Working on: Veronica’s Gifts

Categories: Children's books,Family,Working on
February 24, 2010

{Disclaimer: Extra-long post}

As I’ve stated just about everywhere on this site, my goal is to become a published author.  I would like to write books for adults, books for children, and articles in magazines.

I have many children’s book ideas in the queue, but the one that I am working on at the moment is based on a story that my Grandmother used to tell me about her childhood.

At the outset, I will tell you that my Grandma now suffers from mid to late stage Alzhiemer’s, but she was an excellent storyteller in her day (she is Irish after all.)  The mischief she got hersef into growing up in Ireland inspired many of the wonderful tales she told to me as a little girl.

Grandma, around 1926

Grandma, around 1926

Anyway, my Grandmother grew up in Dublin in a neighborhood called Harold’s Cross, which at the time was greatly affected by poverty.  Her mother owned the neighborhood general store, and her father was on disability from the post-office.  Her family lived in the two bedroom apartment above the store, and she shared one of those bedrooms with her brother’s and sisters.  Life was not easy, but her mother (my great-grandmother) was a hard worker and a survivor – they lived modestly but they were far better off than the people around them.

Every year at Christmas, Gran would tell me about what Christmas was like in Harold’s Cross.  Like I said, Gran’s family lived modestly, but they did receive a Christmas gift every year (and by that I mean one, very small, gift.)  Gran always felt badly that none of her friends got a present.  Well, one year (I think she might have been 8 or 9) she got it into her mind to make sure that all the kids in her neighborhood got something on Christmas Day.  So, she and her best friend went around to the neighborhood kids and told them to unlatch their windows on the evening of the 24th.

*To clarify this story for you, I suspect that Gran was a wee bit of a trouble-maker.  In fact, she probably made my great-grandmother’s life much more difficult than it already was (you know, what with raising 6 kids, caring for a disabled husband, running a store, and doing house-cleaning on the side.)  She had skinned knees and dirtied her clothes, she got in trouble at school, but she has always had a big and generous heart.

Anyway, as I was saying…being the trouble-maker that she was, Gran didn’t ask her mother’s help with her Christmas gift scheme.  Instead, she went into the shop after everyone in the house was asleep and took (well, stole) a heapful of penny toys, one for each kid in the neighborhood.  She and her friend then took the toys around to the houses and threw one into every child’s window.

Of course, this didn’t unfold without consequence.  She “Got a licken'” when her mother found out what had happened.  But the spirit of Christmas is nestled right here in the story of my Grandma the thief.  She knew that Christmas wasn’t coming for many of her friends.  In fact, she knew that many of her friends would be hungry or cold that day.  At 9 years old she couldn’t do much to help them with the food problem or light their fires to keep them warm.  But, she could give them a gift (or so she thought), and she did.

This particular story has always stuck with me.  I think of it sometimes when I feel put-upon or unlucky.


Grandma at the cottage, 2008

Gran is turning 90 this April.  She is still a trouble-maker, and she still has a ginormous heart.  She was voted ‘Resident of the Year’ at her Nursing Home this year.

Gran’s dementia is at the stage where she usually doesn’t recognize me.  She also doesn’t remember the stories from her childhood that she told to rapt audiences so long ago (me, my sister, and our friends.)  It breaks my heart that I didn’t pay closer attention, that I don’t remember these stories as completely as I should, and now this big part of my heritage may actually die with her as she slips further and further into the fog.

I don’t mean to be sentimental, but I actually tear up when I think of it.

But, my motto for this year is “It’s never too late”.  And so, I have decided to tell this story about my Grandmother Vera, in the form a children’s book that I hope she will be around long enough to read.  And, I hope she might recognize herself.

Of course, the story itself could use some fleshing out, a little work to make it ready for little one’s to tuck into bed with at night.  I understand that it can’t be just about a mischievous little girl who steals from her mother and gets away with it.  It will need a moral and a lesson.

I will post updates as I go, including some details on the process I’m following (I will be testing out Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days to help me outline the story.)  Here’s hoping I will have this finished in time to give this to her for Christmas this year.

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  1. Oh, Tori that was such a sweet story… and I can totally see how you tear up thinking about her and her stories… I got a little teared up reading this blog :)

    Comment by Christine — February 26, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  2. Wow, thanks Andrea and Christine for stopping by so quickly and giving your input This story means a lot to me, and it’s been therapeutic to put it to paper.
    Thanks for your support guys, it means so much :)

    Comment by Tori — February 26, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  3. I was completely touched by this entry on your blog…I am certain we can all relate to your story, as our grandparents are often so instumental in awakening our imaginations with their timeless stories!

    Comment by Andrea — February 26, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  4. Hi Tori: Just great, I enjoyed reading it and as you know I have always enjoyed that grandma of yours a lot. Perhaps it is the Irish, always the smile and the do it way she had. The walk down the beach with the tin of muffins and her little granddaughters to visit when I was at the cottage. The times we went out for dinner in the last few years and she told us of walking to the post office at Kettlepoint. She said, “when I got too hot I just took my shoes off and walked in the water for awhile. She loved and was very proud of her two granddaughters who I know loved and were very proud of her too. Love Gramma

    Comment by Gramma — February 27, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  5. Hi Gramma,
    Yes, Grandma is a pretty neat lady. I have been lucky in the way of Grammas :) You’ve each had a hugely positive impact on my life in your own special way 😀

    Comment by Tori — February 28, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  6. Tori, this is such a lovely, sentimental, and hilarous story. I would most certainly read this story to my students, and all the babies in my life (my neices, and nephew). When you spoke of your grandmother and the stories she used to tell, it reminded me of my own grandmother in India who also used to tell me stories. I think you have a winner on your hands. The story behind the story is just as interesting, and I think should be used as the forward of the book, or perhaps as “A more information section…” Think about it. Good luck.

    Comment by vandana — March 6, 2010 @ 7:03 am

  7. Thanks Vandana, that is so great to hear, especially from a teacher :) I’ve run into a little snag though, how do you talk about kids who may not receive Christmas gifts without bringing the subject of ‘Santa’ into it? I realized later that there are very few Christmas stories without the big guy in red. What do you think?

    Comment by Tori — March 7, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  8. […] must admit that I hit a snag very shortly after revealing my story idea here.  I realized that it would be very difficult to write a story about children not receiving a gift […]

    Pingback by Veronica’s Gifts « Tori Walker – Open Book — March 22, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

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Hi, I'm Tori, and welcome to my open book. I'm a freelance writer and web designer. This site is my scratch pad for thoughts and ideas, experiences and inspiration. Go ahead, eavesdrop on my life a little bit, you know you want to...