Here’s a story I don’t tell very often.

Here’s a story I don’t tell very often, but it’s time.

Hear me out, you’ll see why at the end.

Click for the background Soundtrack here

I’m six years old and it’s Christmas morning. The gifts have been opened. My father is sitting in the bedroom reading. Is he in a good mood? Is he sulking? My dad is the proverbial box-of-chocolates dad; you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s caramel but more often, he’s one of those hard toffees that get stuck in your teeth.

My mom gestures to me with a smile, has me try on my new pink, quilted bathrobe, the one I opened in the early morning dark by the multi-colored lights of the traditional Christmas eve tree we cut down the day before.

She brushes my long hair into a tight ponytail, attaches a white bow to the hair tie. I probably wince as she secures it. I know what she is doing; smoothing me out, tidying me up. We paint our nails Frosted Seashell.She opens a matching pink umbrella with a new plastic smell and hands it to me.

“Let’s go show your dad,” she says. The expression on her face is warm fireplace, hot chocolate, and tenderness.

We walk into the bedroom, one pretty in pink, one pretty in love.

My dad looks up from the New York Times and says with a tone that’s all mockery,

“Isn’t she pretty? Isn’t she the daintiest thing? Isn’t she adorable?” He draws out the four-syllabled word to prolong the teasing.

I don’t know what threatens him about seeing me without my usual mass of unruly hair, my striped shirt, and scuffed tennis shoes. There’s no love in his tone, even though this cleaned-up version of his daughter is what he often asks for: “Brush your hair. You look like Gravel Gertie.”

“Ann, if you don’t stop talking I’m going to strap you to the roof of the car and use you for a siren.” “Hey, tugboat, no dessert for you.”

I don’t remember my mother’s reaction. I only recall the spear of hot indignation low in my belly, radiating out to my diminutive fist. I narrow my eyes and quick, like an adorable bunny backed into a corner, I pull my arm back and punch him in the face, breaking his only pair of glasses.

The rest of that memory is a blur. I remember being hauled like a wildcat into my room shouting, “It’s not fair!”

I can still hear my father laughing.

Maybe my dad knew that this girlie outfit was as ridiculous on his daughter as it would be if on Bruce Lee. Or maybe my dad was kind of a dick.

Either way, like all of us, life is a little like Fight Club; sometimes you have to put up your dukes and get in the ring. You may not always talk about it, but you’re in there.

[Tweet “life is a little like Fight Club; sometimes you have to put up your dukes and get in the ring. You may not always talk about it, but you’re in there.”]

I have the gloves on right now. I finished my book but it’s not nearly good enough.

I have to start over.

I’m going to put on my pink robe and my leggings, and put (max control hair gel) a bow in my hair and start again.

Do I want to?

No, but this book deserves it, and so do you–my readers, friends, and cheering section.

How do I keep going after working so hard and falling short?

I’m not sure, but I know how to get back in there, right on my own home turf, which is where you will find me, punching my book in the nose.

I can almost hear my dad laughing as I write this.

XO Ann

Big thank you to Samantha Hoffman for editing this piece. She edits all my essays. Click for her services.

If you want to catch up and read my last emails about life and loving click here

If you want to read something about how Peanut (my little dog) wanted to be a bee for Halloween click here


  1. Bonnelyn Thwaits on November 1, 2021 at 10:24 am

    I am a lurker.
    I wanted you to know that I enjoy your blog. It is like a positive affirmation.

    Thank you

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:58 pm

      Hahah I LOVE a lurker. Thanks for lurking. 😉

  2. Denise on November 1, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Oh, wow. This one hits close to home on so many levels.

    • Andrea Hicks on November 1, 2021 at 1:50 pm

      I was thinking about my family yesterday and how disconnected we all were. I dont think we liked each other much. My dad was a disciplinarian, my mum somewhat distant. Your story brought back a memory of my dad baiting me, bullying. I was about fifteen. There was a bowl of just made scrambled egg on the worktop. I pushed my hand into it, sliding right under the egg,I lifted it out and threw it at him. He didn’t say a word. The egg dripped off his ear and glasses. He just took a towel and wiped it off. My mum carried on washing up and said nothing. I still don’t know what to make of it

      • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:56 pm

        We are one and the same then. A tribe of fighters.

      • Caitlin Hicks on November 1, 2021 at 11:17 pm

        Ann Garvin, you are my current inspiration! I love this story; love that you write as well as share – (sharing: so tech & time consuming!). I have spent the last 3 months tech-only-working on an audiobook of my beloved novel A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE and I soaked up that brave Christmas story! Although there are no Christmas stories in THEORY, there’s that Daddy alright. Loved your line, “maybe my Dad was just a dick”. You said it out loud. “Things that cannot be said.” Right now I’m just trying to scrounge up the courage to speak some unspeakable things. So thank you!

        • Ann Garvin on November 2, 2021 at 1:20 am

          Caitlin, what an honor. Thank you. Thank you for reading and writing. Working on your work. Saying all the things. We all meet together in our truths.

    • Toni Laliberte on November 1, 2021 at 5:15 pm

      I enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharing it!

      • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:50 pm

        My pleasure Toni 🙂

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:58 pm

      We fighters have to stick together.

  3. Diane C McPhail on November 1, 2021 at 11:59 am

    Yes, hits home, but in an opposite way. And I would never have dreamed of hitting her, but my stepmother had a way of notonly smoothing me, but making the very politely worded cut downs. Thanks, Ann.

    • Ann Garvin on November 2, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      UGH. The passive-aggressive dismissal is almost worse. It’s hard to punch that down. I hope you are doing that now, though. Even internally.

  4. Julie McGue on November 1, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    I loved the humor that glossed over the dark story beneath… it was like frosting on a cupcake

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:57 pm

      This is exactly what I try to do…..thank you for seeing it so.

  5. DG on November 1, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Been there, done that, bought the hat…survived to live another day. I’m so glad you’re here to send out this blog. You are amazing. Thank you.

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:57 pm

      Thank you so much. This is a tonic.

  6. Elaine Durbach on November 1, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Annie, would your dad credit himself with teaching you to punch back? Would you?

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:57 pm

      I would credit him–a bit. He definitely would credit himself. 🙂

  7. CINDY on November 1, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Great story, I can relate to the feeling, how brave to sock him!

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:54 pm

      Ha! It did feel good. No regrets. ahahah

  8. gaye ferris mack on November 1, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    You’re definitely in a ‘Saturn’ time, climbing the mountain to manifest your ‘Great Work’…and you will as you always do….love the story….so familiar here. xo

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:54 pm

      Thank you Gaye. Dear friend. xo

  9. Lorraine Kleinwaks on November 1, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Anne — After loving and reviewing I THOUGHT YOU SAID THIS WOULD WORK, can’t believe your new novel isn’t “good enough.” One reason your writing stands out is that you are so honest about things. Other authors probably would not say they’re not happy with something they wrote! This means: Can’t wait to read it. Lorraine K

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:54 pm

      Oh Lorraine you are a shot in the arm. Thank you so much. xo

  10. Ron Hatfield on November 1, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    I enjoyed your essay! It reminds me of what a good childhood I had. Yes there was discipline but it was always outmatched by the tremendous showing of love from mom and dad! I feel so fortunate!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:52 pm

      You’re so welcome Ron!

  11. Anne on November 1, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Gravel Gertie! I thought that was just a made up name! And I heard it often as I had the hair that went every which way. It was cut short to be more manageable. I never knew the glories of a bouncy pony-tail. Plaid shorts, t-shirt, and Keds sneakers made my uniform.
    Name calling. Does it make one tougher, have thicker skin? Or more sensitive and even protective? I always wanted to shout- but never did- “I am who I am! “

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:52 pm

      I don’t know what it did for me. Made me part fighter, part lovie I think 🙂 I am who I am as well.

  12. Wendy Dueñez on November 1, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    I always enjoy your stories. This one felt very relatable to a memory I have but I was never brave enough to sock it to him! Maybe I needed a pink quilted robe…

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:51 pm

      I think the quilted robe was the super suit.

  13. K. A Bylsma on November 1, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    All too familiar…

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      Big hug to you

  14. David R. Roth on November 1, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    As a parent of three adults now ranging from 36-40, I am frequently surprised by what they remember, what I remember and how frequently the two are at odds. Add my wife into the memory mix and you’d think we are comparing notes from five different families, which of course we are.

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      That’s so very true. Memory is a confounding thing.

    • Linda Sepelak on November 9, 2021 at 4:05 pm

      Yes, that’s why memory is at the bottom of the pole for litigation. That game, telephone is an excellent example of how things fade frome one end to the other. Also, perspective damages how we see things or it can clarify. It depends on us and our willingness to change or fight.

      • Ann Garvin on November 10, 2021 at 6:22 pm

        Linda, yes…so very, very true.

  15. Lynn on November 1, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    Even through pain , there is humor. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Always relatable, readable and your continue to be one strong lady. Keep fighting for your stories, we so need them!!

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you Lynn—I really appreciate you. Full stop.

  16. Letty Blanchard on November 1, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Aw! Loved this! Thanks for sharing.

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      You are so welcome, Letty!!

  17. Anneke Van Couvering on November 1, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    What a perfectly written snippet from your childhood of emotion and family. I am in awe. Thank you for making my day.

    • Ann Garvin on November 1, 2021 at 10:23 pm

      You are so welcome. Thank you so much for being here. xo

    • Jeanne Foley on December 28, 2021 at 3:42 pm

      I just read “I thought you said this would work” in one day. Have recommended to 2 friends already and will share with bookclub. Sooooo good.

      • Ann Garvin on December 29, 2021 at 9:54 pm

        Oh my goodness you are soooo kind. Thank you!! I’m glad you liked it and I so hope your bookclub does as well. xoA

  18. Tina Redmond on November 2, 2021 at 12:40 am

    Thank you for sharing this story. Without going into details….it resonates with me. I wish I have been brave enough to sock ….let’s just say “some people”. (not my dad though!)

    • Ann Garvin on November 2, 2021 at 1:21 am

      Tina, I’m glad and sorry it resonated with you.
      I don’t always sock people, I wish I would have socked more. 🙂
      Thank you for being here.

  19. Paula on November 2, 2021 at 2:54 am

    I can relate to this post! Thank you so much! Prayers as you rewrite. I’m rewriting too. It’s hard. Digging into my childhood bunny backed into a corner. Not really fun. ♥️

  20. SARAH TAYLOR on November 2, 2021 at 3:20 am

    Thank you for sharing I enjoyed reading this!

    • Ann Garvin on November 2, 2021 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you for reading it. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and commented. It keeps me writing.

  21. Teresa M. on November 2, 2021 at 6:03 am

    I read your email this morning and have been thinking about it all day.

    Our dads attended the same school of parenting. I cheered for you when you broke his glasses! My dad was most definitely a dick!

    • Ann Garvin on November 2, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      I think there was/is a generation of men where parenting was not their forte. And, for some reason, they made it known.
      I hope you put salt in his coffee or something close. xo

  22. Melanie Holmes on November 12, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    Perhaps more than any day of late, your post was needed…by me. Been there (rewriting as nails scratch the chalkboard), rising to the task required of an Author-Under-Contract. Four books later, I’m the richer in fulfillment, and (of late) am suffering some low-down gusses who would like for me to disappear. But I’m in the ring. With my ethics. As for the dicks of the world, their ethics are threadbare.

    • Ann Garvin on November 29, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      Melanie, How did I miss your note!
      Stay in the ring. I’m in there with you. xoxox

  23. Linda on November 29, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I’m about to do a rewrite and needed to read this.

    • Ann Garvin on November 29, 2021 at 2:27 pm

      Me too! Off we go 🙂

Leave a Comment