My, What Big Expectations You Have, Grandma!


Another grandchild birthday approaching. I deliberate, flip-flop, buy the gift, experience buyer’s remorse, wrap tenderly, write the card (sealed with a lick ’cause a kiss won’t stick!), close eyes while paying the exorbitant parcel postage, pocket the tracking information for future reference and wait with baited breath for an acknowledgement.


“Say ta,” I can still hear my own grandmother admonishing over six decades ago.

In my day, we were sat down, given a blue Air Letter aerogramme, a pen, and expected to come up with a thank you letter for Grandma. (Or rather a “merci beaucoup” letter since I spent my childhood in France!)

No wait, I’m missing a step or two. First we were given a piece of lined paper and a pencil and pink eraser to practise, using cursory writing.

Sometimes it could take me hours and many attempts to get the wording right and a standard of neatness with which both of my parents would be satisfied. Sometimes meals would be missed and harsh words would fly across the kitchen table. Once or twice, I even recall a friendly rap on the knuckles with the 6-inch wooden ruler. Which is probably the reason I am able to write a better-than-average letter and email to this day.

No word from them just yet.

I count the business days on the calendar. I check for messages on my iPhone. Soon I give up waiting and begin pontificating. Why is acknowledging with grace seemingly such a lost art these days? Do parents even teach the importance of saying or writing a simple: “thank you”? Why is saying thank you a stretch when it should be a strength? After all, “thanks” doesn’t need to be embellished with adjectives or superlatives when falling on grateful grandmother ears or eyes.

I remember my dad buying my first grandson an ice cream cone on the waterfront in Nanaimo. My grandson is 19 now and I recall the scene like it was yesterday. “He didn’t thank me!” my dad reprimanded me incredulously. “Sorry Great-grandpa!,” my grandson said, having overheard. “I was enjoying the blackberry flavour so much that I forgot!”

I remember not having the words to express my own appreciation when the gift was handmade with hundred of hours of love. Like when my own mother made me a Raggedy Andy or when both my parents constructed a puppet theatre with hand-sewn curtains and paper mache Punch and Judy puppets.

To bring clarity to this quibble of mine, I determined to research the threshold for having the grandchildren utter a simple thanks. It could even be under their breath. Maybe I could even imagine it. I certainly wasn’t holding my breath for anything stamped and in writing to pop through the mail slot.

If I got my grandsons a 3D printer would it impress them sufficiently to hear those two words? They have every electronic device imaginable. They already fly drones around the neighbourhood. I can’t afford to send them on a space trip.

You know what I’ve realized? I’m through fussing about any of this! It doesn’t matter. Just as they don’t owe it to me to care what I did for a living, where their great-great-great grandparents lived or even where I went for my last cruise, it is not their job to thank me for knitting them a cardigan with sleeves way too long or getting them a hardcover they read last year.

But hold on, I spot a lovely thick envelope in today’s mail. Why, it’s chock full of darling handwritten printing, crayoned drawings and inked letters from the entire family. They’ve all chimed in! A veritable feast of delicious recognition of gifts received. What on earth was I thinking. They love me! We have the best of relationships! My world is still spinning on its axis! It’s a bluebird day! I shall brew a latté and have a healthy biscuit and settle in for a delicious read. After which I’ll give them a telephone call to thank them. Ta for reading!

Elizabeth Olson
Elizabeth Olson
Elizabeth Olson recently retired from Galiano Island Books and spends a lot of time these days in bookstores in Sidney. Her own grandfather was a pirate who spent his retirement searching for Inca gold on Cocos Island.