Lauren Blank, a Texas native, had always been surrounded by a supportive family. As her 16th birthday approached, she was growing more and more excited with every passing day. Whatever the festivities entailed, the big milestone would be one for the books. However, she could not have expected what her grandfather had in store for her…
More And More Excited
She did not like the idea of throwing a big party but she had another idea in mind. Lauren, known as ‘Ren’ to her friends, arranged a small party and invited only her family and closest friends. She wanted it to be an intimate affair with the people she treasured the most.
Small Town, Big City Girl
The young Ren is a native of Keller, Texas and it’s a pretty small town in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with a population of 45,000 people. In an advertisement, the city has claimed that it “successfully balances big-city comforts with small-town charm.” If you have ever visited Keller, you will likely agree with this statement. Ren was born and raised in the city and she matured into an informed and well-educated young woman. Her parents must take pride in the teenager and decided she deserved a special 16th birthday celebration. We bet Ren did not know what was in store for her.
More Than A Decade of Planning
Ren did not have a clue that her grandfather had been making her 16th birthday gift for more than ten years! He kept the whole thing a secret and even Ren’s parents were unaware of his plans for the upcoming event. You can definitely say that Ren was about to get the surprise of her life during her 16th birthday celebration. The gift was so special that it left many people in tears as the event unfolded. It was not a regular gift, though we do not mean that it cost an arm and leg.
Not Your Ordinary Heirloom
A lot of teenagers want expensive presents for their 16th birthday, maybe a new car or a computer. However, the gift Ren would get from her grandfather was definitely something out of the ordinary. The birthday celebrant would actually find it overwhelming. A lot of grandparents pass down heirlooms during Sweet 16 celebrations, usually something that has been in the family for generations. However, the gift was far from ordinary – it was not a piece of jewelry or something else that could be resold for a high amount of money. Instead, the present was rich in sentimental value.
Celebration Of A Close Relationship
The gift he was about to give Ren for her 16th birthday would alter their relationship forever. However, you need to understand the deep bond shared by the grandfather and granddaughter duo. They had been close since Ren was young. Her parents usually sent her to their family instead of paying for daycare services. From the age of 2 to 5 years old, Ren spent a lot of time with her caring and loving grandfather. This was the same time her grandfather began working on his secret gift. Can you believe he was able to keep it a secret for such a long time?
Special Time Together
Ron Petrillo, Ren’s grandpa, wanted to commemorate the time they spent together. For three years, he made a daily routine that involved a special project for his special little girl. He wanted to celebrate the memories they shared and keep them alive in some way. Ron wanted to immortalize the time they spent together, especially since Ren was still too young to have any recollections of that period in her life. He later told her parents about what he was doing but he only started to understand how meaningful the project was after a decade. What plan did he have up his sleeve?
Memories Fading To Dust
It was no surprise to hear that Ren and her grandfather grew close right away. After all, they spent practically every single day together. Ron did not want those memories to disappear with the passage of time since he treasured her more than anything else. As a toddler, he knew they only had a finite amount of time together before Ren grows up. This is why he tried to make a present that would be meaningful and timeless. Who knows what the future holds, right? The big question now was when he would give his granddaughter the gift that he had been working on for a long time.
The Perfect Moment For The Gift
Ron finally came up with the perfect moment to give the gift to his granddaughter. In the beginning, he had several ideas in mind. Initially, he had been thinking of handing it to her the moment that she turned either 16 or 21 years old. He also considered saving it up until he passed away. Whenever they were together, he worked hard on his present. It slowly evolved into a meaningful object that would change Ren’s life forever. Even when they spent some time together, her grandfather managed to work on the secret project. He eventually came to the decision that he would give it to her when she proved something important to him.
The Pieces Falling Into Place
“I thought if she was straightened out and being a good person and being nice to people that was important,” Ron Petrillo explained his thought process. He watched little Ren as she matured and Ron came to a verdict at long last. He finally decided that she would receive the gift while he was still around. He thought it would be better for everyone involved if they shared the moment together instead of waiting until he was finally six feet below the ground. However, only time could tell whether the moment was due to arrive…
Memories Of The Past
After thinking about it long and hard, Ron decided that it would be a lot more meaningful if he gave Ren the special present while he was still alive to witness her reaction. It also dawned on him that handing it to her after he has passed away would likely be more heartbreaking than anything else. This was not ideal at all since he wanted the gift to warm her heart as she took a look at the moments they spent together. She had been as young as two years old when he began working on it so there were plenty of memories she would not be able to recall.
A Long-Term Project
The wait must have been tiring, though Ron kept adding more stuff to the mystery gift. The gift took years to finish since his progress stopped when he and Ren did not spend every single day together. He took advantage of their time together since she was a toddler. Can you believe that Ron worked on the gift for more than ten years? It was a very important project for him and everyone would soon see why this was the case. It was only a matter of time before everyone saw the secret Ron had been hiding from Ren.
A Special Gift To Last A Lifetime
After he spent the whole day with his granddaughter, Ron sat down every night and wrote about the day in detail. It might sound like a simple gift, though it quickly became a long and time-consuming project that required his whole attention and some creative writing skills. Although it might sound easy to you to jot down how their day went, we cannot deny that it was actually a really special and unique idea. After all, it would serve as something that Ren could use for the rest of her life. Not a lot of people can read about the memories that they no longer remember.
Appreciating Their Time Left
Very few children get to experience the same bond with their grandparents and other older relatives. Although a relationship like this can help instill a strong sense of family in a person, it can disappear so quickly as well. Ron did not want to take for granted the remaining time they had together and he hoped that his plan would help. Ron did the math and figured out that he would be 72 years old when Ren turned 16. While that is not an incredibly old age, he knew that there was no way to predict what the future holds.
A Milestone Reached
Despite everything, Ron refused to give up as the years passed by. He spent some exhausting years as he put in the time and effort to work on the project. However, he still needed to determine the appropriate time to hand it over to her. The question remained in his head for years until he reached a decision. He later decided it was a good idea for Ren to get the gift on her 16th birthday. That is a huge moment in any young person’s life and it would remain meaningful for the rest of one’s life. Ron knew that it would also be the greatest time to make an impact on her life.
Coming of Age Parties
Different cultures celebrate milestones like this to commemorate the passage into adulthood. Girls often celebrate it by throwing a big celebration complete with expensive and fancy dresses. In the United States, a Sweet 16 birthday celebration is the most common tradition. Meanwhile, people with Latin American roots often hold a quinceañera on their 15th birthday instead. There are also other ways to celebrate such an important milestone.
Other Ways To Celebrate
For people following the Jewish faith, the coming of age celebrations are called the bar and bat mitzvah. Boys typically celebrate a bar mitzvah when they turn 13 and girls celebrate a bat mitzvah at the age of 12 or 13. The Sweet 16 tradition likely has its roots in the medieval times, when girls were presented to the court when they were of marriageable age. In the Catholic faith, the coming of age ritual is called the confirmation. Anyway, let us head back to our birthday celebrant. She was about to get the biggest surprise on her birthday thanks to her grandfather!
A Powerful Bond
The relationship between Ren and her grandpa remained strong and unique over the years. Their relationship has benefited from the fact that they lived close to each other. Ron was able to provide a strong presence in her life as Ren was growing up. Modern technology has provided all sorts of means to bridge physical and social gaps between the elderly and their progenies. The date of her 16th birthday party grew closer and Ren still had no clue what was waiting for her.
All The Treasured Moments
The gift she was about to received took years to make. It was pretty impressive that her grandfather was able to come up with something so wonderful without Ren noticing. She did not know it yet but she would go on to treasure the birthday gift for a lifetime. As time passed by, the relationship between the grandfather and granddaughter changed. Among other things, she had to go to school and therefore had less time to see him. Ron later wondered – and hoped – that his hard work would be worth it.
The Perfect Time At Long Last
In March 2017, Ren finally celebrated her much awaited 16th birthday. As you might have figured, her grandfather could finally give her the gift he had been working on for such a long time. Ren could not have known what she was about to receive but it would end up becoming a miraculous moment for everyone. When she finally unwrapped the present, she was initially a little confused about the whole thing. She was looking at three spiral notebooks that had been labeled ‘Lauren book 1, 2 and 3’. Back then, Ren did not know what was going on but it would not take long before she realized the truth.
A Link To Their Special Past
Ren looked down at the three notebooks with a look of puzzlement on her face. She must have been absolutely baffled, though she soon came to realize that she was holding an extraordinary gift from her grandfather. Soon, her confusion transformed into curiosity as she started to leaf through the pages of the notebooks. Ren noticed how the notebooks had been written in ink and addressed her by name. During the first few minutes of her browsing, she was still clueless about the whole thing.
What The Notebooks Mean
She still did not realize what the gift was when she started to read the very first page. As she was reading the first sentence of the book, her grandfather looked at her with pride. He watched her patiently to observe her reactions. Soon, she began to feel something tug at her heartstrings even though she still needed to read a couple more pages before everything came together for her. He must have had a hard time holding back his emotions when he saw realization dawn upon his granddaughter! Everything then became clear to the young girl.
The Very First Entry
The first entry of the notebook had been penned in dark ink and Ren instantly found the handwriting familiar. It began with these words: “Hi Lauren: I’m just starting this so someday you might read it for fun. It’s going to be a day-to-day record of you and me.” Can you believe that Ren’s grandfather actually wrote all of the notebooks by hand? He kept adding more to the notebooks whenever he and his granddaughter had the opportunity to spend some time together. It took a lot of hard work, though he could not have predicted the impact his gift would have on Ren and everyone else in the family. The other family members looked on anxiously as she kept reading.
The Big Revelation
Ron actually dated all of the entries he made in the notebooks! Everything began on February 13, 2003. This was the day that he started to record the days they spent together. In those days, Ren was only two years old but everything she would discover there blew everyone away. She discovered her grandfather had been harboring fears that she forgot all the time they had together since she was still so young. He wanted to ensure that she would have something for reference if she wanted to look back on those days. As she kept reading, she would realize just how many memories she had actually forgotten.
More Than She Ever Knew
Ren’s grandpa explained that he wanted her to have the opportunity to relive those days by keeping a record of them in these notebooks. Apparently, he was correct when he thought she would be too young to remember much about that time. Ron started taking care of her when she was only two years old until she headed off to kindergarten when she was five. After she started going to school, he stopped writing down new entries since they were no longer together on a daily basis. However, the entries he had recorded in the notebooks would induce tears in the young woman’s eyes.
Memories Coming To The Surface
During those three years, Ren’s grandpa was able to use up three entire notebooks by writing about the time they spent together. Although Ron actually had vivid memories of those days, Ren did not remember very much of the time they spent together. As she kept reading the pages on that fateful day, she instantly realized that there were many things that she could not remember about the past. Her grandfather did not expect that his modest gift would cause some of his granddaughter’s forgotten memories to surface!
See Ya, Grandpa
Of course, Ron did not actually remember each and every one of the stories he wrote about in those notebooks. However, there was one particular story about her two-year-old self that Ren remembered right away after taking a peep at the notebooks. It was a little game of theirs that she enjoyed playing when she was young. Called “see ya”, it basically involved Ron doing every silly thing he could to make the little girl laugh as hard as possible. Doesn’t that sound like the most adorable thing? “He used to do this ‘See Ya’ game, and he would run into the wall over and over and over and I would die,” Ren explained.
That’s Not An Alligator
Another old memory that she finally remembered was the time her grandfather took her on a trip to the department store. They got on the elevator and Ren felt amazed by the experience of hopping on the contraption. In fact, she was so captivated that she asked her grandfather to ride it up and down multiple times! Ren also remembered the time her two-year-old self referred to the elevator as an “alligator”. She was soon overwhelmed by all the emotions she felt when she recalled all of these hilarious and adorable moments. Although they did not accomplish a lot of shopping on that said day, they definitely enjoyed going up and down the “alligator” for hours on end. Ren was already emotional at this point, although more memories came back and floored her.
More Treasures To Be Found
As Ren continued reading the entries in the notebooks, she soon discovered more wonderful stories about the time she spent with her grandfather. She was able to recall another great memory thanks to the gift. It was about another game they used to play when she was a little girl. Her grandfather described it in this manner: “One of your favorite things is for me to push the button on your clock and do my silly dance. When I say ‘Lauren do it,’ you sit in your bed and say ‘papa’ and I keep dancing, falling, running into the wall, turning around like an uncoordinated fat ballerina, and you keep laughing.” When she was done reading the notebooks, Ren was clearly overwhelmed by all her emotions.
The Good Ol’ Days
She was absolutely dumbfounded by the special gift. After all, she did not know how her grandfather managed to write down all the details of their time together and watch over her at the same time! She did not remember him multi-tasking whenever he was taking care of her. He usually placed little Ren in front of the television set so that he could go do something else. Apparently, he generally worked on writing in the journal whenever she was lying down and taking her afternoon nap! That was the moment she realized the exact extent of what he had done for her.
The Best Gift Ever
Ren was quick to realize that she had just received a precious gift from her grandfather. She could hardly keep her emotions in check when she skimmed through the notebook detailing a past she barely remembered. Without a doubt, this was the most wonderful gift she ever received. Other people celebrating their Sweet 16 usually received cars and gadgets but Ren got a chunk of the history she spent with one of the people she loved best. As she read the stories he wrote down, she started to recall more memories!
The Visits To The Zoo
There were several entries that stood out to Ren in particular as she went through the pages of her childhood. When she was little, her grandfather usually took her to the zoo and she loved those visits because she enjoyed watching the animals. “The rescue zoo — we’d go there every day except Monday, when they were closed,” Ron told Today. He continued, “And we’d go look at all the stuff, and then I’d buy her every trinket in the gift shop.” What Ren later did with the gift would make the story even more emotional.
Three Years’ Worth Of Memories
Ren’s grandfather wrote down a total of 185 handwritten pages that narrated the time the two spent together. Each story in the three notebooks is as emotional and moving as the last one. Unfortunately, things came to an abrupt end when Ren turned five. The reason for this is because she started attending school and there was no longer any need to leave her with her grandfather. Nonetheless, Ren is lucky to have her hands on three entire years’ worth of memories with him. She now has the ability to go back to the wonderful moments they spent together. That was not the end of the story, however.
Future To-Do List
Ren posted photos of the notebooks from her grandfather on Twitter and it went viral right away. Her post got retweeted by more than 160,000 people and the number continues to grow. The gift made such a huge impact on her and she now plans to do the same thing in the future. The teenager explained, “I’ve had so much feedback from other kids my age who say they want to get closer to their grandparents. Or, it’s been a real eye-opener for them to appreciate their grandparents while they are still here. I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this.”
Saving Money And Then Some
With the worsening economy, families across the United States are trying to cut down costs in every possible aspect. It makes sense that family members want to lend a hand by taking care of the younger children while their parents are working during the day. As we all know, childcare is becoming more and more expensive as the years pass by. Retired family members with more time on their hands typically agree to watch their grandchildren while the parents are away. Not only does it save money in the long run but it is also a great way for other family members to bond with each other!