An Unexpected Gift from Her Late Grandmother

A special angel must have hid a painting of her grandparents on their wedding day so that only she could find it.

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An artist's rednering of an angel peering through a painting frame.

Just a little further. Just a little further…

I reached up to push the plastic box just one more centimeter to the left to reach something in my crafts closet. One centimeter too far, it turned out. Avalanche! Everything came crashing down—scrapbook paper, glue sticks, beads, unfinished projects, markers, yarn, all scattered across the hardwood floor.

My husband, Alan, came running in. “What happened?”

“I was getting something out of the crafts closet,” I said. “I thought I needed a project to give me a lift.”

Alan looked at the mess. “I guess you found one,” he said. “Cleaning up.”

“Ha ha,” I said, but Alan had a point. Obviously the closet needed organizing if I wanted to avoid more disasters like this one. Sometimes straightening up could soothe my spirits too. I started pulling things out: Boxes, bags, baskets…what was that in the back? Something made of wood? Oh, yeah.

I pulled out a large dusty painting. Normally I loved landscape paintings, but the forest in this one was too dark and solemn to go on my walls. The only reason I had it was because it had belonged to my grandmother.

It seemed like yesterday I was gathered with my family at her house after her funeral. “I know it would make sense to have a yard sale,” my dad said as he looked around at all of Grandma’s belongings. “But I’d feel better knowing her things are with us. Everyone look around and see what you want to take.”

Surveying the house, I didn’t know where to start. When I was growing up, Grandma lived right next door. I saw these things—the matching cookie jars, the spoon rest—every day. They all held precious memories for me.

I moved toward the cookie jars, but my cousin Shannon got there first. “I love these,” she said, picking them up.

My cousin Domino took the rooster-shaped spoon rest. “This will go great in my kitchen.”

Grandma used to give me my favorite cookies out of that jar, I thought. I recall that spoon rest covered in oatmeal as she made breakfast for me. These things aren’t just knickknacks to decorate your house! But I didn’t want to fight over them. I knew that Grandma wouldn’t care for that. Besides, my cousins had as much right to her things as I did.

That’s what I told myself, but as I drifted from room to room I felt more and more unhappy. Each item claimed by someone else felt like a memory being stolen from me. Quietly I set aside a few things, like the glass goblets she filled with chocolate pudding and the green bird figurines I played with when I watched cartoons. But mostly I just stood by as things were claimed by my more assertive relatives.

“Take a look at these!” Shannon called from Grandma’s bedroom.

“Perfume bottles!”

I went to the bedroom to have a look. The bottles were beautiful, all different shapes with shiny brass tops. Maybe we could each take one, I thought. But I could tell from Shannon’s face that she really liked them all, so I put down the bottle I was looking at and turned toward the bed.

“I’ll take that,” I said, pointing to the landscape over the headboard. I had no idea why I’d said it. Maybe I was so upset at everything I’d lost that I was ready to grab at anything.

Looking at the painting now, I wondered again why I’d done it. It had just been sitting in my closet all this time. The somber landscape didn’t mean anything to me, unlike the goblets and the cookie jars. My cousins hadn’t thought much of the painting either. “It doesn’t speak to me,” Domino had said when I took it off the wall.

But that day the painting must have said something to me. Something nudged me to schlep it home. Probably the frame, I’d decided. I’ll put another painting in it, I told myself. I had wanted a project, after all. Organizing the closet could wait.

I went to the kitchen for a butter knife to carefully pry out the nails that held in the picture. One by one they dropped to the floor, the backing slowly falling away from the frame until I could pull it and the landscape out in one swift motion to reveal…

“Oh, my gosh! Grandma!”

For the second time Alan came running in.

“Look at this!” I said.

Under the landscape was a second painting, this one of my grandparents on their wedding day in June 1941. I was looking right into Grandma’s eyes. It was like receiving an unexpected visit from her. My spirit soared.

Alan admired the picture over my shoulder. “They look so young,” he said. “It’s like finding a buried treasure. I wonder why it was hidden.”

“I don’t know,” I said. But I had a theory. If this portrait had been hanging out in the open in my Grandma’s house, surely someone else would have claimed it while I looked on, feeling sorry for myself. Its concealment was the only reason I was holding it in my hands today. I hadn’t wanted to fight over my grandmother’s things, so someone—maybe an angel—had tucked aside something extra special just for me.

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