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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/10/08)

TITLE: The Nightmare before Christmas
By Dianne Janak


Dear Dad,

There were several observations I made when I was a little girl, but could never articulate. Now that I have children, I want to be sure they can speak boldly to me. Sometimes I think as children we can see more clearly and simply what adults often miss.

Do you remember how I always threw up on the trip to Christmas Eve dinner with your family? It wasn’t about motion sickness, like you and mom surmised.

The tangible tension I felt in the car was traumatic. I knew how badly you wanted to be loved by them. It made me pity you. Your drinking problem kept you from noticing, but I saw the looks your two older brothers interchanged.

I knew of your desire for affluence. Your brothers’ jetset lifestyles made you resent middle class suburbia. They were living in huge mansions in the elite part of town. When you spoke about your brothers’ social queen wives and their debutante daughters, there was envy in your tone. I knew of your dream to afford the best cars, travel world-wide, and drop names of the rich and glamorous to “wow” people.

It was sickening to me how they treated us when we arrived each year. Our aunt Mabel often had a snide remark about what we were wearing, spoken with a hospitable smile on a hypocritical face. I saw the hurt in my mother’s eyes, who had stressed about our hair and attire for months. I couldn’t understand the reason for the striving for approval that never came.

It ruined any joy that the season should have brought us.

Is that why you drank, Dad? Was it because they never loved you the way you wanted? Why did your expectations remain impossibly high each year, when they never delivered anything but hidden insults and cruel, cold shoulders?

You never were content or thankful for what you had. You married a beautiful woman, who loved you, and you had two daughters who craved to be noticed. Why did you punish yourself by striving to gain the admiration of two brothers who always shunned you?

Didn’t you notice the tension in the room after you had a few drinks? They taunted you and talked behind your back. To them kids were invisible, but I saw it all.

Each Christmas Eve our drive to Dallas was a nightmare for me, for I knew how badly you wanted the special present you bought for them to impress them so they would “see” you.

They never did, and I knew we could never afford what you spent on those gifts. They were just tossed under the tree along with the other hundreds of gifts, lost in the heap of holiday wrappings. Did you really think boxes from Neiman’s would unlock your heart of unmet needs?

Did you have to start drinking to bury the pain of not being accepted by your brothers? The drink ruined our childhood and later your marriage. It had a hold of you as we watched you deteriorate.

I no longer blame your brothers. They were sinners also, blinded by their own demons and greed. I do forgive all of you now.

You missed the boat most of your life, but were able to accept God in the end, so I know you made it home.

I’m sorry I didn’t cry at your funeral. I did cry later. I felt numb that we never connected before you died, and had the tears flowed then, they may never have stopped, so I hid the pain, much like you used to do. Now I know just how dangerous that can be.

I missed knowing you behind the trap of addiction, and always wished you had known us.

I just wanted to tell you why I was nauseous on all those Dallas trips.

Please forgive me for never telling you the truth, when it may have made a difference.

I loved you,

The Daughter You Never Knew

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Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw01/17/08
This was chilling and made me cry. You did a good job of getting to the root of strongholds, though. Discontentment can drive us all to something if we let it. This piece was full of passion but sprinkled with grace.
Jan Ackerson 01/18/08
Excellent writing, excellent application of the topic, heart-breaking situation. The only thing I'd re-think is the title, as it was the title of a horrid little animated Christmas movie. This piece is outstanding, and deserves its own outstanding title!
Laury Hubrich 01/21/08
This was well written and brought about a sad response as I read it so your job is complete. I agree with Jan, it does deserve a better title. Good job!
Sara Harricharan 01/23/08
This brought tears to my eyes and sent goosebumps up and down my arms. This is so incredibly sad. I can't even begin to know what it would be like for that daughter. I've been through my share of 'family approval' and I can definitely relate to this heart-wrenching piece. This is a special favorite of mine this week. Truly beautiful writing. ^_^
Marita Vandertogt01/23/08
This one really hits you right in the heart... a lot of sadness here, even the ending for everything that was missed. I agree the title could be different, but overall, well written.
Dee Yoder 01/23/08
Very moving and honest account of holiday and family turmoil. I think you should come up with another title, too, for this really deserves its own identity. (Though, I can see why you chose that title!) You told this story very well!
Holly Westefeld01/23/08
Your choice of a letter was perfect for this beautifully-crafted, haunting story.
Sally Hanan01/24/08
This would be good to submit along with a longer article about how to write a letter to a relative who is deceased. It may help a lot of people to get their thoguhts and feelings down like you did.
Beth LaBuff 01/25/08
Dianne -- Your title is very clever. I'm wondering if this may be true. This is so heartbreaking. Oh, if many young parents could read this. Your haunting letter is very well written.