In my book, Keeper Of My Heart, my heroine, Katie McCullough, has a special bond with an elderly man whom she “adopted” at age ten as her ‘stand-in’ grandfather. One of the things I love about Katie is her devotion to this wonderful man.
As a child growing up in New Orleans, I knew a kind elderly lady named, Mrs. Bulleman. I called her Mrs. B. She lived across the street from us and for the most part was house bound. My mother, an avid gardener, had a cutting garden in the front of our little house on Wilton Drive, and once a week during the summer she’d cut a bouquet of flowers for her.
I had the privilege of bringing the flowers over to her house. As a little girl, this was a highlight for me because I was allowed to cross the street ‘all by myself’. I felt very grown up and knew I was doing something grand when I handed over the lush bouquet to this lovely lady. I can still see the joy on her face as she took the flowers from me. Most of the time she’d invite me in for a cold lemon aid and a piece of chocolate. I remember sitting in her semi dark parlor leaning over the coffee table hoping I’d pick a piece with a nut inside.
One Christmas when I was about nine or ten, I was in Sears shopping for presents with my mother. Armed with fifty cents I went through the store looking for something I could buy for my only living grandmother and for Mrs. B. I had adopted her as my ‘in town’ grandmother so no way could I leave her out. A sales lady suggested I buy each of them a butter knife. They were only twenty cents each. So I did.
As the years went by and I grew older, it was my mother who took Mrs. B. her ‘weekly’ bouquet. But once, in my teen years, just as I was about to go out with friends, my mother grabbed me. “Run these over to Mrs. Bulleman. She hasn’t seen you all summer.”
I crossed the street with flowers in hand and was met with the same joyful reception I remembered as a child. Mrs. B. kindly offered me something cool to drink. I looked back at my friends, motioned for them to wait, and stepped inside her parlor.
Several years after Mrs. B died I was home planning my wedding when her daughter showed up at our back door. She smiled and handed me the little butter knife I’d given her mother all those years ago. A sweet flood of memories filled me as I recalled the day I bought her that knife. Her daughter shared with me how much my gift had meant to her mother and knew she would’ve wanted me to have it back.
Today, that simple, inexpensive knife sits by my butter dish. We use it every day. For me it’s a precious reminder of Mrs. B’s gracious acceptance of a small child’s gift and of how a life is touched by thoughtful actions and the simplest things.
Growing up, did you have an elderly neighbor that influenced you in a meaningful way? Or maybe, there’s someone right now in your life that holds a special place as a surrogate grandparent either to you or to your children? Is there a special object or gift that reminds you of this person?
I would love to hear your stories.
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