On the train on the way in, the first bits of a story-ish thing that I've had vague plans to do something with popped into my head, so when I came home, instead of working on HoCH, I wrote 1500 words of storybits:
I was a plain child, although I did not know it at the time. It is only now, looking back at daguerreotypes and stiffly posed photographs, that I can see that though I had been assured by Doting Uncles who numbered in the dozens that I was the most lovely little girl ever born, I was in truth somewhat too large-eyed and hollow-cheeked, with a stringiness to my dark hair and a somewhat unhealthy look to my thin frame.
My mother, who was more Sensible than Father gave her credit for, dressed me well, but did not try to give a duckling swan's feathers: I was not drowned by finery that played up its beauty and my lack of it. Given my age in those early images--perhaps seven or eight, up to twelve or so--I might say I was dressed Elegantly, although that is not a word normally assigned to childrens' clothing. I looked as though I came from money; more money, in fact, than I did, but given the circumstances it was unlikely that I should look Poverty-stricken even if we had been. I believe I came out of it reasonably well, but even then, though I did not know I was plain, I did know I was spoiled. Furthermore, it was clear to me that this was as it should be: after all, I was the first girl born to my father's side of the family in One Hundred Years.
As a child, I loved stories of my great-great-grand-aunt, Melinda Mae Stafford. I believed she and I were Bound together through the space of a Century, both of us destined for Greatness. It was only as an adult that I realized that my Ancestress's sole claim to Remarkability was in being the Last Daughter born to my father's family for a Hundred years.
A generation may go by without Producing a girl child; that in itself seems hardly startling, even with families of Eight living children. Adding in Mae's own marriage and production of four sons of her own, not to mention the marriages of her three brothers (and singular sister, the eldest of the lot, whose name is usually forgotten in family lore, because she had the misfortune to be the second last daughter born, a status which held nothing like the notoriety of being the last) whose Progeny were all of the male of the species, the entire boy-ridden family tree was a point of humor.
When--to Retain the story within the Direct Line of my Descent, for Attempting to follow brothers and uncles and cousins down through generations wearies even me, and I grew up regaled with their histories--When those eight sons (technically, seven; Great-Grand-Uncle Rupert was a Confirmed Bachelor, a phrase I did not understand until considerably after I understood that Aunt Mae had been Wholly Unremarkable in her own self) married a total of nine wives and had between them thirty-seven more sons, my great-grandparents began to feel some distress. This went on for a Series of Generations, enumerating the Stafford Family with more sons than anyone could possibly Cope with. In Desperation, many of those sons scattered to the American West; to Alaska; to Australia; all in Search of a life not exhausted by uncountable numbers of Sons.
My Grandfather, who came to America with his wife and hopes of building a carpentry business, took great pride in being the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. My Father's early years, I believe, were tainted by a resentment over being born Seventh back Three Generations. Much as I imagined myself for Greatness, I think he saw being the third Seventh as a pox: fairy tales were not told about Third Sevenths. Perhaps they might be told about Seventh Sevenths, but he missed that placement by even more generations.
But it was he who fathered the first daughter in a Hundred Years, and that Lifted him in the family's estimation to First Son, a position which he held gladly until his Death. I was the apple of my father's eye--indeed, of my father's family--and I expect that as a child I was Unbearable. I got everything I Demanded, and as such, Demanded a Great Deal. I recall long-suffering nursemaids whom I regarded as idiots, and only with the retrospect of time do I Wish I could apologize for my Behavior. The Haughty Manner in which I ordered around my Family is not to be Dwelt Upon, though I believe, in my Defense, that they ought not have Allowed their lives to be Dictated by a small girl. Only my Mother retained a will of Iron against me, and consequently I resented her highly well into adulthood. If, as an adult, I ended up with any redeeming Qualities, I believe they are thanks to Mother's steadfast refusal to treat me as if I were a Miracle.
I do not recall my friends as treating me as if I were Astonishing, though all my uncles did. In thinking back, particularly when looking at my photographs, I believe this is so for two reasons: one, as the first girl born in a Hundred Years, I was Unique, and both children and adults will make Allowances for Unique People (though adults may be more Forgiving).
Second, and perhaps more Importantly, I am almost certain that while I was Unique, my closest friend, Jenny Palmer, was Beautiful. I recall her even now as being black-haired and green-eyed, with extraordinary porcelain skin and a composure that was far more Becoming than my flouncy spoilt ways.
It is possible that Jenny Tolerated me; I am sure I treated her with a mixture of Disdain and Undying Love. She was, indeed, my only close female friend; my siblings and cousins were all boys, and so while I was well-suited to marry, being thoroughly familiar with male antics, I was not nearly as good at female Socializing.
Perhaps fortunately--or perhaps not--the Expectation held by my family (and Myself) was that I would marry, possibly one of the Myriad Cousins, and Produce children. Given the family History, I imagined I would be surrounded by men all my Life, and the Need to socialize with women would be Limited. It was, in fact, Jenny who married one of the Cousins, whilst I was offered (by one of the wealthier Uncles) the opportunity for Education. I seized upon it, and attended a Women's College, where I learned that my Uniqueness was merely a Curiosity to them, and through several peer-induced attitude Adjustments, learned that Disdain was a lonely peak to stand upon.
In that time, I learnt Latin and Greek and Shakespeare, mathematics and science, as well as more Genteel Arts. I also grew into some measure of Attractiveness, though I would never attain Jenny's genuine Beauty. I half-imagine, now, that perhaps learning to make friends affected my physical Aspects; that the Spoilt Child I had been could not be also Graced with beauty, for fear she should never become a Person of Worth.
It was a Startlement to me the first day I saw myself as a young woman of physical Allure. In all my life I had never Doubted my handsomeness--the result, no doubt, of being told endlessly by Uncles that I was the flower of any garden. But in an afternoon of Shopping with school friends, I glimpsed a young Woman in marigold, her brown hair burnished beneath an exceedingly good Hat, her eyes large and dark. She did not have the vaunted pale Complexion, but rather a golden Warmth to her skin, and she so Struck me that I turned to see her again, and discovered I looked at my own Reflection.
I might have, in that Moment, become an absolute Horror of a creature. I recall Realizing it, as I gazed at myself. Pretty as my Uncles had said, spoilt as the Only Girl, well-educated at university. I felt myself Waver toward believing again that I was Special, and Destined for Greatness.
Fortunately for me, at that very moment a young man of medium height, blond hair, and fine dress also Appeared in the shop mirror's Reflection, and I fell so thoroughly in Love that all thoughts of self-aggrandizement were Swept away beneath the power of his crystalline eyes. For the next several Years, I knew the pure Joy (and regular Irritation) of marrying a good man, bearing strong sons, and being a good mother.
I tell you all this now so that you will have some Sense of the woman I was when, at twenty-seven, it became unexpectedly Clear to me that I was not going to Die.
I'm going to go try to get at least a few pages done on HoCH now, because that's actually the project I'm supposed to be working on. If I can even get just 3 pages, I'll be halfway through my 2 week goal.
ytd wordcount: 57,500
miles to Dunharrow: 181