Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Stories

As a small child I tended to make a lot of noise early in the morning. My mother was a night person who patiently put up with my early morning energy during the week while Dad went to work, but on weekends he took charge of me. A morning person, he'd whisk me outside where I could shout and run around, letting my mother sleep in.

But Dad did more than exercise my body to burn off excess energy on those weekend mornings. He exercised my imagination. We lived in San Francisco, and he would take me for walks along Land's End, where we were more likely to run into a surprised fox than another person. As we walked through the foggy morning, with the surf crashing against the rocks below us, Dad would tell me stories.

Dad had come to America from El Salvador as a teenager. He learned his new language well enough to write and publish poetry in English, became a naturalized citizen, and would ultimately become Vice President Richard E. Bonilla at the United Nations. On those early mornings in San Francisco, however, he opened my mind to the idea that stories weren't just something published in books. They came from someone's imagination. Dad loved history, so he told me lots of stories from history. He gave the historical characters dialogue and personalities from his imagination, and brought them to life for my delight. I can still see him acting out the story of a nobleman laying his cloak over a mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth - at the same time explaining that it might have been Sir Walter Raleigh or it might not, but what mattered was the story.

I loved listening to my father's stories so much that I wanted to make up stories that were as good as his. So while he went to work during the week, I struggled to make up stories that I could tell him during our next morning walk. I didn't know very much history at the time, so my efforts were more contemporary. But I discovered that making up stories was even more fun than listening to them. And I began to look at the shelves and shelves of books in the library, and think: someone made that story up, someone like Dad and like me. And if they could do it...

It's often said that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Well, I was the noisy, energetic child who got the story - and with it, the idea that I could become a writer, and one day see my stories on those library shelves. Thanks, Dad. Even though I've grown into a night person, like my mother, and no longer get up early in the morning, bubbling over with high-volume energy, I've also grown into a writer who's up late at night working on her new story.


  1. Dear Elaine,

    I love this story about you and your Dad! How fortunate you were up and busy early so that you had this opportunity. This is a lovely tribute to your Dad for Father's Day. I hope he sees it!



  2. Thanks, Bobbie - I hope he sees it too.