Birthday Present
Laura, Age 12, Easton, CT

It was 1943, the night was young and spirits were up as the sound of swing music echoed in the background. The embroidered dresses of young girls and women flowed in a collage of bright colors. High heels and polished black dress shoes moved accordingly to the feel of the tune. I gazed upon the sight of my parents looking into each other's eyes making their way across the dance floor, as if they were the only two people in the world, and that was all that mattered. Oh, how I wished I too could be out there, dancing the night away. Considering what a merry time all were having. I tapped my feet to the hum of the piano, and envisioned how it would feel to be part of the occasion. I could foresee the image in my mind and how joyous the thought seemed.

I was only about five at the time and little did I know that this would be one of the last times our family would be together for what would become years. It had been five years since the war had started and my father, who was a soldier, had not yet been enlisted.
We came home later that our minds full of music and blissful memories. My eyelids began to feel heavy as I drifted off into deep sleep. It was the midst of the night when I was slumbering that I was shaken awake by my eldest sister Julia and an ear-splitting siren. “Wha-a-at is going on?” I questioned still drowsy from sleep not yet wiped away from my eyes.

 “Come with me, Anna. It isn’t important where we are going. You will know soon, but we mustn’t waste time.”

I was hoisted into her arms as she frantically ran through the house, forcefully shoving my feet into my shoes. We ran outside and searched for our shelter used in times such as these. Then all I could see was blackness. The sound of my family members breathing heavily and struggling to control their breath filled my ears.
A light turned on and I could now see the worried faces that were my mother, Julia, and brother Elliot. Looking back on this day, I should have known the hardships that would soon rock our family. I can still remember the haunting sound of planes racing across the night’s sky and then dropping bombs in the distance. The warm summer air filled the dusty, dirty vicinity. Yet, I felt as if I were shaking all over.

I have always pondered on the thought of how such a splendid night could have formed into a complete and utter nightmare.

The coming morning was even more depressing. As I dressed into my jumper, there was a knock on the door. A man’s voice began to speak to my mother, carrying a somber tone. He ended in a stern “I’m sorry.” Mama’s voice cut through as she stuttered, “Um, y-y-yes sergeant. Thank you.

And with that the door was closed. What could they possibly have been talking about? The thought ran throughout my mind. I walked cautiously down the steps, noting an eerie silence that filled the house. I stepped into the kitchen to see Mama clutching a letter in one hand and her head buried in the other. Not knowing how I should approach her, I simply sat down beside her. “Good morning,” I whispered solemnly. She attempted to put on a cheerful smile, yet I could see right through it, and I knew something was wrong. What information did that letter hold that suppressed so much emotion within my mom?

Sitting in the living room were Elliot and Julia listening to the radio. “Well it seems that another fleet of soldiers have been sent to serve in World War II,” boomed from the announcer’s voice.

My siblings let out a groan at the news at the same moment as mum entered the room and said, “Well kids, I have some news of my own to share with you.”

I cocked my head to the side like a puppy dog, curious to know whether this had to do with the man at the door, the letter, and her depressed expression. We were listening intently now. “As you know… another fleet has been ordered into battle and it just so happens to be…that…well your father is part of that company too.” She ended on the same forced tone of happiness as she used with me in the kitchen. My sister’s eyes began to well up with ears, and Elliot’s mouth dropped. I, on the other hand, didn’t exactly understand.

“Mum what do you mean by Daddy is part of that company too?” I asked perplexed.

“Anna…it means he won’t be home for some time.”

“O-ok, but he is coming back r-right?”

“I don’t really know to tell you the truth. However, I sure hope he does.” Julia had to leave the room as mama said this.

“Oh I think I get it now,” I said, my voice barely a whisper.

Since that event in 1943, days, months and soon years passed by. I grew older. I was around the age of nine and there was still no sign of my father returning. And the news that we heard each day wasn’t very reassuring. More deaths pronounced and the reports of whether it will ever end. I often thought of Dad’s warm smile and hearty laugh. I wished I could see it just one more time. Every day letters were being delivered to the wives and families of the men who died fighting for our country. I could only imagine the sorrow that would follow them the rest of their life. I could see Mama looking out the window, probably wishing that she would never have to receive a letter. How could she face it? Losing the man she fell in love with, married, and created a family with. What would become of our family? It seemed the thoughts I had of my dad were merely memories.

It was my tenth birthday and we were in the middle of cake. Everyone was laughing and giggling together, singing Happy Birthday and shoving chocolate cake in our mouths. But then came the worst, a harsh knock on the front door. Our smiles faded, the room was suddenly very tense. Mama told us to stay where we were, it would only take her a minute. I watched as she slowly walked towards the door and opened it. A man standing in the doorway dressed in formal attire. I heard my mother begin to wail as she took a letter from the man’s hand. It looked as though she were about to collapse. This was the end I thought, and I knew Julia and Elliot knew it as well when we exchanged glances. The sound of tearing paper came from the hall and mother’s crying died out. She finished reading the letter and let out a burst of joy! Her hand over her mouth, walking into the kitchen she couldn’t contain herself until she finally burst out saying, “HE IS COMING HOME”!!!

“WHAT? OH MUM, THAT IS WONDERFUL!" we all said in unison.
He is coming home, I thought to myself. He is really coming home… Through our cheers another man stepped through the doorway. He looked familiar, and it was then I realized it was my dad. Safe from harm, home with our family, the best birthday present I could have asked for. I jumped into his arms, and I knew everything would be ok from that point on.


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