We asked a few of our regular contributors to answer the following question:
What was the best gift you’ve ever received–for Christmas, another special occasion, or overall? Here’s how they answered.
Michael John Sullivan: The best gift I received was the births of my two daughters. My daughters are wonderful human beings. Compassionate. Kind. They have taught me so much, and I am quite fortunate. My youngest was born the day before Thanksgiving that year. The first was born in January. I remember each birth like it was yesterday.
Kyrian Lyndon: I was going to say; I have no idea how to answer this question. As in, where do I begin? I am so blessed with my son, my life, all the things I’ve survived, and merely getting to wake up every day to embrace another challenge or enjoy another moment. All that is true, but something else came to mind, in terms of specific birthday and holiday gifts. When I was little, my paternal grandmother always made sure I had a musical jewelry box with a dancing ballerina. When I got a little older, she noticed I loved earrings that fell just slightly below the earlobe, and she’d get me beautiful ones from Italy that she knew would have me gushing. I cherished those gifts not only because I loved them but also because they showed me that someone was paying attention and loved me with all of her heart.
The Sound of Music
The gift I’m going to write about here is not, in itself, the greatest gift I ever received. It wasn’t even exactly a gift. More of something my dad won at a local golf tournament and didn’t particularly want. “Would you like this?” he asked. When I nodded, he placed the transistor radio and its earphone in my hand. About the size of a modern smart phone, it fit sleekly into my six-year-old palm. I was dazzled to near silence—a transistor radio, the height of teen cool in 1961—and all mine. I managed a mumbled thanks before running off to my room and dialing through the stations to find our local—a small-town, one-horse operation that played Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen Tons and The Brothers Four Blue Water Line during the day. That was okay. During the day, I was a normal kid of the times, roller skating and climbing trees and playing paper dolls with my friends.
But in the nighttime hours, I discovered another world. A universe of teen music. With the earphone plugged in tight, while my parents assumed I was fast asleep, I reveled in the pulse of a still nascent rock & roll: Barry Mann’s Who Put the Bomp, Del Shannon’s Runaway,The Miracles’ Shop Around. The disc jockey who spun these tunes was Phil D., and we, his audience, were “The Nightlighters.” Being a Nightlighter at age six was exceedingly exciting, and my greatest wish was to be old enough to phone the studio at 11 p.m., where nightly the first caller to say “Capozio’s makes the best pizza,” won a free pizza. I had never tasted pizza—my parents weren’t pizza people—but I knew it was the coolest thing one could possibly eat.
My little transistor was still plugged into my ear in the wee hours when, days before the New Year 1964, Phil D. said, “Whatever you’re doing, you need to stop and give this next one your complete attention. These guys are causing major crowd scenes in England. They sound like nothing you’ve ever heard.” The record was I Want to Hold Your Hand. The group was the Beatles. If you were not there, there’s no way to describe how they transformed, and informed, a generation. They were the soundtrack of life, along with a folksinger from Minnesota by way of the East Village, Bob Dylan, and all things Motown. The Civil Rights Movement. The Summer of Love. The Vietnam War protests. Music was the heartbeat of a generation who believed we could transform the world. All You Need is Love.
I continue to experience life through music. I play music in the car, at the gym, in the kitchen while cooking, at my computer while working. Everywhere. I love music. It’s a lifelong affair. One that has expanded to include Mozart, Leonard Cohen, Gregorian chants, opera. Music was what that transistor radio made possible—what it connected me to—that was the great gift, a gift that shaped my life, that gave me solace, joy, strength, and above all love. And, really, aren’t all the greatest gifts connected to love?
Amy Henry is a writer of fiction long and short. While writing How Did We Get Here? and revising The Sticking Place, she published short stories in The Barcelona Review, The Alembic and, most recently, The Carolina Quarterly. Links to these stories are listed here:
The Alembic “The Last Reel” (Scroll down to page 72)
Before having the lucky opportunity to write fiction full time, she penned numerous articles and essays for magazines, newspapers, and e-pubs, from which she earned something resembling a living. Amy resides in Massachusetts with her übersupportive husband and two wayward cats.
“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.” (Gustave Flaubert)
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Winston Churchill)
You can find her blogging about the human condition on her website:
Michael John Sullivan is the creator of the SockKids. Constantly searching for his socks, he wondered whether the missing foot comforters had found another pair of feet to warm. So he searched and searched, until he discovered these elusive socks likely time traveled.
Before his interest in socks, Michael started writing his first novel while homeless, riding a NYC subway train at night. After being rescued off the train, he spent much of the past two decades helping raise two daughters while working at home in New York.
Michael eventually returned to his subway notes in 2007 and began writing Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness (Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books imprint). Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak one of the year’s best in Christian fiction for 2010.
His second novel, Everybody’s Daughter (Fiction Studio Books, 2012) was named one of the best books of 2012 by TheExaminer.com. He completed the trilogy by having The Greatest Gift published by The Story Plant in 2015.
Michael has written articles about the plight of homelessness for CNN.com, The Washington Post.com, Beliefnet.com, the Huffington Post, and America Online’s Patch.com service. He is a former board member of the Long Island Coalition For the Homeless.
Kyrian Lyndon is the author of Shattering Truths, the first book in her Deadly Veils series. She has published two poetry collections, A Dark Rose Blooms, and Remnants of Severed Chains, as well as several articles for Rebelle Society and The Voice of Literature e-zines.
She is the founder and publisher of Moonlit Dawn Publications and Brave Wings magazine and also the editor-in-chief of Brave Wings. Brave Wings magazine promotes healing and empowerment through the written word. “Its focus,” she says, “is on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve.”
Kyrian has worked in executive-level positions, particularly with major New York publishing companies, including McGraw-Hill Book Company and John Wiley & Son Publishers.
She is forthcoming about being a person with many years of recovery, as well as a trauma survivor. Throughout her journeys, she has expressed her thoughts through poetry, embracing every challenge to triumph over adversity. In her conviction that learning, growing, healing, and evolving is a never-ending process, she remains as grateful for the dark days as she is for every flicker of hope and light. Her passion for awareness advocacy and sharing insight motivates her to entertain in ways that provoke, enrich, and inspire.