by Jean Blasiar
I was hoping for a remote control car from Grandma, but I thanked her and hope I didn’t show my disappointment when I opened her gift card to McDonald’s for twenty five dollars. That was a lot less than a remote control car, even I knew that at age eight, but as she said when she hugged me, “I hope I can get that car for you for your birthday, Buddy. I’m saving for it.” That was my first clue that grandma was hurting for money.
”This gift card is great, grandma,” I said. “I stop at McDonald’s after school with the guys. I usually have just enough money for a drink.”
“Now you can have a scoop of that good ice cream they have in your drink, sweetheart.”
“I will. And I’ll think of you when I’m having a root beer float.”
That gift card wasn’t even on my wish list, which Grandma had asked me to send her. I felt really stupid that everything I’d asked for cost way more than a twenty five dollar gift card.
I can trace my time spent with grandma from that Christmas not because of what she gave me, but because of what she couldn’t afford to give me. After that Christmas I made sure that I ran to the store for her, went with her to the movies (even chick flicks that she wanted to see), went with her to church (not every Sunday, but once or twice a month) and stopped by her house frequently after school. If my parents noticed how much attention I was paying to grandma, they at least didn’t connect it to that gift card, which incidentally I gave to a man who sits with his dog every day in front of a McDonald’s on my way to school.
When my birthday rolled around that year, I told grandma that I had outgrown remote control cars, and in a way, I had. I asked if she would give me a ten pound sack of dog food for a homeless man and his dog that I see on my way to school every morning.
That experience and the morning that I gave the man the dog food and watched him open it and eat a handful, were the gifts that made me who I am today.
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Jean Blasiar is a published author with 12 books for middle grades, playwright (one of her plays was optioned by 20th Century Fox for a pilot), and theatrical producer. Please visit her website, www.jeanblasiar.com, for a complete listing of her books, plays and productions.