The Story Behind The Story
Have you ever had a “wake up” experience? I’m pretty sure we all have, maybe several.
One of mine led to the creation of The Twelve Gifts of Birth.
I have no idea what triggered it. But near dusk on an autumn day in 1987, I suddenly saw my world in a whole new way. I was home alone, unloading the dishwasher. My husband, Frank, was still at work. Our teenage daughters, Stephanie and Krista, were not yet home from after-school activities. In what seemed like an instant, the previous 17 years of parenting played like a film in my mind. I saw times the girls chattered enthusiastically and I half-listened; times I said “later” but bedtime came before we got to cookie-making or setting up the Mousetrap game; times I pressured my daughters to conform instead of helping them blossom into themselves. Many times like this appeared. Time’s up. Your children are grown, the life review seemed to say.
In the light of that personal movie, I saw clearly that the most important thing I could have given my daughters was unconditional love. It was far more important than helping them earn good grades, participate in extracurricular opportunities, and get into a good college.
Weeks later, I woke from sleep one morning with a feeling of euphoria. While dreaming, I had been in a realm where I heard about twelve gifts. I remembered some of them: strength, beauty, courage, hope, joy, and love. And, I recalled the repeated phrase May you…May you…May you…with what felt like a bestowing of blessings. As I moved into wakefulness, the details of a dream evaporated. Holding on to wisps of it, I wrote a story and fashioned it into two little books, one for each daughter. It was what I wished I had whispered in my babies’ ears and said often as they grew. It told them they were born with gifts. Gentle wishes suggested how to use each gift to live well. I regretted that I had not articulated the message earlier and used it to guide my daughters, but I was just beginning to comprehend it myself, along with learning about unconditional love and how to parent “consciously.”
The 500-word message captivated me. Like the character, Roy, played by Richard Dreyfuss in the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who felt magnetically drawn to a mysterious mountain, I felt compelled to do more with the dreamed story. Like Roy, compulsively creating his vision in shaving cream, mashed potatoes and mounds of soil, saying “This means something!” I made book after book, sensing, This means something!
One day, while constructing yet another hand-made version, I recalled the confusion and wistful yearning I had felt at age six or so when I read Sleeping Beauty. When the fairy godmothers in that story brought beauty, talent, and grace to the baby princess, I thought, Can’t I have these gifts too? Can’t all children? I think that a small voice within said, “You do.”
Apparently, the seed for my story about The Twelve Gifts of Birth had existed in my heart long before I became a parent. That resurfaced memory clarified my sense of mission about The Twelve Gifts of Birth. I realized that the simple story contained a truth that all children deserve to hear, need to hear. Adults do too. We all need to be reminded that, regardless of all the things that tell us otherwise, we are each born gifted and worthy. For sure I would publish it someday. I finally did, ten years later.
How that happened is another story.