Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name! – Volume Two – Xenia

Over the last couple of weeks I have been completing some writing projects and the first is the second volume of What’s in a Name! In the first volume I wrote two stories for each of the first 10 letters of the alphabet, relating to ordinary people who were given extraordinary names.

In this volume the remaining 16 letters received a slightly different treatment and they feature ordinary people with ordinary names. However, for one reason or another they will be remembered for their actions or impact on the lives of others. There is also a bonus story that introduces a new collection of stories set in a village during World War II that will be released in 2018.

Last week I asked you to choose one of the new stories beginning with the letters Q V W X Y or Z to introduce the new collection. There was a stand off between Q and X at the end of the day but I tossed a coin.  The winner is the letter X.

This story has very special meaning for me and I have waited over forty years to write it.


Your name is Xenia, after your Greek grandmother, whose wrinkled complexion smelt of roses and almond oil. I remember the hot summers of our visits as we played on the rocks beneath her stone house; working up an appetite for the platters of goat’s cheese, olives and warm bread. The loaves were taken straight from the wood stove; handled carefully with well worn hessian rags, and served up on the rough wooden table in her wild garden. I remember being fascinated by her hands as they sliced thick warm chunks with an ancient serrated bread knife. They were blackened from nearly 80 years in the sun, with dark-rimmed nails from digging into the soil for home grown vegetables.

She was still a beautiful woman, who loved to have her long black and grey hair gently brushed in the twilight; sipping delicately from her glass of rose pink wine. Happy sighs filled the scented air; encouraging continued effort. We dreaded her tears as we left to catch the ferry at the end of summer, with her whispered goodbyes and pleas for us to return again the next year, remaining in our minds for weeks afterwards.

But one summer only my father made the journey, to stay just a week to bury his beloved mother, with her silver backed hair brush and a small bottle of almond oil resting in her hands.

That was ten years ago and I have been saving up her name to give to you, my first child. From the moment I knew that I was carrying you in my womb, I felt certain that you would be a girl and worthy of this much loved name. As the months passed, and I felt that first movement beneath my hand, I began to talk to you of your name and the woman who owned it with such grace. Sometimes when I listened to music playing softly in the background, I would feel a flutter, as if you were dancing in time to the tune. I would imagine Xenia, swaying and clapping her hands in delight, lost in the gentle songs that my father played on his guitar after our evening meal. I knew she would be so happy that I had named you after her.

My time with my grandmother was too short, but I had saved up the stories to tell you, as well as photographs we took during those summers. I would tell you those tales as we rocked, still joined together, in the chair in the newly painted nursery. I promised to show you the embarrassing snaps of your mother when a girl, dressed in her bathing suit with face filled with sticky baklava. I imagined taking you back to Greece to see where you came from, and to visit Xenia’s grave to lay some blossom, and to show her how beautiful you are. I was certain that your hair would be raven black and that you would love almonds.

Your father laughed at me as I waddled around the house in search of more feta cheese and pickled onions. He said that there must be two of you, or that you were really a big bouncing boy; destined to be a rugby player. He would lay his head on my stomach and listen to your heartbeat; loving it when you kicked against his hand. We had chosen not to know the gender of our baby. I already knew it was a girl to be called Xenia, and your father just wanted a baby who was healthy that we would love.

I knew the moment you had gone. All was still where you had been so active. I thought you must be sleeping, and lay in the hospital bed resting, waiting for that kick and ripple, telling me you wanted my attention. But the cold gel, and pressure of the machine in a doctor’s hand, broke the spell. Your father and I held each other as we cried at our loss.

The love I feel for you will not diminish or change throughout my life. It comforts me to imagine you holding the hand of your great-grandmother, as you twirl to the music of a guitar. I see you eating baklava with sticky fingers, and her washing your hands and face lovingly, with rose scented water. I know that you are safe now, and that one day, we will meet face to face, and I will recognise you as the child of my heart. One day the three of us will sit in that wild garden, and laugh in the sunshine.

My two beloved Xenias…..


The eBook is now available:

Volume One is available in Ebook Version for only £1.95 from my own selling page on the publishing website.

Or you can buy all my books from Amazon, Kobo and all online bookstores.


Amazon UK:

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83 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name! – Volume Two – Xenia

  1. Sal, I could barely stop crying to type this. It’s an outstanding piece of writing and so reminiscent of my own life. “…her whispered goodbyes and pleas for us to return again the next year…” This was my Sicilian grandmother. We lived a country apart. She always asked, “Tina, when will I see you again?” In August of 1988, I had a sudden insight that she would die the following Spring. I quickly made airline reservations and visited her that November. Her face was translucent, as she had a foot in two worlds. This time upon my leaving, she said, “Tina, I hope I see you again.” We both knew it would not be in this life. “We’ll see each other again, Grandma,” I reassured her. And we both knew what that meant. Losing a child is devastating. Losing a child in utero bears an added layer of grief for never having seen the animated being you felt growing inside your womb. The grief lessens but never departs. It hovers on the edge of your consciousness and stirs your heart whenever you see a budding flower or hear the first bird of Spring. I thought the last story you shared was my favorite. It has just been replaced. I’m glad you finally wrote this story and am so grateful you shared it. Was it difficult to write? Time is the only healer of a grieving heart. Love and hugs run a close second, and I’m sending an infinite supply, my sweet friend. 💚💚💚

    Liked by 4 people

    • Your grandmother sounds amazing Tina… we should all have someone like that in our lives who provides us with a link to the past and stays in our memories as a comfort throughout our lives. This story was difficult to write but I thought it was time that there was some form of recognition of a life that was never lived accept in my body andheart. 43 years ago there were no heroic efforts at 25 weeks and no reasons given for the loss. You were dismissed without explanation and told to try again as if it was a failed driving test. But the sudden interruption of hormones combined with grief is very powerful and it took me a long time to recover physically and mentally. It was not meant to be but for a short time I had a son.♥♥

      Liked by 3 people

      • I empathize, Sally. We women were tossed aside like pieces of luggage. You would have loved my grandmother, and she would have adored you, as she took no greater pleasure than in cooking alongside someone else who enjoyed cooking from scratch. Did you find it healing to write this story? Eventually all ‘secrets’ emerge, and I’m thinking it might be more healing to be proactive ♥♥

        Liked by 2 people

      • I think that I came to terms with the loss but there are still certain times of the year when something will remind me. My due date was around my father’s birthday in early January for example. But thre was nothing tangible in memory of this part of me and perhaps the emotions expressed in this story will stand for that.. ♥♥

        Liked by 2 people

      • The words came from you, Sally, so it follows that the emotions did as well, tangible or not. We often can’t put emotions into words at the time of a shattering event, and sometimes pieces of them burrow into our subconscious. Years later, we find ourselves peeling away layers and are surprised at what we find at the core. A gripping story such as this no doubt emerged from a deep place. I think the writing will serve to heal that part of you, even if you don’t remember it clearly or recognize it as such ♥♥

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name! – Volume Two – Xenia | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Sally I am so sorry for your loss all that long while ago. I didn’t realise as I was reading this that Xenia was not to be. Your story came as a shock. May the loving memory of him and of your grandmother continue to hold you in their embrace. This is a beautiful piece of writing, thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OH Sal, I’m still crying, typing here between tears. The story was written so eloquently instinctively telling me this was your story because of the emotion and passion within your words. A most touching yet beautiful tale Sal. I have to say this is my new favorite. 🙂 Hugs to you xoxo ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Sally, I had to wait till today to come back here and comment. I just knew reading this how very personal it was and I am giving myself a wee shake here today writing this. It’s just so moving. And you are right, there’s things that take a long time to be able to share , that you can’t share till the moment is right. One mother to another, love you Sally x

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Of course, you’re a mother, Sally. Anyone who has carried a baby or cared for a baby is a mother. My mother gave birth to a stillborn boy at seven months. She told me about it. It was a couple of years before I was born. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. ❤ — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A beautifully told heartbreaking story, Sally. Yes, I am crying, having eight miscarriages and twin girls that were full term but still born I know that feeling well. I hope that your two beautiful Xenias have met my children and together they have baklava sticky fingers and are laughing in the sunshine.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh Sally, I am so sorry for your loss, I cannot immagine how terrible it is to lose a child at 25 weeks, especially after feeling it kick inside you,
    This story was so tenderly written, it brought a lump to my throat. Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Judy.. I am sure that you will see your fair share of this and with 11 babies being born after 24 weeks every day in the UK there are many women who face this kind of loss. When it happened to me there was far less understanding of the sudden loss of hormones and the mental and emotional health of the mother. 43 years there is a great deal more support. thank you for your lovely comment. hugs xxx


  9. Oh my God Sally. No wonder you are such an extraordinarily kind person. Your kindness is built on the ashes of devastation. You are so remarkable. I hope you know this. Xenia knows.
    And I have to add, you are an amazingly good and psychologically sensitive writer.
    I helped military parents starting about 30+ years ago, as they formed a precedent creating program, called “Healing Hearts,” for parents who delivered babies who were either not born alive, or died shortly after birth.
    I was the mental health advisor. Of course I will never forget the ground-breaking (at that time) things they taught me. They wanted to ease the pain for future parents, in ways that were not comforted.
    They wanted to have certain things in place, like having polaroid cameras available in hospitals for parents to photograph their baby, so there was a record of this baby and soul actually existing, tangible evidence of their loss. They wanted baby blankets to wrap their babies they could keep.
    They wanted support groups for parents who experienced this, because they were the only people who could truly understand. They wanted to educate doctors and nurses so their was no more “whisking” their baby away, as if that baby didn’t exist. And they wanted to educate the public about how unhelpful their useless platitudes were regarding their baby’s death.
    They accomplished all of this and more!
    I will always remain in awe of these parents.
    And you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Cindy, that means a great deal to me. I hoped that by creating a story rather than do a factual piece on my experience it might convey the emotional as well as physical and mental impact on not just the mother’s life but the father and family. At the time I remember being talked over rather than to and discussions between doctor and nurses that were couched in medical terms that sounded even more ominous than plain English. It is so much better today and your group were pioneers and thank goodness for their work and others who realised how devastating it was to be brushed under the carpet in shame. So many mothers that I have spoken to over the years carried a burden of guilt that was unnecessary and still haunted them all those years later. Thank you again love and hugs ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Only you could write such a tragic story with such hope and grace — leaving no doubt that we will see all whom we have loved again. Beautifully written. Thank you.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Short Story Fest, Stevie Wonder, Lord Byron and a cast of thousands | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  12. Pingback: Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name! – Volume Two – Xenia | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life | TINA FRISCO

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