Confession time: I'm not the most forthcoming person when it comes to my writing. As you may have guessed, Elisabeth Fitzgerald isn't my real name and I'm always hesitant to proclaim "I am a writer!" I don't know why. I AM a writer. There is no question about that. I suppose, when it comes down to brass tacks, I am afraid of judgement. Not necessarily judgement from strangers (please, agents, judge me! Read my work! I'm begging you!) but judgement from people that I consider to be my friends.
You're probably wondering what the heck this has to do with my best present ever. I'm getting to that, I swear. The one person that I was never shy to share my work with was my maternal grandmother. She was SO PROUD of everything that I did. Case in point: when I was very young, probably about 7 or 8, my grandma went into the hospital for a routine procedure and I decided to write her a story to cheer her up (I had already decided that my purpose in life was to write).
Of course, being a child, I had no concept of why people went into the hospital. My mom had gone once and had returned home with my little sister. I was pretty sure that my grandma wasn't going to bring home a baby, but beyond that... So I went with the one disease that every kid understands: tonsillitis. You know, the one where you got to eat tons of ice cream? Okay, that wasn't my grandma's problem either, but it was more interesting than a dumb old baby.
Little Me proudly wrote a story about a girl named Nancy (even at that age I was obsessed with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) who got her tonsils out. It all turned out for the best, because Nancy was super brave and got lots of love and ice cream after her surgery.
That simple little book, written in red crayon and complete with stick figure drawings, hung on my grandmother's wall until she died seven years later. She was proud of my little story and proud of my accomplishments. That, in turn, made me proud.
My grandma was also responsible for my all time best gift. She had the habit of giving all the grandchildren presents on birthdays, even if it wasn't your birthday. She didn't want anyone to feel left out. So, one year for my sister's birthday my grandmother slipped a box into my lap. It was a shirt box, like the kind you'd get from Marshall Field's or Carson's. But it was what was inside that made me so happy...
Remember, this was before the age of computers (yeah, I'm the last generation that pre-dates the internet) and I was a child. I wrote by hand. Pen to paper. And that was just what my grandma had given me. A box full of notebooks and pens (blue and black!) not to mention a binder, fasteners and paper reinforcers. It was a simple gift, to be sure. It was also one of the most touching gifts I've ever received and it's only as an adult that I realized why. My grandmother knew the real me. She was encouraging my writing, even with this simple gesture. It's like she said: "Go, create."
So now I shall. Thanks, Grandma.
My maternal grandparents...the most special people a girl could have been blessed with.