When Pencils Move: A Short Story for Mothers

I found an older short story of mine and thought I would share it here: 

While Pencils Move

               It’s that time of day again. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. The laundry smells fresh from the scent of my fabric softener I used this morning. A warm spinach and feta cheese aroma lingers in the kitchen from our pizza we completely devoured. The cats have settled into their comfy spots for an afternoon siesta. My children are stretched out in the floor in front of me. One has an open math book. The other one has her history book opened to a section on World War II. She is reading and taking notes.

               These moments are times I cherish. I look over my computer screen and watch my children learning and growing. I remember when their legs didn’t stretch out this far. I also remember when their homework involved mostly coloring or cutting and gluing. Now they think intensely as the wrinkle their brows over historical facts and mathematical fractions.

               I close my eyes for a moment and listen to the sounds of their pencils moving across their papers. I wait for this sound every weekday afternoon. To me it is a sound of togetherness and stillness. The sound of pencils moving across paper ties me to the memories of their earliest days of learning. I picture myself writing a letter on lined paper and asking them to copy my work. With wiggly lines, they began the assignment. We clapped when they completed the task.

               Now they don’t need me as much. They start and complete most tasks on their own. I am more of an observer and a motivator these days. Occasionally my children get stuck on a problem and call my name. I can tell when that is about to happen. First, one of the pencils stops moving across the paper. I glance in that direction, careful not to jump in too quickly. I watch the eyes and brows to see if tension rises or clarity pops in. If tension rises, soon I will hear, “Mom, can you help me for a minute.”  I move over and look at the problem. We chat for a minute about the question at hand. Then I hear, “OK, I’ve got it now.” That’s my cue to move back to my seat so the pencil can move freely across the paper again.

These moments never last long enough for me. I want to sit next to them for hours as they conquer the challenges before them. But all too soon I must move from the scene to start dinner or pay bills or take a phone call from a client. The mail waits to be opened. The flowers need watering. I need to check in with a friend and a few relatives who need a call. Sometimes the moment ends when one child gets restless and can’t sit any longer. They usually don’t admit that. Instead they provoke the other child into an argument so they can claim to be the victim and get a break.

But when I hear the sound of pencils moving across paper, I feel a sense of peace and hope. I feel secure about their futures for a moment. I can set aside my worries that arise each time I hear a news report about another mass shooting or teen who died while texting and driving. I can stop worrying about how I will pay for their college tuition. I relax and soak up the moment as we all sit in one room with our minds exploring new thoughts or new approaches to the past.

I hope when I am older, they return home for a visit and sit next to me with pencils in hand. I will ask them to jot down to-do lists or items I need from the store. They may need to write dates of appointments on my calendar for me. They will think I am old-fashioned for not putting it all on a computer. They may also think that the tasks are mundane. But as they write, I know that I will close my eyes and pictures all of our moments together when they were younger and I heard pencils moving across the paper.        

©Chris Pepple 2013 (This story may be forwarded or reproduced with credit given to Chris Pepple as author. This story may not be sold or edited by any other person other than the original author.)             

Tennessee author Chris Pepple announces release of Without a Voice

Chris Pepple, published author from Germantown, Tenn., announces the release of her fifth book, Without a Voice. WITHOUT A VOICE takes you on a journey across three states in the 1840s, traveling with Sarah and her daughters as they learn about their own strengths and abilities, and as they discover a new life with family and friends.

Sarah’s younger brother knows that she hides a secret, and he wants to help her break free from the pain she is hiding from others. Sarah wonders, though, if she is courageous enough to break the chains that tie her to a life of suffering and sorrow. She fears that she is not strong enough to care for her two young daughters alone.

“Writing this book has been a very meaningful experience for me,” says Pepple. “I was honored to have these characters share their voices with me and allow me to write them down for you. These voices are part of a larger story—the story of the voices that can’t share the hurts and fears that are hidden behind closed doors. There are so many hardships that people never know how to discuss. I hope this book opens the door for some healing conversations to take place.

“Writing Without a Voice changed my life because I was finally able to share the voice of so many women I know who have lived without a chance to tell their stories. I also found my own voice with this book. Of course, this book is 100% fictional, so no one person’s story makes up Without a Voice; no one character represents one person.

“Well, there is one historical character—I love to uncover stories from the past that I have never heard before. When my own daughter became interested in developing her artistic talents, I decided to research the lives of early American artists. I ran across the works of George Caleb Bingham and decided to weave him into this story. His paintings told the story of so many people from his time, so I wanted him to help me tell this story. Besides being a painter who really lived in Arrow Rock, Missouri, the other parts of his life were fictionalized to fit this work. But I challenge you to look up his works and to visit the actual town of Arrow Rock. You might be surprised by what you find.”

When asked about Without a Voice compared to her previous works, Pepple responded, “I really grew as an author when writing this book. I listened to my characters more and let them guide me. I was also less timid as a writer with this book.”

“There are moments in life that define us, set us on a new course that we had never even dreamed of. Sometimes those moments begin when an unexpected person finds their voice. Sometimes it begins when we decide to listen.” (Chapter 1)

 

voice book cover 1

Chris Pepple is a motivational speaker, published author, and freelance writer with articles regularly appearing in national and international publications. She has five published books, including a book she uses in her writing classes for children and teens. She has a writing degree from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree from Emory University. She lives in Tennessee with her two daughters. www.chrispepple.com