The Writer’s Life: The Best Gift for a Writer by Michael Suppa

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Perhaps a little late for the Christmas season but germane throughout the year, one may ask the question, “What is the best gift to give to a writer?”

At one time, many would have said a pen. Both useful and symbolic, it could be bought in many price ranges (a plus to the giver and at times the recipient, too), one of the many essentials the writer would use over and over again. If you were to Google the question today, your answers would include the pen (high end) along with other ideas:  software, a conference, a moleskine, time, a review, a literary action figure, a massage (I’ll take that one; although, those who know me would say the action figure).

If you were to ask me the question, I would likely tell you about a wonderful “writer’s” gift that I received.

One unopened, 50th birthday gift lay at my feet with mounds of crumpled wrapping paper forming a river between my family and me. You know, that one present saved for last, deemed a special gift for the evening. Although, nothing seemed that special about it to me; it wasn’t wrapped in exceptional paper, didn’t have a big, beautiful bow. It wasn’t that large.

My son, Bruno, sprung from the blue lounge chair he shared his wife, excited as I’d ever seen him with a slight Cheshire cat smile that made me a little nervous, headed for the package. When everyone quieted, he lifted it and announced, “This one’s from me.”

I looked to Mary Ann, my wife, for a hint to the contents. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. I glanced over to the couch and received the same from my daughter, Beth, and her husband, but a little nod from Beth eased my apprehension (some).

The tag noted: “To Dad with much love and appreciation, Bruno”. And, I puckered with pride as torn paper revealed a picture of him and me from his wedding day framed within the cover of a photo album. My smug posture and delighted face elicited interest. Everyone crowded around. “Open it up; open it, dad,” Bruno cajoled.”

Noting the faux, gray and black snakeskin cover, I opened to the title page, and pride turned to confusion, then confusion to burning red ears when I finally understood. In multicolor letters, the heading Life Lessons Via Email preceded three printed emails that were affixed to the page. Although it had been over four years since Bruno had returned from college, he had saved every email that I had sent him during those years. He had printed them out and placed them into the album.

I now have some idea of what the “flight or fight” response is all about. I wanted to get up and run, but knowing I couldn’t, I fought every inch of my being to stay seated and smile, to look pleased at what had just confronted me. Bruno, fun-loving and capricious, was not the easiest child to send off on his own, and every ounce of my soul, my joy, anger, love, and concern had at one time or another been poured into those emails. They were now exposed for all to see. Oh, God, I hope he didn’t include them all!

Though most were there, how beautifully he handled them, making notes of thanks, acknowledging wisdom received…

That night as we read through the compilation, we laughed; we cried, we laughed some more. Not only as a father but as a writer, I had just received a treasure chest filled with memories and artifacts – heaven for a memoirist.

What is the perfect gift for a writer? You could probably be safe with the symbolic; to be honored and noted for writing is a beautiful thing. If writing is the sole form of income, consider a monetary gift; it might be deeply appreciated if not deeply needed. Also, any of the above gleaned from the Google search will probably work.

But, I would argue that you are and have already been a gift for the writer. Give freely!

michael suppaMichael Suppa is an elementary school writing teacher in Ellwood City, Pa. He also has presented professional development programs on writing and portfolio assessment. He received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Wilkes University under the mentorship of Dr. J. Michael Lennon.

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