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Unexpected joy

Published October 27. 2012 09:01AM


Some of the greatest gifts we can ever receive, are often a reflection of our own efforts.

A couple years ago, my granddaughter dressed as Cinderella for Halloween. My daughter Margaux bought her the dress, but created the rest of her ensemble, so that Gabby looked as much like the Disney princess as was humanly possible.

For Gabby, it was truly magic.

I snapped a picture of her with my cell phone as she saw her reflection for the first time, and was able to capture the look of pure delight on her face when she believed in her little, 3-year-old mind that she really was Cinderella.

I turned to my daughter and told her to relish the moment.

"There will be very few times in your life that you will be able to make your child's dreams come true," I said. "This is one of them. Cherish it."

I took lots of photos that day, but the one I love the most is that cell phone photo. The lighting is bad and the photo a bit grainy, but the look on Gabby's face speaks volumes.

I treasure unexpected moments like this, when you do something special for someone else and the response is such overwhelming joy, you end up the recipient of a priceless gift.

Because our oldest daughter lives on the other side of the country, we don't see her very often, and because of that, we had not met our grandson, who was almost 14 years old. About seven or eight years ago, my husband was starring as Fagin in a local production of "Oliver!" and our daughter decided to fly in and surprise him.

Each night after the performance, the actors lined the back of the theater, where they thanked the audience and posed for pictures. Karen and Kyle sneaked into the theater after the show started and at the end, situated themselves at the back of the line. A small crowd of friends clamored around Jim, waiting for the big reveal. When Karen got to the front of the line she said, "Hi Dad, I want to introduce you to your grandson."

Jim was dumbfounded, and it took a few seconds before he realized what was happening. The look on his face was priceless and before long the tears began to flow. Making this moment even more memorable, was looking at the faces of all those who had been let in on the secret. Everyone was crying. While I don't have a photo of the reaction, it's tucked away in my mind under precious memories.

Another very special memory for me came at Christmas, about 10 or 11 years ago. Since my children were little, just about every year, my mother would give one of them some silly little dancing or singing Santa or other Christmas character. My mother loved them and had several of her own on display over the holidays. One day, while shopping with two of my daughters, we came upon a "life-size" Santa, who could sing and sway, and even came with a microphone so you could make him say whatever you wanted.

My girls saw "pay back" for Mommom. The kids all chipped in and we couldn't wait until Christmas.

On Christmas Eve Margaux put Santa together. He was about five feet tall (making him a smidge taller than my mother). She covered him with a large, plastic gift bag, and set him by the tree.

The next morning, after opening all the gifts, my son hid on the opposite side of the tree, and using the microphone, called my mother's name. While he did so, Santa, still covered in plastic, turned to the left and then to the right. Surprised, my mother got up and walked toward her "present," as he continued to call her name.

We expected her to groan at this big joke of ours, but her eyes lit up and she took his hand and started to sing and dance with Santa.

We have some of it on film, but the first few minutes, my daughter Amanda was laughing too hard to hold the camera.

I can't remember a Christmas when we laughed that hard or experienced so much joy. What started out as a joke, turned into one of the best gifts for me, especially when my mother told me it was her best Christmas ever.

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