A Grandmother’s Gifts

A Grandmother’s Gifts

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

A Grandmother’s Gifts

If I cannot give bountifully, yet I will give freely, and what I want in my hand I will supply with my heart.

Arthur Warwick

Here’s the math:

Six grandchildren. Eight days of Hanukah. One gift per child per day.

I wasn’t going to provide that—not when our grandchildren were blessed with loving families who see to their needs, and then some.

So I’ve devised a quite different Hanukah plan. I get each grandchild a small purchased gift. One. It is never of such magnitude that I worry about the object being injured, maimed or destroyed. Mind you, four of the six are little boys under the age of eight.

Then I work on what I’ve come to think of as my “real” gift.

Because Hanukah is really about miracles, and because these six wondrous creatures are just that, I devote myself to this challenge:

I spend hours, sometimes weeks, preparing a letter to each child, even the two who are preverbal, to say nothing of preliterate.

I sit at my computer and secretly “talk” to it about Sam or Hannah, Jonah or Zay, Danny or Baby Emily. I chronicle who they are at this moment in their emerging histories. I catalogue conversations we’ve had, stories they’ve told me, names of their friends, their adored toys and stuffed animals, endearing habits, bedtime rituals, school anecdotes, even favorite articles of clothing.

Two Hanukahs ago, I actually decided to illustrate my ramblings with photographs, a motivation for “shooting” these adored little ones at every opportunity.

And then I stored it all away in what is becoming my bulging “Hanukah File.” My vague sense is that the years of “gifts” will be delivered when each grandchild reaches thirteen.

So what does all of this have to do with Hanukah? And the gift-grab?

Nothing at all.

And everything.

Not now, but somewhere down the road, my grandchildren may understand why they didn’t get the mountain of gifts their little pals did. Years from now, they may figure out why their grandmother asked them endless questions and sometimes frantically scribbled down their answers on scraps of paper, eager to get every word.

My Hanukah gift to these six is obviously not what they might expect. And because these are children exposed to the galloping gift frenzy of the season, they have shown and expressed disappointment. They want, in Hannah’s immortal words as spokesperson for the clan, “cool stuff” for this eight-day potential gift bonanza. And they’re not getting it.

I once heard Sam talking to a little friend and comparing notes about the annual haul. His pal had gotten action figures and a scooter from his grandparents. Sam was left to explain what he had—or in this case, hadn’t—gotten.

He fumbled. He struggled to explain what he’s been told each year, that Grandma is creating something special for him, and that when he and his cousins are older, they’ll get something even better than “cool stuff.” They’ll get memories, history, reminders of who they were at two and five and eight.

Sam’s friend didn’t understand. Nor, I’m sure, does Sam. Not quite. Not yet.

Does he wish he’d been handed a video game, a toy with moving parts, a terrific computer accessory? You bet.

But for now, I’m hanging tough. I’m resisting the urge to splurge on traditional grandmother gifts. I’m keeping my credit cards locked in their compartment in my wallet and using my loving memories as revenue instead.

This gift of my grandchildren’s lives, frozen in time, seems perfectly right for Hanukah, the season of history, hope and miracles.

Sally Friedman

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