Ella's Birthday Wish

Ella's Birthday Wish

by Holly Floyd Hicks


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Ella's Birthday Wish is the story of a talented girl celebrating her tenth birthday who has dreams of becoming a dancer. But this birthday is unlike all her other birthdays because her Dad is stationed in Afghanistan.
In an effort to grapple with having her father at war and her mother having to handle everything in his absence, she finds love and support from her grandmother. With this loving support, Ella is able once again to give love and support back to her family when they really need it the most. As Ella's summer birthday approaches, she wishes for only one very special gift: to hear from her Dad while he is stationed in Afghanistan. Will she get her wish? Will her father return safely to her family when he completes his tour of duty? Ella's Birthday Wish is a heartwarming story that is for anybody who has had a family member away at war.
This book is a reminder of the sacrifices that are made by military families when a family member is on active duty.
Ella's Birthday Wish will inspire you to celebrate the important events in life despite the adversity and challenging times that affect us all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781450209335
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/22/2010
Pages: 108
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.22(d)

About the Author

Holly Floyd Hicks received her BS in
Education from Francis Marion University and a Masters
Degree in Education specializing in gifted and talented education from Converse College. She is a literacy teacher at a creative arts school. In her spare time she likes biking, traveling, painting, and, of course, reading.

Read an Excerpt

Ella's Birthday Wish

By Holly Floyd Hicks

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Holly Floyd Hicks
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-0933-5

Chapter One

Ella could almost feel steam coming out of her ears as she slammed her bedroom door. I don't know why Mom won't leave me alone, she thought. I haven't got the time to deal with her bossiness. How can I practice my dance moves or hang out with my friends when she is always insisting I help around the house?

Ella sat at her bedroom desk and took a deep breath. The warm morning sun shone in through her window. This is going to be another hot summer day in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Before she could gather her thoughts, Ella heard her mom's voice from the other side of the door.

"Ella, open this door. You're acting like no one in this house ever does anything but you."

Ella stubbornly sat at the edge of her chair, half listening to her mom, half thinking about how unfair life was right now.

"Ella? Ella, let me in. We need to talk," called her mom.

Ella hesitated to reply, but she knew Mom would not leave her alone until they discussed the quarrel they had in the kitchen just minutes ago. She knew Mom did not allow quarrels to go unresolved. She also knew from her parents that it was okay for two people to disagree, but when those people stopped listening to each other, that was considered a quarrel.

"Just a minute," replied Ella. "I'm tying my shoes." She sniffled just a little as she fought to hold back tears.

She thought of how much she resented all the demands her mom placed on her. This quarrel, like so many others they'd had lately, had begun the same way. Mom would leave a list of chores for her to do; she would do them. Then, when she was finished and wanted to go somewhere or have friends over, her mom would not agree. Why is it that no matter how much I do, Mom will never think I'm old enough to make my own decision? Why am I responsible enough to do the laundry, make the beds, and put the dishes away but not responsible enough to decide when friends can come over?

Mrs. Tanner continued to knock on the door, saying firmly, "Ella, let me in. I'm not going away."

Ella knew she could not delay the conversation any longer. Slowly, she made her way to the locked door.

"Ella, what's going on with you? Nothing ever suits you. I ask you to do a few things around the house, and you get into a stitch," Mrs. Tanner stated in a firm but calm voice.

"A few things! Mom, that's all we do. All we talk about lately is what you want me to do around this house. I can't go anywhere while you're at work. I can't do anything I want to do around the house. I ask if I can bake cookies when you're at work, and you say no. I ask if friends can come over to practice dance moves when you're at work, and you say no. I want my life back. What's wrong with that?"

Ella thought back to the times when Mom had stayed at home with her and her little brother, Matt. She thought back to the times before her dad had been sent off to the war in Afghanistan. All of that had changed. Her mom now worked so much overtime at the Veterans Hospital, and her dad-well, she missed him so much. Since he'd left for his tour of duty in Afghanistan, things were just not the same.

"Ella, you act as if these are things I can change. Right now is not the time for you to be going all over the neighborhood while I'm away at work. You know why I think it best for you to stay in the house while I'm at work. Children, no matter how responsible, get in trouble when adults aren't close by. It's just not safe. Things happen out there. And the reason I can't allow friends over while I'm at work is exactly as I've said before. I just can't take responsibility for your friends over here while I'm at work. I'm sorry your summer isn't everything you'd hoped it would be. We've been over this. It's not that I am trying to be mean, Ella. It's because I care about you. It's not safe to be out wandering the neighborhood while an adult is not at home."

"I wouldn't say I'm wandering the neighborhood, Mom. I just want to go over to a few of my friends' houses every once in a while. I'm so tired of having to stay home all the time. It's summer, Mom. Please."

"Ella," said her mom as she sat on the side of Ella's bed, "we need to get an understanding between us. Look at me, Ella." Ella turned in her desk chair and held her head up, facing her mom. "Do you really believe, after all these years of being your mom, that I don't want you to enjoy yourself? Answer me honestly."

"Well, no," Ella answered slowly.

"And, Ella, do you really believe that I care what happens to you?" Mom continued.

"Yeah, I know you care," replied Ella.

"Yes, Ella, I do care. Sometimes you just have to trust me and know that I am looking out for your own good-your own well-being. Right now our family is going through a rough patch. I am working overtime, and your dad is off in Afghanistan, fighting a war. Matt is too young to understand what's going on. I know you are left with a lot of responsibilities. I agree, and I understand. I also agree that you should have a happier summer-a summer where you can spend more time with friends. What's more, your dad and I know how much dancing means to you. We would love to be able to give you more opportunities to practice with your friends, but right now, it's just not possible.

"This is what I want you to try to understand. We are a family, and families make sacrifices for each other during rough patches. Your dad is probably sacrificing the most. He is certainly missing out on all our summer fun. I am working so many hours that I am missing out on summer, and both you and Matt must understand that this summer is not like every other summer. Ella, you have many summers ahead of you. This is a tough summer, but I promise you that if you learn to make a few sacrifices now, you will reap the rewards later. Trust me, Ella. That's all I'm asking; trust me just this once."

Ella nodded as she took in what her mother said. "Mom, I know I've been selfish. I just look at how much fun others are having, and I just think I want that, too."

"Ella, you're a wonderful girl and growing up fast. Why, in just two days you'll be ten years old. Just promise me that the next time you feel resentment, you'll think back to our conversation today," Mrs. Tanner said as she leaned over and gave her daughter a loving embrace. "Ella, I'm leaving for the hospital around twelve today, and I should be home around 9:00 this evening, so if you would like to have a friend or two over before I leave for work, then that's okay. All I ask is that you finish tidying up the house before tomorrow. You know tomorrow is a special day. Grandma Tanner is coming to visit."

With that, Ella smiled. How could she forget Grandma Tanner was coming?

"Thanks, Mom. I'll call Melissa and Ashley and ask if they can come over and practice dance moves."

"Okay, then. I'm off to the kitchen to prepare lunch. How do BLT sandwiches sound?" asked Mrs. Tanner.

"Yummy, Mom," replied Ella.

Ella quickly turned back around in her desk chair and pulled out her scrapbook that she'd been keeping since she was in first grade.

She turned to the page where she had placed a copy of an e-mail message from her father. It read:

May 2, 2009 Dear Ella, Just wanted to let you know I miss you. I am helping to build a new community center for boys and girls like you and Matt. This center will be a safe place for them to play ball and do things kids like to do. This center will also have a library where the kids can practice reading or do their homework where they feel safe. Every day that I am away, I miss all of you more. I also know that by helping these people over here I am making our world a safer place for kids everywhere. Ella, I know you and your mom have been having trouble getting along lately. Ella, realize it will not always be like this. Please help Mom until I get back home. I am counting on you. Love, Dad

After reading her dad's e-mail, she knew she had to make changes. She realized that too many people were counting on her, and she couldn't let them down. With a new outlook toward her responsibilities, she decided to enjoy the times she could spend with her friends, and she would accept the times she couldn't spend with them.

Then, quickly, she decided to call Melissa and Ashley and invite them over, even if it was for just a short visit.

Chapter Two

The next day, Ella had just finished folding and putting her clothes away when she heard Mom's voice call out, "Three o'clock! Time to leave to pick up Grandma Tanner!"

If Ella knew one thing about her mom, it was that Mom ran on a tight and tidy schedule. Every morning, at six-thirty on the dot, her mom would call out, "Ella, time to get up for school!" Ella had heard that song for exactly four years. A thought raced across her mind to calculate just how many days that had been. Let's see, that's kindergarten plus three grades-

"Comeon, or we'll be late! We don't want to keep Grandma Tanner waiting."

"Coming," Ella replied enthusiastically.

Quickly, Ella tied her white-and-gray tennis shoes. Pretending to be a ballerina, Ella twirled around and around over to her closet and leaned gracefully to grab a clean T-shirt. Then she heard her mom chime, "Better bring your raincoat. Looks like clouds are starting to gather."

"Okay, Mom," replied Ella. "Give me a few minutes." Her mom sounded so different now-different from when her dad was around. Ella slipped back to those fond memories. Her dad had a way of making them forget about all the day-to-day stuff, like cleaning the bathrooms or vacuuming the bedrooms or sweeping the back porch.

She turned to grab her raincoat and galoshes from their cubby on the other side of her room. She remembered how much fun she had with her mom. She and her mom had gone to the fabric outlet to pick out the blue-and-white striped cotton chenille material to sew her bedspread and matching curtains. A smile formed on Ella's face as she thought of the times when her dad was around. Back then, her mom would ask for Ella's help around the house. Housework had been more like a joint effort for the family, but after her dad left, her mom started working more and more overtime at the hospital-and that meant that most of the household chores became Ella's sole responsibility.

Holding her rain gear in one hand, Ella glanced in the mirror over her dresser to be sure her ponytail was secure. Then she clicked off the lights and stood in the dim room, racking her brain to figure out what was happening to her and her family.

How trivial all those household chores seemed when she stopped to think how her dad must have been living. In her heart, she felt that perhaps her mom had similar thoughts-that the household chores were mundane-but it was those things that could keep the family's mind off of what was really going on in Afghanistan.

She remembered that before her dad left for the war, there were times when the radio would play oldies music from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, and she and her dad would dance around the kitchen and empty the dishwasher. In the blink of an eye, the dishes were put away.

"Ella, are you ready yet?" Her mom's voice came as a gentle reminder to hurry up.

"On my way. Be there in a minute," she answered, slowly closing her bedroom door.

Ella's mind continued to wander, remembering those times in the kitchen with her dad. Her mom used to laugh and join in, too, as she'd sweep the floor, pretending the broom was a microphone. And even though her little brother, Matt, barely knew the words to the songs, he still joined in on the familiar lyrics, like "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John or "Dream On" by Aerosmith. "Yep, the Tanner family is in town," her dad would chuckle. Times definitely had been much more laid back when Dad was around-life had been good.

Ella quickly snapped herself back to reality. Enough daydreaming, she thought. I have to be on schedule. In the distance she heard her little brother scrambling to gather his rain gear as well. She thought about the last few months without Dad and how Matt had suffered, too.

It was Matt, Ella realized, who really got hurt the most. Matt had needed his dad when he was being bullied by two boys in the neighborhood. He had become withdrawn when he couldn't discuss his situation with anyone. Ella felt sorry for her brother, even though she realized that, in reality, there had been no time for discussions. She had been too busy doing housework and her school homework, and Mom had been too busy doing overtime at the veteran's hospital. It was not until Matt failed to bring in his homework three days in a row that the school called. That was when her mom finally heard Matt's reason for not doing his homework-he confided that those neighborhood boys had been bullying him for the past two months. Matt went on to explain that every morning on his way to the bus stop, the boys would come running up behind him and plunder through his book bag, taking whatever school supplies their hands touched. Finally, it all became too much for Matt, and he could no longer think about school anymore, not even long enough to do his homework.

Now, Ella and Matt joined their mom in the family room. Brother and sister quickly glanced at each other and then focused their attention on their mom, who was standing by the front door. She held the doorknob with her left hand, and in her right hand she held her keys and an umbrella. Her black purse swung over her right shoulder.

Ella now realized that her mom was pretty amazing. It was the first time in a long time that Ella thought about her mom with compassion, rather than contempt. She saw the stress in her mom's face. Worry lines showed on her forehead ever so slightly as she swept her shoulder-length chestnut brown hair away from her big brown eyes.

Ella's eyes then fixed on their most recent family photo, which was hanging on the wall by the front door. Her dad's blue eyes seemed to be looking back at her. His wavy brown hair, cut Marine perfect, reminded her of how precisely he used to do everything-even the way he'd taught her and Matt how to pack their backpacks in perfect order. Her mom's face looked so worry-free in the photo. Ella noticed how much her mother had changed in just over a year. I suppose Matt and I have changed, too, Ella thought. If nothing else, we've both gotten taller.

"Ella, are you coming?" Mrs. Tanner asked as she stood holding the door.

"Oh, yes, I'm ready, Mom." Ella darted out the door.

"I've got shotgun!" Matt yelled, racing toward the van. He juggled a raincoat in one hand and a Game Boy in the other. His curly auburn hair bounced as he ran across the front lawn.

"Yeah, but I've got it on the way back!" shouted Ella. They both made a mad dash to secure their seats for van takeoff-that's what her dad always called it when he was around. "Savannah International Airport, here we come," announced Mom as they eagerly anticipated the arrival of Grandma Tanner.

Chapter Three

On the way to the airport, Ella's mind drifted to pleasant thoughts. She was determined to not let the dark clouds overhead darken her mood.

Grandma Tanner always came for a two-week visit every summer to celebrate Ella's birthday. And every October, the family visited Grandma Tanner in Richmond, Virginia, for Matt's birthday.

Last summer when Grandma Tanner came, she helped them plant honeysuckle around the mailbox. Ella found it hard to imagine how that little vine, not much higher than her kneecap then, now wound its way all over the whole mailbox. Just last week, her mom had trimmed it back so they could get the mail out of the box without having to fight the orange trumpet-shaped flowers. It smelled so sweet-Ella hadn't known that something so dainty could send out such a sweet aroma.

She thought of her grandma and expected that she would marvel and say, "Why, Ella Tanner! I do believe you've grown a foot since last year!" When Grandma Tanner smiled, it made Ella feel strong-as if she, Ella, was worth hearing, and her ideas and opinions were important. Ella would just stand there, and they'd join together in this great big hug that made her feel as if she would always be this loved. Then Grandma Tanner would look down at Matt and give him that same look. Amazing-she had that much love for both of her grandchildren.


Excerpted from Ella's Birthday Wish by Holly Floyd Hicks Copyright © 2010 by Holly Floyd Hicks. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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