The countdown continues to our winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015.
We’ve already announced third and it was Judith Howe’s ‘Cup of Water’. Hopefully you’ve already read and enjoyed Judith’s entry. Now we announce second place. The quality of entries was very high and again we’d like to thank our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to judge our entries.
Another drum roll please (African drums), ta da da!
Second place: WINTER by Denise Krklec.
A big congratulations to Denise from Rochedale, Queensland. Here is her entry:
The fireman shut down their hoses and trudged through the whiteness to stow their equipment. The snow was already masking their trucks, blanketing the scene quickly as if to cover the horrors of what sizzled and spat behind them. There were no words between the men as they went about their duties, just as there would be no more sounds from the bodies found in the smoking ruins of the house. There was nothing left – just irregular hisses and crackles as the house succumbed, groaning its last words.
There remained one fireman in the snow, rolling the last hose, numb with cold and sorrow. It was a small community and he knew the house, the driveway, the letterbox, and the family. As he turned in salute a final time toward what now ceased to exist, he heard a noise that didn’t match the destruction before him. He went to investigate.
His torch penetrated the darkness, searching under beams, exploring the ruins, casting light on devastation. He moved toward the sound, unsure of its location or origin. An animal? Perhaps a kitten? It was a boy. A boy with melted skin and frozen limbs and no words.
Six weeks later the boy still had no words. All he had was loss – a mother, a father, sisters, toes, fingers, muscles, eyebrows, ears, lips, hair, and all his vitality. Body parts not burnt by the fire were frostbitten from lying in the snow. He wanted to be held, with arms outstretched and tears snaking down damaged skin but there were too many wounds, too many bandages, and dressings, and tubes. And the wrong people. His eyes continued searching for the right people even after the professionals explained his loss in three-year old language. He was stuck in memories of winter, under the window, in the snow, a burning house behind him, and dad rushing away from the window towards screams.
He entered my domain unannounced, in the arms of an aunty. She had confused the appointment time and arrived as I was switching off lights, ready to return to my world of no words. A world thousands of kilometres away from heartbreak and emotional torment that still fitted like a glove. At least I could escape to a new world of new friends, new activities, and a new job, but one look at the boy and I knew he couldn’t escape anything. Even surrounded by the love of his extended family his eyes remained disinterested. I, to him, represented more pain, more trouble, more work and no compensation for his loss at all. We were both far from home – I, travelling the world on a working holiday, and him, with only the hospital to call home – and yet our paths had crossed.
We set a recurring appointment. Twice a week the boy taught me things I was not prepared or willing to learn. He forced me to examine my cloak of issues and to decide what was worth fighting for – what things were worth keeping wrapped around me, and what could be discarded and should be discarded forever. I taught him how to move again despite his scars and fears and pain. Together we found our words.
A three-year old taught me that despite losing everything, you could still smile. Sometimes the smile was through tears as his skin stretched and his muscles fatigued, but it was still a smile shining through the scars. I discovered it sometimes really hurts to be stretched and you want to kick and scream and yell ‘no’ to the things that make your life hard, but if you have someone you trust with you through the stretching there are opportunities for smiles.
He taught me that even though your arm won’t bend and you don’t have all your fingers, you can still give high fives. It was just a matter of adjusting thoughts and patterns. While the losses were still present and keenly felt, there were times when a high-five was required. No question asked. An accomplishment, something to be proud of, something deserving a kind word, or a victory dance with what did still work. Followed by a high-five.
The boy showed me that even if you trip over your swollen feet, you could still run to find the prize. The prize wasn’t big or even valuable but to someone who had lost so much the prize was worth every ache, every tear, and every effort in the fight to gain the prize. Even better if the prize was something the boy had chosen – a goal to work toward, something again to live for and strive for, damning those losses to a place only examined at the appropriate times.
I learnt from the boy a hug still means ‘I love you,’ even if you can’t squeeze tight, or lift your arms high enough, or maintain your balance while reaching out. A hug meant that we were in it together even through the pain and the tears and the yelling. A hug meant all was forgiven. A hug meant despite the losses there was still the capacity to love, to experience, to communicate, and to receive.
Our words taught me the value of friendship – despite the differences in age and life experiences, and despite what the future might hold. Our words right then meant the world.
Come back to see who takes out FIRST place.