(Note to 1st. time blog readers. There were 3 separate posts published today. After reading a few paragraphs of "Unexpected Gifts" there will be a note to "Read More." If you're interested in reading the rest of the story, simply click on the words "Read More;" otherwise you may go on to the next post. If you do click on "Read More" to finish reading "Unexpected Gifts" then simply hit the back arrow so you can read the next post, which is "Acronym Gang Holds Taxpayers Hostage." The third topic published today is "No Xmas Bonus in Your Tax Bill.")
Grandparents and grandchildren are a special group. That relationship we have with the grandkid(s) is different from the one we had with our kid(s). Mostly it's an album of special moments with images forever imprinted on our minds and hearts. Many of the remembered moments are made up of "first times."
The first time we saw or held these little people; when they first spoke to us and what they said; first cookies made or decorated; first dishes washed, with the kid standing on a chair and water all over the floor. For some there are birthdays or holidays that stand out in our mind; for others, a secret we were told in absolute confidence.
The list is long and varied; each of us has different memories. What they all have in common is that we, the grandparent, did or gave something to that special little person in our life. It was our gift that brought the biggest smile. It was our arrival that caused them to come running over to fling their arms around our neck. It was the stuffed animal we spent so much time making or selecting that secured the treasured spot on the recipient's bed.
And then, one day, without any warning, and before we're ready, something happens. They grow up. They know things we don't (especially electronic things such as ipads and smartphones). They're reading books we've never heard of or have long forgotten. They have opinions on issues that surprise us.
And they bestow upon us gifts we don't expect. Not gifts they made or bought, but gifts that come from the people they are growing up to be. This happened to me - twice - in the last couple of weeks. I'm still basking in the glow of the pleasure it gives me when it replays in my mind, so of course there is more to this story.
We have many grandchildren, but this is a story about a recent experience with two of them. Let's call them Teen 1 and Teen 2. Teen 1 will be sixteen soon; Teen 2 is fourteen and a half (going on twenty-five). They are sisters, but as different as night and day: one sweet, one sassy; one tall and willowy, the other with stunning blue eyes; one is creative with a flair for fashion and design, the other an organizational whiz. These special talents are gifts. And this time, the recipient of these gifts was me.
While they were here last, I was getting ready to make a trip to see someone I had not seen in over fifty years. Vanity was not the issue here, but after half a century, we want to look as good as we can. You know? To complete my outfit I needed a winter coat; a semi-dressy woolen one is what I had in mind. Shopping is at the bottom of my list of desirable activities, so after making a feeble attempt at a couple of stores where no one would wait on me (which seems to be the way things work these days), I gave up.
Then Teen 1, who would never miss shopping on Black Friday, completely surprised me by returning to the house bearing not one, but two fetching woolen winter coats. Both fit perfectly; both are colors I love; both will be kept and worn until they are threadbare. The stylish off-white one was selected to complete my outfit for that special reunion.
How did she know what size, what style, what price I could afford? When did she evolve from that little girl who insisted that it was Bert (not fuzzy yellow Big Bird or cute red Elmo) she wanted to take home from the Disney Store in Bellevue Square? She slept with Bert for years; he still sits on a shelf in her bedroom. And I now have my own personal shopper - an unexpected gift!
Teen 2 will one day run an international philanthropic organization that saves lives of children in Africa. In the meantime, while studying and learning, she has somehow developed an ability to organize things: her room, closet, desk, assignments for school. And surprisingly .. me, too!
Because of this new Skagit Leeks endeavor, my work table is covered with documents, folders, copies of emails, scraps of paper scribbled with notes of things to do, phone numbers to call, or items to research.
She surveyed my "office" area, crammed into the corner of a room filled with three two-story bunny condos that provide inside homes for five of our nine rabbits, and simply announced, "Gram, we need to get you organized. Get dressed; we're going to Office Max."
Organized! Music to my ears. I was already dressed in my usual outfit: shiny pants that deflect bunny fur, along with a turtleneck and sweatshirt that protect my chest from sharp little toe-nails during daily bunny cuddling sessions. I did swap out my slippers for comfortable shoes and warm sox, and was ready to grab my coat when suddenly this vision appeared before me.
A person in designer jeans with some kind of white stitching (and thankfully no machine-created holes), a color-coordinated shirt recently acquired in San Francisco, white fleecy-fuzzy jacket, grey suede boots with heels, perfectly applied make-up, including just the right touch of Mascara, and her hair wound casually on top of her head in a bun. She looked more like someone with an MBA from the Wharton School of Business than a ninth grader in a farming community east of the Cascade Mountains.
Driving to our destination, I explained how memory is becoming more challenging for me, so it helps to have things displayed where I can see them. Post-it notes, covering all available surfaces, work well for to do/buy/remember things. She factored in this requirement of mine when making ultimate choices.
Teen 2 summarized the basics of being organized as she schlepped me around the store, while simultaneously pushing the cart, picking must-have items off the shelves, and explaining how they would be used to achieve our over-all goal. Then she found an open metal organizer on wheels designed to hang Pendaflex folders, which hold Manila file folders filled with information, so all are visible (like my reliable Post-it notes), rather than being hidden away in drawers. It was a masterful touch.
So now, fully organized at home and decked out in lovely, warm winter coats when going out, the tables have turned. When I wasn't looking, Teen 1 and Teen 2 acquired talents they shared with the one who pushed their strollers, held them in her arms while they drank warm milk before nap time, laughed when they blew out candles on birthday cakes, and rejoiced when their eyes lit up with receipt of a simple balloon.
These unexpected gifts, that come from inside and are offered freely and simply out of love, are the very best gifts of all. And isn't this the meaning of the Season?