of continuity they could recall of their otherwise hectic life.
- Their dad’s kiss before school was as familiar to them as their old-fashioned, plaid uniforms.
- Every morning Mrs. X watched from the window as her husband kissed each of their daughters before they left for school and every morning she fell in love with him all over again.
I thought about the scene from the point of view of the girls. I considered it from the point of view of the father. I thought long and hard about setting the mother in the scene – where was she and what was she doing. The girls seemed happy enough, but were they bored or annoyed with their dad? I thought about the father’s job – he was wearing a suit, so he was perhaps a banker or a lawyer. I have no clue of their nationality other than not Japanese. They could have been European, American or even South American; I never heard them sepak. The father was dark-haired but the girls were fair with jaunty blonde ponytails flying behind them as they rode off.
I noted the scene hours ago, but it is still with me and I am still rolling it over in my mind. This is another reason I know I’m a writer: I don’t easily let go of a scene. Until it gets described in my journal properly, it will stay with me. In fact, perhaps I’ll use the tableaux in a story I write. Everything I come across becomes material at some point.
A few years ago my cousin gave me a picture of a t-shirt she did not buy for me because she knew I wouldn’t wear it, but it’s every apropos: “Be Careful or You’ll End Up in my Novel!”
It is the job of writers to take note of every little thing, including an ordinary, but lovely, scene on the street and construct the story around it or for it. It’s what writers do.