Once

By Dorinda MacDowell

PROMPT — Who am I today?

Once upon a time...sounds like the start of a fairy story, doesn’t it?


I always loved reading stories. One of my favorite things as a small child was going to the local library, my books for return firmly clasped in my hands, excited at what treasures I might find there.


Well, you know that’s well over sixty years ago now. Sometimes it seems like last week, but other times it seems to be so far back it’s unreal. Unreal, that’s it! In my immaturity, I truly believed I’d be a famous author one day. Everyone would admire my work and I’d spend my days scribbling away. I dreamed this would be in a cottage with roses round the door and a dear little, low red-brick wall in the front.


I had this English teacher. I'd be about eleven, and she wrote on one of my essays, “One day I shall see your name in a book and I shall say, ‘I remember you.’” I have never forgotten that. I felt so special that day!


Now? Well, now I still look back and smile at the memory. Not that it materialized. I do still write, but I lost my confidence over years of struggling to be that woman I dreamed to be. If you’re my age, you might understand how it is that you lose confidence when you get older. I’ve not had a bad life. I have a good husband and great children and grandchildren. But I’m not the girl I used to be. Once, nothing phased me. I’d face life with a strong smile and a firm belief in myself. How immature was I? I’d ride storms and come through smiling. Now? Well, now I get nervous just going out of the house sometimes, especially since all of this lockdown which gave me an opportunity to write. But my mind ran dry, I got sick of staring at an empty page, and I gave up. Now it has gotten that I now have to bolster myself up just to ring someone, as I get so nervous and unsure of myself. I think it all started when I broke my hip and had to have two operations. I’m so scared of falling again, so it’s safer to stay indoors. I’ve got lots of reading matter anyway, which is still my great pleasure. Perhaps it’s not so much the knowledge that I’m not another Monica Dickens as much as this damned insecurity that’s getting me down. Plus, the knowledge that I never made enough effort to do what I’d dreamed of. That makes it my fault, I know and it’s a bit late now to change much at all. In addition, I’m very good at pretending that nothing’s wrong, I’ll say I’ve got a headache to avoid venturing out anywhere and mostly I fool people. Then, I feel self-reproach and that only makes it all worse. What I’ll do then is I’ll put my pencil and pad away, and accept that that’s that. Only that makes me feel even more of a failure. Perhaps I’ll make a cake. That’ll take my mind off me me me. But that doesn’t help. It just makes me feel selfish and self-pitying. I can’t stand self-pity. I don’t want to be like that! My pencil and pad are still on the coffee table. I wonder...is there a story worth telling in all of this? Forget the cake-making! I take a very deep breath and decide. I may be over the hill, but I’m not done for yet. Perhaps my English teacher spoke a prophetic word? I pick up my pad and take hold of my pencil, and I begin to write...

Dorinda MacDowell is a wife, mother, grandmother, and writer, and lover of words. She is grateful for friends, family, and church. Dorinda writes from Cheshire, UK.


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