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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Donít Look Back (04/19/12)

TITLE: Holy Tells
By Kim Sandstrom


"Mommy...how long til we get to the holy tell?", and I looked in the rear view mirror to see Julia Belle, squirming in her car seat, her little bow lips wreathed in chocolate chip cookie crumbs; Julia Belle, the prettiest little four year old in a trillion miles. She was the curliest, girliest little thing; all blonde ringlets, and big, blue eyes!
We had been on a road trip to see her uncle Jeremy and his new wife Heather in Texas. Jeremy was in the states for his first Thanksgiving since 2006 having returned from Iraq.
I chose to drive from central Florida to Ft. Hood, Texas. This was to be the farthest I had ever driven in my life. My husband didn't drive due to health concerns, but was my able navigator on our adventure. It remained to be seen how Julia Belle would do on such a long trip.
This stunning little girl, my adopted daughter, was also my biological granddaughter, by way of her mother, my own daughter's death due to medical error, just eight days after Julia Belle was born, a wee 2 lbs and 29 weeks. Julia Belle had somehow survived by grace and sacrifice.
The week she was born, I lost a daughter, gained a grand daughter...and now, she was four, sunny, bright, energetic (she never stopped moving, except, thankfully, when we traveled). Even though, the very fact that Julia Belle looked, moved and sounded exactly like her mother, and that in itself was confusing and difficult, Julia, as a four year old, was her own self-possessed little person. I loved her curiousity and her willingness to try new things. With bittersweet poignancy, and with moderate trepidation, we set off on our road trip.
We passed many landmarks with ease; the Alabama border, Mississippi, Louisiana and then finally the great state of Texas. Because money was tight,we chose to travel "on the cheap". With amazing ease, Julia showed what a road-warrior she was, never complaining and curious about all there was to see, but the thing she liked best, something she inherited from her great grandmother, also named Julia, was her love of hotels and motels, which she called holy-tells. I still marvel how she came up with that, but the term seems to me a great metaphor for the entire trip, as this was a trip I could not have envisaged in late 2004, as I walked the earth, my soul prostrate in grief, a battle that I still wage within myself, more quietly than before, but still with an act of my will to turn to God for help so that I could keep going for Julia Belle.
Yes, we stayed at many "holy-tells" on our trip to Texas and back, and as I reflect on our road trip, I believe her shining sweetness in my rear-view mirror was a reflection of my past sadness being left behind on the road of life, my present acceptance with the path I was on, and a beam of hope on the boulevard of our future. Julia and I will have many "holy tells" to talk as we travel along together.

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This article has been read 344 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 04/26/12
This was so touching and poignant, it made my heart smile and my eyes fill at once.

God is amazing He gives and takes away...but through it all, He always will prevail in bringing us new treasures.

Your little "treasure" is God's gift to you and your family. Although you lost your daughter (my condolences) He gave you your little beautiful doll, to go forward in joy.

I am sure your daughter is smiling from heaven at what a wonderful job you are doing raising her baby girl.

I loved this touching story, thank you for sharing this.

God Bless you abundantly~

Genia Gilbert04/26/12
What a wonderful illustration of what it means to move forward when your heavy heart wants to look back. Good writing and great message.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/28/12
This is so sweet. I have tears brimming over. I fell in love with the little one. I was anxious to keep on reading.
You have some errors in the first sentence, by changing it just a tad, you tighten it up and prevent it from being a run-on. I'd write it something like this --
"Mommy, how long til we get to the ho-ly-tell?" I looked in the rear-view mirror to see Julia Belle, squirming in her car seat, her little bow lips wreathed in chocolate chip cookie crumbs. Julia Belle, the prettiest little four-year-old in a trillion miles batted her eyelashes.

Note I deleted a spare comma and put dashes to draw out hotel. Then I deleted the and and started a new sentence. Next a hyphen in rear-view. A period instead of semi-colon in rear-view. Then I put hyphens between the age. Either way is acceptable, but having the hyphen cuts down on word count. Then to make the Julia sentence a complete one, I added batted her eye-lashes. Just those little changes tighten up the sentences, turning into 3 smaller sentences and added some parts to show the reader what the girls are doing.

This may seem like a lot of red ink for such a tiny problem but I wanted to show you what I meant. Especially in short stories it's good to have shorter paragraphs and lines.

The ending is spectacular. You brought me full circle and I had tears in my eyes for sadness for kids who don't have there mother in their lives and tears of joy that people like your MC is real and a blessing for the lost forgotten little ones. But Jesus never forgets them. That message rang true loud and clear.
Patsy Hallum04/30/12
Thank you for a poignant story. I really enjoyed the trip. As a beginner myself, I appreciate the comments from others that help. Keep writing.