The best gifts are indirect and last a lifetime …

It was Christmas 1957 and I was 10 years old. I had thick hair that was hard to manage and my mother more often than not pulled it tightly back into a ponytail.  I started asking early for the Lady Sunbeam hair dryer that year—you might remember the kind—the one with a plastic hood and a tube that delivered hot air.  I was sure that it would solve all my hair problems and that I would look like Grace Kelly.

But 15 days before Christmas I found a beautifully wrapped small box under the tree that my father promised would bring me great joy.  For those 15 days, I tried to keep my disappointment hidden.  How he could he know what I needed to manage my 10-year-old life?  The box didn’t rattle or even look interesting.

On Christmas morning I awoke with a heavy heart.  But when I descended down the stairs and looked under the Christmas tree, there was the Lady Sunbeam, all laid out and ready to use.  He had a big smile on his face as I jumped up and down.  And the package?  A block of wood.  My family laughed all day.

I lost my father when I was 29 years old.  I didn’t keep the block of wood and the hair dryer is long gone, but his lesson has stayed with me my entire life.  Keep a sense of humor and know that it’s not the present that helps us manage our lives or lingers over time; it’s the love.


  • Diane Gillespie

    stories for getting back to sleep

    Diane Gillespie is Emerita Professor, Community Psychology, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences School at the University of Washington Bothell. As an educational psychologist, she has written two academic books and numerous scholarly articles. Stories for Getting Back to Sleep is her first venture into self-help fiction. She cares deeply about social justice and volunteers for the nonprofit Tostan ( She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and enjoys spending time with her son, daughter, and their families.