The Dream Quest One Writing Contest First Prize Winner
RONNA L. EDELSTEIN
of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Ronna L. Edelstein
Lovingly Ever After
Because I love how the first snow turns the scene outside
my window into a
snow globe and often gives me a guilt-free vacation from school or work, I
question how I can loathe the same snow for burning my nose and turning me into a
helpless rag doll. I love how M&Ms
create a rainbow in a jar and a sweet satisfaction
in my stomach, yet I also resent these addictive candies for bringing me unwelcome
rolls of fat and unhappy minutes on the
elliptical. Love, by making me more
vulnerable to pain and misery, confuses me.
Only Dad makes love clear to me; no matter what I do or say, he, like my
childhood physician, gives me lollipops of love. However, Dad’s love could not
protect me from Ma’s
love, which always came with “Do you really like your hair
that long?” or “I think your pants are getting tight around the thighs”
could only transform my older brother’s initial reaction to me -- “You
look like a monkey; go away” -- into tolerance.
When the love emanating from the yellow daisies
of my bridal bouquet
into the weeds of divorce, I became a single parent to my son and daughter. I
confess that my love for my children has not always been the unconditional love
that Oprah and her admirers hold in such
high esteem, but I found it difficult to
maintain liking, yet alone loving, when my children’s “love” took the form of
slamming bedroom doors, blasting music, and rolling eyes.
By the time I entered the
nest chapter of my life, I abandoned love for a shell of solitude. Yet, as I
graded papers or did laundry, I could not totally silence a nagging voice that warned
me that, by not giving myself one more
chance with love, I was denying myself
then I met Ella, my great niece. By the end of our first dinner together,
three-and-a-half-year-old Ella had taught me a lot about love, what it really means,
and how I could bring it
back to a life of disillusionment, darkness, and depression.
Ella’s lessons in love, now in their third year, are a process with no end in sight.
Why I did not meet Ella prior to her toddler years results more from my
jealousy that my brother had a grandchild, something I will never
Ella or her mother, my niece, had done. The death of my mother,
which diminished my already small family, motivated me to put aside
the miscommunications, misconceptions, and missed chances
of the past and to invite
her parents, and my brother and his wife to dinner at the apartment I now
share with my widowed father.
During the course of the meal, I told Ella how
much I loved her big, beautiful,
chocolate-brown eyes. Without missing a beat, she responded, “And I love your big
beautiful glasses, Aunt Ronna!” My disappointment at
not being able to wear
disappeared as I realized that this is love - accepting people as they are.
At that same family dinner
where my glasses took center stage, I accidentally
spilled my soda on the table. When I laughed, “Now, wasn’t that stupid of me?”
Ella froze; she stopped
creating musical masterpieces with the spoons she had collected,
looked at me, looked at her parents, and looked back at me. I heard her unspoken
message loud and clear: “Stupid”
is not a loving word, and only loving words are
allowed in the world of Ella.
L. Edelstein 3
On a tour of the apartment, Ella discovered my two figures
and Minnie Mouse
that sit on my window ledge. Instead of rushing over and grabbing
them, however, she politely asked if she could hold them. When I granted her
permission to do so, Ella gently picked
up Mickey and Minnie, kissed each on the
nose, whispered, “I love you” to them, and carefully returned them to the ledge. In
her one experience at Disney World, Ella had learned what
it has taken me a lifetime
figure out - it is a small world after all - and love adds music and color to that
In December 2010, I had my third jaw surgery in
three years. A few days
the operation, Ella sent me a video. Looking straight into the camera,
Ella assured me that everything would go well because “I talked to my best
friend Tinkerbelle, and she promised to
sprinkle you with pixie dust when you fall asleep
and then when you wake up, you will be all better.”
Thanks to Ella, I realize that
love is reaching out to another, giving that
person a piece of your heart, and wanting absolutely nothing in return but that
person’s good health and happiness. Is it any wonder
that I have spent the last 160
(and counting) writing one chapter per week about Princess Ella the
Enchanting of the Kingdom of Chicago?
Every Friday I mail almost seven-year-old
Ella a bubble envelop that contains
the latest chapter (with clip art illustrations), a treat (from chocolates to cookies),
and a small gift (from an Aladdin book to a Winnie the Pooh
puzzle). My family and
think I am the greatest great-aunt for writing these stories about and for
Ronna L. Edelstein 4
but they are missing the larger picture: Like all givers, I receive more than I
could ever give.
Ella, by renewing my passport to Imagi-Nation,
has reminded me that love is
the extra to the ordinary and making the impossible possible. Only in Imagi-
Nation can I send Ella to Yummy Tummy Town where Mayor Marsha Mallow
her the French Fries
Forest and Creamy Cave with its ice cream icicles. Only in
Imagi-Nation can she board a bird with silver feathers so she can soar to Disney
World and save Mickey and Minnie from the sleeping spell cast
upon them by
the evil Ursula.
And only in Imagi-Nation can I provide Ella with a treasure chest
that holds an alphabet of gifts, such as “B” for the book with empty pages
whenever Ella the Enchanting
plays make-believe, her imaginary thoughts grow wings and
fly from her mind to the blank page of the book - - and “W” for the wristwatch that
makes time go slower when
Ella has fun dancing, eating pizza, or riding her bike, but
makes time go faster when she has to get a shot or take yucky medicine to make her
feel better. Ella has given me the chance
to explore and create - and to embrace
each new day with a colorful ribbon in my hair and excitement in my eyes. That is love.
Most of all, Ella has
taken me back to the future - back to my childhood and
the childhood of my now-adult children, and back to the love of those days that I
feared I had forever lost to the tarnishing
When Dad and I browse through our favorite dollar store to find the perfect
envelope gifts for Ella, I remember those weekly Monday mornings when Dad would
take me to the local Five ‘n Ten
and buy me a new outfit for my dolls. A story about
Ronna L. Edelstein 5
the Letter People evokes images of my son and daughter leaping from the school bus
to excitedly tell me about meeting
“Miss A who goes A’choo” and
learning about “Mr. T who has Tall Teeth.”
When my son was in fourth grade, he wrote a story
about Jake and Bertha,
little people with big hearts. Decades later, I resurrected Jake and Bertha in
“Princess Ella and the Snow People.” In the Princess Ella stories, every
that dances, and star that sparkles pays homage to my daughter, the
little girl - and now adult woman -
with the smiling eyes.
I fill my stories with happy lessons and joyful
curiosity so that both Ella and I
grow together in love. My words that “school is cool when everyone follows the
Golden Rule” make Ella a more loving classmate and me a more caring teacher.
“Monday the Monkey, Tuesday the Tiger, Wednesday the Wren, Thursday the Turtle,
the Fish, Saturday the Seal, and Sunday the Swan” remind me to cherish each
day. Love, as defined by another story, is “the special bricks needed to build a loving
house and a community of unity."
learns about love from her parents and then shares her insights
with me. Perhaps years from now, she will pass those
lessons of love - and the
“once upon a time” stories of love” - to her daughter, granddaughter,
She will explain
that love involves giving and accepting, imagining and
exploring, and putting aside petty differences to celebrate similarities.
Love, she will add, is
not at all confusing when it nurtures and nourishes - and enables
as jaded as Aunt Ronna to find value in herself and to enjoy a “lovingly ever after” life.
About the author:
I have been fortunate to travel
through life with three role models. Grandma taught me to get up and go about my business, no matter what troubles I may
be experiencing. Ma assured me that "this too shall pass." Dad reminds me that a cud-chewing cow has a more sensible
look than a gum chewing girl, that hot Ovaltine in the winter and a cold chocolate phosphate in the summer will cure all
problems, and that in the words of Rudyard Kipling, it is good to "keep my head when all about you are losing theirs."
All three encouraged me to read and dream, write and create.
As a part-time faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh's
English Department, I work as a consultant at the school's Writing Center.
I also teach Freshman Programs, a course that introduces students to the University and the city.
My work, both fiction and nonfiction, has appeared in "New Slang" A New Literary
Voice by the Women's and Girls of Pittsburgh" (online); Quality Women's Fiction; Ghoti Online Literary Magazine; First Line Anthology; The Road Elsewhere (Scribes Valley Publishing - third place); Welcome to Elsewhere (Scribes
Valley Publishing - third place); When We Are (Scribes Valley Publishing
- second place); SLAB: Sound and Literary Artbook; Pulse: Voices
from the Heart of Medicine (online and print); AARP Bulletin (online and print);
Healthy Roots (Forbes Health Foundation and Hospice); The Jet Fuel Review (Lewis University's online literary journal); Writer's Relief (online); and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette. ~Ronna L. Edelstein