“Unexpected Gifts,” Jan. 5, 2021

Unexpected gifts are always a nice surprise. But sometimes, they’re also what we need.

On New Year’s Eve, my daughter and her 9-year-old, Henry, brought us dinner: her fabulous enchiladas and Henry’s famous avocado dip, with homemade flan for dessert.

Two days later, my daughter-in-law brought Randy, 10, Wiley, 7, and Eleanor, 5, over for a “driveway visit.” They all wore masks like a band of really cute bandits.

And today, a package arrived. I recognized the return address right away. My oldest and his wife and their Jonah, who is almost 2, had already spoiled my husband and me with Christmas gifts. We didn’t expect anything more.

When I opened the package, I began to cry. It held a statue of a woman seated on a stool. Her long hair was pinned up on her head with tendrils falling on her neck. In her arms and in her lap, she held a child, a boy about 2-years-old. His head was tucked beneath her chin. His arms and legs were wrapped around her.

I studied it closely, turning it over in my hands, smiling through my tears. It looked like me, or rather, like how I looked long ago, holding my first child when I was that young and thin.

Then I read the note that was enclosed: “Dear Nana, I hope this reminds you of how you once held my daddy. And then, how you held me and, soon enough, my little sister. But also how you will ALWAYS hold all of our hearts (my Mama’s too!) We love you ALL! Jonah xx”

The “Love you ALL” is a thing I’ve taught my grandchildren. When I ask, “How much do I love you?” they’ll lift their arms and shout, “All!” Because “all” is as much as anyone can love.

Jonah learned to say it (with a British accent like his mom’s) when he was barely a year old. I’m hoping he’ll help me teach it to his baby sister when she makes her debut this spring.

Some of us grow up with great expectations of extraordinary achievements in our lives. Me? I just wanted to be a mother. Actually, I wanted to be a grandmother, but I figured being a mother came first.

My mother quit school to marry at the age of 15, then worked hard most of her life as a waitress and a millhand. My grandmothers raised large families, but never worked outside their homes. They took care of me when I needed them, which was most of the time.

My dad’s mother taught me to love nature and how to read and write before I started school. My mother’s mother taught me how to tell a good story and make everybody’s business my own.

Those two women could not have been more loving or more different. I’m blessed, or cursed, with both of their natures. At times, it’s a bit confusing. I’m never sure which woman is whispering in my memory. Sometimes it seems they’re both shouting to be heard. But their guidance helped me raise my three children, and it is helping me now to be a “Nana.”

I know so many young women, like my daughter and daughters-in-law, who work so hard to do their best for their children.

A great many older women raise grandchildren full time, or serve as backups to help overworked parents care for their little ones. Not just to feed and clothe them, but to comfort and teach them, to keep them safe and give them hope that the world is a magical place where their dreams can all come true.

Those are gifts we can give our children and grandchildren and other young lives that we are blessed to hold in our arms and our hearts and our prayers. We give them ourselves and they, in turn, give us purpose and joy and a whole lot of hugs. And sometimes they surprise us with unexpected gifts that make us smile through tears.

How much do we love them?



  1. Miriam Deluca says

    This touched my heart. My joy in life was raising my 2 daughters and now they are giving me grandchildren which my mom would say is the icing on the cake.

  2. Suzanne Bailey says

    Happy New Year. Thank you for you special way of encouraging my heart.

  3. It’s just grand how our grandchildren help us forget about the bad stuff and only the good stuff prevails….just 💘 that😍

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    What a perfect gift, and you described it so clearly I could practically touch it! A dear friend has a miracle grandson due in April – my prayers for her, and you, is that things will return to “normal” and those little ones will meet their nanas a couple hours after their grand entrance 😊. We spent five days in CA with kids and grands… great way to put 2020 in the rearview mirror 😉

  5. Sharon, glad to hear that you had a good Holiday. My Wife and I only have one GrandDaughter that we do see , one child, our 45 yr. old son, and our Daughter In Law, and we are all within an hour of each other, but we shall not be apart due to this horrible virus. Us (five of us) were all together on Thanksgiving, THERE, and them Christmas here, all healthy and all safe, not too near each other.

    There are certain things that we (Especially MY WIFE) are not willing to give up.

    You & yours, stay safe & Healthy.

  6. Beth Purser says

    Congratulations on your bundle of joy arriving this spring! Yet another blessing to your ever growing family and I know you will love her ALL you can.

  7. Thank u Sharron!!

  8. Katie Musgrave says

    Just like your new book “The World and Then Some”…love prevails. Yes, I adore/love my kids, grandkids, & great-grandkids and I tell them often. Happy, blessed 2021.

  9. Pamela Dailey says

    Oh this article is so special to me! I am watching my two grandkids a boy 3 and a girl 2 1/2. I catch myself saying and doing things that remind me of my mother and grandmother. I watch my grandkids Monday through Friday while their parents work. I lost my husband in July and my grandkids have helped keep me pushing on. I love your column and find such up lifting stories and inspiration in each one I read. Thank you!

  10. 💚💚💚💚💚 Absolutely true💚💚💚💚💚

  11. Patti Peters says

    I LOVE your statue. I am blessed with 1 grandson, 17 months old (never thought I would even have one), one of my best memories of him is his head lying on my chest and him snuggling into me and falling asleep. precious gift. Enjoy all of yours, and keep telling us of them in your writing!

  12. Cathy Followell says

    Oh my gracious. You really got me with this one. I am blessed with two grands of my own, a boy and a girl, who call me “white nana”, another long story for another day. I have missed them so much since March that it has almost been unbearable at times. And I am
    One of the lucky ones to have had them nearby much of this time. My husband and I got our vaccines today and we are praying they will kick in and we can be back with our babies soon. Special prayers for you and your family and all those love filled Nanas that really “need” to see their babies and hold them tight and feed them and read books to them. You are precious to me and your words go straight to this Nanas heart. Happy New Year my dear.

Speak Your Mind