Blessed To Receive – Part Two

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 5, 2019

Continuing the Ten Best Gifts Anybody Ever Gave Me:


In 1946, my family returned from an America, which, despite the war, had remained a land of abundance, to an England where “Austerity” prevailed for years after the war. One food in very short supply was fresh eggs. Our relatives in Canada knew about our plight, and frequently sent us “CARE” packages. To withstand possibly rough handling on a 3000-mile journey, the contents were usually canned goods.

But on one occasion, my Auntie Gert and Uncle Amy surprised us with an unforgettable gift – a dozen fresh eggs – and all in perfect condition! We marveled at the care and ingenuity it had taken to wrap each egg so lovingly.


A birthday present from my parents, this book has probably meant more to me, as a writer, than any other. It’s a catalogue of English words and phrases, arranged by their meanings – with an enormous index. Quite simply, Roget’s job is to help you find the words to say what you want to say Peter Mark Roget (1779 – 1869) was an eminent British medical doctor. He had so many other interests and activities that it’s astounding he ever found time to put this Thesaurus together. Since his day, it has been expanded and improved in many ways – and also imitated. But Roget remains the standard, and we who consult him so often will forever honor his memory.

#8. LAND

One of my late wife Dorothy’s many passions was for acquiring property. Although I did what I could to restrain her, it was her own money. She was constantly on the lookout for bargain lots, even if – as was often the case – they were cheap for some very good reason. One part of a local tract she bought was, through someone’s error, inaccessible, except by crossing other people’s property. Another had some almost fatal drainage problems. But to her, the fun was just in the buying.

There’s a local custom of auctioning tax-delinquent properties on the Courthouse steps – and that was how Dorothy acquired this “Gift.” I knew nothing about it until one December day, which happened to be my birthday, when she suggested we take a drive into a hilly area on the city’s outskirts. There we came to a vacant lot, with a colorful banner stretched all the way across its frontage, bearing a “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ASHLEIGH” sign. Dorothy had “gift-wrapped” these 1.3 acres as my birthday present! 


When I began creating my “Pot-Shots,” they were just words, which I showed to friends, or recited at parties. People said I should consider publishing them – but I felt that they needed first to be illustrated. Yet apparently nobody before had thought of doing illustrated epigrams.

I wasn’t a trained, or very talented, artist – but I did enjoy drawing, and started doing a series of pictures to go with some of my words. The only instrument I had – or even knew of – was an ordinary steel-nib, with pen-holder and a bottle of India Ink. A friend named Ben Jones, who lived in a neighboring apartment, saw what I was doing, and one day presented me with an unexpected gift – a “Rapidograph” pen, which made a much finer line than an ordinary pen, sending the ink down to the paper through a hollow needle-like point. From then on, nearly all my drawings were done with pens of that kind, and to this day I feel grateful to Ben for the gift I didn’t even realize I needed.


One of my worst problems for many years was “Hay Fever.” Every year at a certain season, it would come on: the sneezing and coughing, the runny nose, itchy eyes, and sensitive skin – the general feeling of intense misery. And the only medicines which could suppress those symptoms caused another misery, in the form of drowsiness.

In the summer of 2005, I made a mini-motor-home journey across the U.S., visiting friends along the way. By the time I reached Philadelphia, to visit my friends Larry and Barbara Kirsch, I was suffering terribly from Hay Fever. Barbara happened to work in a local clinic, and she was able to bring me some samples of a new prescription medicine called “Rhinocort Aqua.” The relief was almost instantaneous! And no side effects! Since that day, with this marvelous gift, I’ve never again had to endure that dreadful annual curse.


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