Inspired by a Grandmother's Gift

A young girl finds her path in life, thanks to her faith and a beloved book.

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Posted in , Jun 19, 2012

Artist's rendering of Heidi with a goat

The summer I turned 11, I spent two weeks with my grandparents in DeWitt, Iowa. They lived in a second-floor apartment just off Main Street.

There were no other kids in the neighborhood. I was afraid I would die of boredom.

I missed my friends back in comparatively cosmopolitan Omaha, missed riding my bike everywhere. I even missed my brother and sister.

One afternoon Grandma was in the kitchen baking a rhubarb pie, Benny Goodman on the radio. “When’s Grandpa coming home?” I asked. Maybe he’d take us for a ride in his Chevy to the ice-cream parlor on the edge of town.

“He’s out of town for a meeting and won’t be home till tomorrow.” She opened the oven door and a blast of heat came out.

“I’m bored,” I said. “There’s nothing to do here.”

“Oh, there’s plenty to do,” she said. “You just have to use your imagination.”

Oh, I had an imagination all right. At night I’d call to Grandma from the guest room, terrified that I heard a noise in the closet or saw a face at the window.

“There’s no one here but us,” Grandma would say, rubbing my back until I fell asleep, “and God looking out for us.”

Too bad that imagination deserted me in the daytime. “I can’t think of anything,” I said.

God, I pleaded, can’t you make something interesting happen?

Grandma set the pie on the counter to cool. “How about a little trip?” she asked.

“Where?”

“You’ll see.” She took off her apron. I scrambled to put on my tennis shoes.

We walked along the brick sidewalks, her purse dangling from her arm. Her auburn hair glinted in the sun and I caught the scent of her lavender perfume.

We crossed the street. I saw the movie theater. My pulse began to race. I loved movies!

But, no, Grandma walked right past the theater.

“Here we are,” she said, stopping in front of a store. “I thought you might like to go to Switzerland.”

“But this is a bookstore,” I said. Had the heat gone to Grandma’s head?

She pushed open the glass door, nodded to the sales clerk and walked to the children’s section. Her fingers danced along the spines of the books until they came to a thick volume bound in brown cloth.

She pulled it off the shelf and handed it to me.

“Here you go. One ticket to Switzerland.”

I looked at the title. “Heidi?” I’d never heard of it. “Is it any good?”

“There’s only one way to find out.”

Back at the apartment Grandma lay down for a nap. I curled up in Grandpa’s armchair and opened the book.

How right Grandma was! I was whisked off to the snow-covered Alps with a girl who goes to stay with her grandfather (like me!).

She learns to love reading (like me!) and befriends Peter, a goatherd, and Clara, who’s in a wheelchair. She even helps Clara walk again.

My favorite line in the book was when Heidi says, “When you do not know what more to do, you must go and tell everything to God.”

Wasn’t that exactly what had happened to me? He had heard my plea. He had redirected my imagination from my fears to my best dreams.

That book opened a whole new world, a world I’ve delighted in exploring. I’m always reading something, recommending something.

Twenty years ago my husband bought an Apple IIc computer with a dot-matrix printer and said, “You love books so much. Why don’t you write your own?”

I did. And I’ve kept at it. I’ve had more than 20 books published.

Like Grandma showed me that long-ago summer in Iowa, there’s plenty to do. I just have to use my imagination and trust where God will lead.

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