A Simple Story: The Greatest Gift

December 23, 2011

There’s a lot of talk about gift giving this time of year. The malls are packed. The traffic is slow. And banks accounts and credit cards groan from overuse. I received an early Christmas gift last night…one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received…and it didn’t cost a thing.

Around the dinner table, my father told my children the story of his military service during The Vietnam War. I watched their wide eyes and their open mouths as he told stories about secret assignments and living in plain sight but in disguise as a top intelligence photographer for the U.S. Army. He told stories of checkpoints and foreign contacts, of comrades he never heard from again. He talked about the girl he met while on leave stateside, a girl who thought he was an arrogant fool, and yet she wrote him letters while he was away and she was waiting for him when he returned. I watched my mother reach across the table and grab hold of his hand, saying, “Waiting for you to come home in one piece was the hardest thing I ever had to do.” And then I heard my high school freshman interrupt with, “Wait! Pa, you were a spy?”

You see, until last night, my father had never shared much about his time abroad. We knew he served years during the war. We knew he lost friends and still sleeps with a pillow over his head during thunderstorms, which remind him of mortar attacks. We knew bits and pieces, but we didn’t know how rich, how deep, how incredibly amazing his story is.

As fiction writers, we’re charged with getting the stories out of our heads so that we may achieve publication. But as human beings, we hold the best stories in our hearts. They are stories about achievements, overcoming adversity, learning to love, learning to lose. This holiday season share a story about your life with someone you love. You’ll never know how much it means and how much it inspires.

Be joyful. Be safe. Be merry.

Happy Holidays,

Elley

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2 Responses to “A Simple Story: The Greatest Gift”


  1. Elley, how wonderful for your kids…and for you to hear these storiesl. How exciting to find out ‘Grandpa was a spy’. A few years ago my youngest son and I rode from California to Wyoming with my mom and stepdad, and suddenly she was telling stories of her childhood that I’d never heard…it’s so wonderful when those stories come out!

    Happy Holidays


    • Thanks, Tari. It’s so important that we tell these stories. It makes me sad to think of people dying with their stories still inside of them. 😦 I worry that all this texting, Tweeting and posting on Facebook walls will lead to abbreviated communication as the norm.

      E

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