Monday, October 15, 2012

Fact or fiction: The broken nail

“Maddie! Maddie!” Ella screamed.

Maddie ran into Ella’s bedroom.

“Where’s the nail?" asked Ella, tears pooling in her eyes. "Where’s Grandma’s nail?”

Maddie scratched her head. “You mean the broken nail that was on your dresser?"

Ella nodded.

“Why, I threw it out. I found it when I was dusting and thought it was trash.”

Tears exploded from Ella’s eyes. “No! It wasn’t trash. It was Grandma's nail. The only piece of her that hasn't been turned into ashes and stuffed inside a stupid urn."

           Maddie wrapped her thick arms around Ella and kissed the top of her head. “Calm down, Ella.  We’ll dig through the trash until we find it.”

            Maddie dumped the contents of the trash can into the bathtub. They dug through white tissues, a rolled-up toothpaste tube, strands of slimy dental floss and dirty Q-tips.

            Just when Ella was about to give up, she spotted a hint of rose in the folds of a crumpled piece of paper. She reached for the paper and picked out the jagged tip.

            “Maddie," Ella sniffed. "I know you probably think I’m acting childish, and you’re probably thinking how stupid it is for someone to keep a fingernail. But when I see this nail it reminds me of Grandma’s beautiful hands and her long nails that she always painted. Even when she was too sick to paint her nails herself, she’d ask me to paint them for her.”

Is this fact or fiction? Read on to find out

 This is fiction, but it's based on something that did happen. 

My mom had beautiful hands. They were soft and smooth and strong. Her nails were always a shade of rose. I don’t think I ever saw her nails naked. Even when she died we made sure her nails were done. It was one last thing we could do for her.

So when I found a broken fingernail in the bottom of one of her purses after she died, I couldn’t part with it. Although mom was gone, I had a piece of her, something that I could touch and hold on to. The nail comforted me and I stashed it with the curls from my first haircut. 

When I was writing Ella's Rain, I knew I wanted to show Ella's grief over losing her grandma, the woman who had raised her. I remembered the nail and my reaction to it when I found it. I knew that the nail would make a powerful scene, showing Ella's grief over losing her grandma and having nothing but a pile of ashes in a urn. 

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