When I was 6 years old, my grandparents got divorced. My grandma moved away and cut off communication with my dad (her son) and in turn, the grandkids. Four years later, my grandpa started dating a woman named, Marilyn. A widower and French teacher, originally from Vermont, she brought peanut butter popcorn, scavenger hunts and a vivacious laugh to our lives.

For the past 20 years, my siblings and I have had a grandpa and a Marilyn. While Christmas presents don’t matter as much the older you get, I always find myself waiting eagerly for the box that Marilyn sends. What’s inside the wrapping paper and boxes are not mere objects, but a representation that she cares about us, thinks about us, and knows who we are.

A few years ago at Thanksgiving, I briefly mentioned that I was interested in learning how to make Springerle cookies, because my great-grandfather used to make them every year. Come Christmas, a package arrived, and Marilyn had found me a Springerle rolling pin.

Last night, a package arrived on the doorstep. I opened the box from Marilyn to find a stunning vintage metal cake stand she found in an antique shop. It’s not about the perfect present, but the fact that someone knows you well enough to see something and think of you.

If you don’t have a grandma, I highly suggested getting yourself a Marilyn.

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