My Life in Moments

Allison Washington
Dec 2, 2016 · 2 min read

An autobiographical series of Transitional Moments.

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The author’s mother, somewhere in France, 1966.

My mother’s professional work was in oils. Our flat was dominated by her easels and canvasses, palates and racks of brushes and partially squeezed tubes, and suffused with the pungency of paints and turpentine.

But when we were travelling she made do with sketch pads, charcoal and pastels, and an old black-and-white Polaroid bellows camera. When we were in Spain in 1965 she did a series of studies in India ink on white paper, using a broad nib calligraphy pen. Her goal was to abstract the nude female form, presenting it in as few strokes as possible. I was transfixed by how much form, movement, expression she achieved in just two or three simple, curving lines.

I think of these Transitional Moments as a kind of literary equivalent of those elemental forms; a few words of description, a line or two of dialogue, the barest of scenes to convey what happened and how I felt in the moment. They come to me as disconnected, eidetic imprints — scene, sound, colour, sensation — complete in every detail, but lacking any before and after; crystal clear moments severed in time, but which can be drawn together to express the form and motion of my life.

I continue to add to this series as the stories come, and this list is updated accordingly.

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The author’s mother, Paris, 1966.

#1 Livename
— How I got my name.

#2 Transitional Moment
— Recognition.

#3 Another Transitional Moment—A helpless woman.

#4 Übergangsmoment
—Some toilet trouble.

#5 Clocked
—Waylaid by an old friend.

#6 Liverpool Moment
—Girl meets boy with ball.

#7 Viennese Moment
— A romance in four minutes.

#8 The Book
A book more devastating than beatings.

#9 The Birth
— Becoming a mother.

#10 Fish Sandwich
— Waitress and customer.

#11 Plait
— Mother does my hair.

And more to come…

I make a spare living doing this. You can support my work and get draft previews and my frequent ‘Letters Home’ for less than the cost of a coffee.

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