A Heartwarming Gift to Her Granddaughter

How a special handmade fabric doll with a hidden surprise from Grandma C was meant to be.

Posted in , Jul 23, 2021

An illustration of a doll; Illustration by Sarah Walsh

Wait. What was the doll doing back in my shopping cart? I thought I’d returned it to the shelf. Mom.

My 90-year-old mother had been drawn to the doll the moment we’d entered Goodwill. She must’ve snuck it back in when I wasn’t looking. It was a handmade fabric doll, with yellow yarn hair. Its eyes stared up at me.

“Mom, we’re not getting this doll,” I said, taking it out of the cart again. “You already have so many things to work with.”

“But I need this doll!” she said.

Mom was excited. Her only granddaughter, Ashley, was getting married. For Mom, that meant a shopping spree at Goodwill to collect supplies for making wedding decorations. Mom had always been a big crafter, even more so in recent years as poor health kept her mostly homebound. But she was determined, and I suspected there was no stopping her.

Ashley and Mom shared a special bond. For years, Mom had prayed to become a grandmother. I never had kids. It wasn’t until my younger sister, Tina, married a man with a daughter from a previous relationship that Mom’s prayers were finally answered.

Ashley was 11 years old when she joined the family. Mom was technically her step grandmother, but you’d never know it. She doted on Ashley, who affectionately called her Grandma C. The two became even closer when Ashley moved here to Wisconsin to live with her father and Tina.

So when Ashley announced her engagement, Mom was over the moon. We’d visited Goodwill multiple times in the past weeks. Mom had already collected multiple odds and ends for her project. I didn’t see where the doll fit into her plans.

We arrived at checkout, and I saw that Mom had managed to sneak the doll back into the cart. Oh well, I thought. She must have quite the idea for it.

“What are you going to do with her?” I asked on the drive home.

“You’ll see,” she said.

Sadly, Mom’s health worsened. She couldn’t work on the decorations as she’d hoped. She passed away a few months before Ashley got married. The wedding day was lovely but bittersweet. Grandma C was missed.

A year later, Ashley announced that she was expecting a baby girl. She and her husband had already picked out a name. Elliana. None of us had heard of it before. We all loved how unique it was. I couldn’t help but think of Mom. I wished she were still here. She would have loved to meet her first great-grandchild, and she would have approved of such a beautiful, unusual name.

One Saturday I went to Mom’s house to sort through her belongings. It had been slow going. More than a year had passed, and I still had boxes to go through. I walked up to the pile, pulled down a box and opened it. Right on top was a little handmade doll with yellow yarn hair. It took me a minute to place it. The doll from Goodwill!

I picked it up and noticed some embroidery near the hem of the doll’s dress. I don’t remember seeing this when we bought the doll, I thought. Mom wasn’t an embroiderer, so she hadn’t stitched it. It must’ve been there when we bought it. I smoothed the folds of the doll’s skirt and caught my breath.

Little Elliana just turned one. It was time. For her birthday, I gave her the doll. A gift from Great-Grandma C. One that was always meant for her. Because on the doll’s skirt, neatly stitched in cursive letters, is a name. Elliana.

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