This is a copy of the first article I ever had published in a national magazine. From Country Extra Magazine, November 1998. And now, a treasure to share with you...
I'll always remember last year's Thanksgiving dinner because that's when I learned an important lesson about love.
I was sitting at my parents' dining room table, feasting on turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings. The sounds of music and clinking silverware filled the room, and the warm laughter of family, friends and relatives surrounded me.
My grandmother sat across the table. At 88, she was small and frail but radiant as a sunset. She drank in every moment of our family get-together.
As our stomachs filled and the conversation began to lag, Grandmother reached for her purse and pulled out a small box lined with white tissue paper. Inside was a beautiful golden angel she'd made.
She turned to my aunt's mother, who was sitting beside her. "It's easy to make," Grandmother explained. "I just buy that fancy pasta at the grocery store, glue it together and spray paint it gold."
As we passed Grandmother's handiwork around the table, I thought about the angels she had made for our family. My sister-in-law keeps hers on the visor of her car. My parents hand theirs on the Christmas tree each year. My sister's angel lives on the mirror in her bathroom. Mine sits on the computer in my office.
The small box made its way around the table, ending with Grandmother's newest friend, Dell. She admired the craftsmanship of the angel and tried to pass it back to its creator. But Grandmother stopped her. "It's for you," she told Dell.
Dell hesitated and looked confused. She hadn't come to our family gathering prepared to exchange gifts and felt awkward about accepting the precious little angel without offering something in return.
"It's not a Christmas gift or anything like that," Grandmother assured her. "I may not see you again for a while, and I want you to have it."
"Besides, we don't give because it's Christmas. We give because we love."
At that instant, the gold-painted pasta angel on my computer became my most treasured gift - I realized that Grandmother gave it to me simply because she loved me.
I thought about the many others who've received homemade expressions of Grandmother's love - the mailman, her hairdresser, the checkout woman at the grocery store, the schoolchildren who visited her, the maintenance man, and her landlord. I wondered if they truly understood the love behind the gift she had given each of them. I hoped so.
Grandmother's funeral was on Valentine's Day this year. It was an appropriate day to honor the woman who taught me the most about love.
Later, as I sat alone in her apartment sorting through her things, I found a small box lined with white tissue paper. It was filled with unfinished angels destined for someone she loved but hadn't met yet - someone like you.
Through her golden pasta angels, Grandmother taught me the true meaning of love. I'm sharing her story as my gift of love to you... and it's not even Christmas.
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