There is no denying the significance of one’s 16th birthday. It is a special moment, particularly for young women, who dream of wearing long ball gowns and doing their hair nicely. However, family always finds a way of making these milestones extra special.
A Gift To Remember
Lauren Blank was on the verge of her 16th birthday, and she wasn’t planning on doing anything particularly special. However, things were about to change drastically, when she received a unique present from her grandpa.
The Simmering Excitement
Lauren has had a happy upbringing, growing up with loving parents and siblings in the heart of Texas. One of her most notable relationships has been with her grandpa. However, when she turned 16, she could never anticipate the present she was about to receive from him. As the excitement built up for her birthday, she couldn’t hide the feelings that so many other kids have. Although she didn’t want any big celebrations, she at least wanted to celebrate with her family and friends.
A Small Town’s Charm
Growing up in the Keller, Texas, Lauren had access to the big cities of Dallas and Forth Worth, but without having to deal with city living. The town itself is branded as “successfully balancing big-city comforts with small-town charm.” Lauren’s experiences of growing up in the quiet comfort of the suburbs, helped shaped her into a particularly mature young teenager. Her composure made a lasting impression on her family, who wanted to celebrate how exceptional she had become.
The Long Game
Lauren, or Ren as her closest friends call her, had no idea that her grandpa had been planning her 16th birthday present for a very long time. His idea was so secretive that he didn’t even let her parents know about it. The moment came, and when Ren opened the present, everyone in the room felt the emotion that had been released from this present. Cars can be nice presents, so can valuable items, but this meant so much more to her…
A Valuable Heirloom
Family heirlooms can take many forms. Many families pass down precious items of jewelry from one generation to the next. Sometimes it’s an antique that has a lot of sentimental value. Of course, jewelry is less likely to degrade compared to other valuable items. However, it was Ren’s grandpa, Ron Petrillo, who had something even more valuable. He had something so precious that he could not let it die with him. He had to pass it on.
A Bond To Celebrate
Ever since she was a baby, Ren had a special relationship with Grandpa Ron. He was the person who took care of her the most whenever her parents weren’t around. In fact, between the ages of two and five, instead of being taken to daycare, Ren was constantly being cared for by her grandpa. It was a glorious time for Ron, but he knew that as time went on, time with his granddaughter would become less frequent.
On the one hand, Ron didn’t want Ren to forget him. On the other, he didn’t want her to know that he was holding on to the past. For Ren, she was oblivious to the secrets that her grandpa was keeping. So he waited until she was older before he shared this family heirloom with her. He knew he would share it with her, but he wanted it to happen during a special occasion. He just needed to find the right time to do it.
The Perfect Moment
Ron carefully thought when would be the best opportunity. “I had three dates in mind – I had 16, 21 and then when I was gone,” he said. “I thought if she was straightened out and [was] being a good person and being nice to people, that was important. So I decided to give it to her on her 16th birthday.” Moments before giving her the present, Ron did consider waiting until she was a little older. However, he was also getting older and didn’t want to wait any longer.
More Than Prepared
Ron Petrillo could hardly have hoped for more as Ren reached her teenage years. She was considerate and curious, keeping on top of current events, and carefully learning more in order to come up with a balanced opinion. Even the fact that she would discuss such serious issues with her family made them proud to see how they’d shaped her. Petrillo knew that most of her peers weren’t equal in this way, and therefore felt her 16th birthday would be the opportune time to reveal his gift.
The gift was a long-term creation for Ron. Every once in a while, Ren’s grandpa would return to this project of his add something new to it. Although at times it was a tedious effort, he knew that it would blow Ren’s mind once it was complete. He had started the project when she was still young, and would play with her in between his creative hours. Although they had built up so many fantastic memories, Ron knew that one day, those memories would disappear…
Turning The Wheel
The project took Ron over a decade to complete. He had started to created it when Ren was just two years of age. Now, it was over. All those years of hard work and persistence had finally paid off. He put so much heart and love into it that he was so happy to finally present it to Ren. It was clear that Ron wanted his granddaughter to understand how much he appreciated the time he spent with her while she grew up.
A Defining Decision
A few years had passed since Ren’s grandpa completed his project. He knew that sooner rather than later, he would have to give her the present. When would the right time be? If not now, when? He contemplated the idea of giving it to her there and then, or whether he should simply give to her mother, just in case he passed away and wasn’t able to. Eventually, Ron decided that there was no time like the present…
Reaching A Milestone
When you think of milestones, one’s 16th birthday is right up there with the best of them. It represents the start of adulthood in many cultures. It is the time when one can start to drive and is a signal of independence. For one reason or another, the celebration seems to be particularly significant for girls. A huge celebration is often organized and many young women wear ball gowns for their big party. Most importantly, it is a time to spend with family and friends.
Coming Of Age
Throughout the world, you can find a variety of different versions of ceremonies celebrating a child’s passing to adulthood. One of the best known outside of Sweet Sixteens is the quinceñera, which is a celebration for a girl’s 15th birthday that occurs in Latin American countries. The origins of the celebration are uncertain, though some posit that it may have originated as a medieval court celebration, which signaled to the public when a girl was finally eligible for marriage.
Ways To Celebrate
Other well known ceremonies that celebrate the beginning of adulthood is the Jewish bar and bat mitzvah. In Judaism, this milestone is commemorated when a boy turns 13 and when a girl turns 12. At that time, Jewish young adults are required to take on the same religious commitments of adults. Catholicism has a similar rite of passage in confirmation. The idea behind confirmation is that young adults are more equipped to understand the background of their religion. Ren certainly exhibited these traits.
Beyond The Generations
Although Ren’s relationship with her grandpa is special, there are many young people who can relate to her. It doesn’t apply to everyone, but there are many kids who have the privilege of spending time with one, if not all of their grandparents who potentially live close to them. Despite the fact that technology such as cell phone and computers can maintain relationships, there is nothing like loved ones who have the pleasure of living close to each other. Ren and Ron had that pleasure.
Easing The Burden
Given the prolonged economic recession in the United States, even middle class families have had to pinch pennies in order to make ends meet. This often means turning to family members for help with childcare, rather than shelling out for an expensive daycare or private nanny. Grandparents make the perfect babysitters, given that they can’t get enough of spending time with their grandchildren. This also helps to foster a closer relationship between the two, as it did for Ron and Ren.
March 2017 – this is when Lauren’s 16th Birthday came along. This is the time when Grandpa Ron decided to give her the present he had worked on for so long. It turns out that the gift comprised of three spiral-bound notebooks. They were aptly titled Lauren Book #1, Lauren Book #2 and Lauren Book #3, respectively. At first, Ren was perplexed by what she was looking at. What was inside these books? As Red opened each one, the truth started to unfold.
Opening Up The Past
As she looked at the front and back covers of each book, Ren realized that she was about to read something special. She opened the first book and at first, she couldn’t understand what she was reading. Written in beautiful ink, she was unable to read it as she had never been familiar with this type of writing. However, Ron was excited to see how she would react when looked a little closer. She just needed to focus.
A Ray Of Illumination
Grandpa Ron watched gleefully, and struggled to contain himself as Ren read his work. As she concentrated on every word from the first page, a rush of emotion overwhelmed him. His emotions got the better of him and he started to cry tears of happiness. He tried to hide them from Ren as he stood behind her while she read. After years of reading over what he had written, he knew by heart everything that Ren had been reading…
Holding On To Memories
“Hi Lauren: I’m just starting this so someday you might read it for fun. It’s going to be a day-to-day record of you and me.” The bigger picture was starting to become clear. Ron had been keeping a daily journal of his experiences with Ren since she was two years old. He knew that the impact of the present would be even greater if the all the dates had been noted down, which they were. All of Ren’s family was there to watch.
Revealing His Secret
The reality is that Ron had started to write the first book on February 13, 2003. As this was the time that he had been taking care of her, Ren’s grandpa wanted to note down every little detail about her during their time together. His vision that, for Ren to read back on these memories, no matter how special or mundane they were, would be an incredible insight for her in her future years. Each book documented one of the three years he took care of her.
More Than She Knew
Ron gave all his love and attention to Ren up until the day she started kindergarten. This in itself, seemed like a milestone that would culminate the time he had spent with her. Although the books documented so much goodness from her childhood, Ron admits that there were a lot more details that he could have added. As Ren looked through the books, she discovered so many details about her past, but there was one particular detail that blew her mind…
How She Laughed
The notebooks would unearth so many memories that were buried at the back of Ren’s mind. One was a game that Ren and her grandpa played when she was just two years old. Ron wrote that it was referred to as the “See Ya” game. The aim of the game was for Ron to find ways to make Ren laugh. “He used to do this ‘See Ya’ game,” Ren said. “He would run into the wall over and over and I would die.”
Riding The Alligator
Another fascinating chapter in Ron and Ren’s relationship is the time when the pair went shopping and little Ren saw an elevator for the first time in her life. She asked if she could go inside and use it. Ron gladly said yes and they both went up and down on it repeatedly. Whenever they returned, she would ask if they could use the “alligator” again. Grandpa Ron was always excited to ride the alligator with his granddaughter.
Recalling The Best Times
As Ren read on, more of her own memories began to resurface, including ones she had nearly forgot about. One memorable entry about a favorite game of Ren’s was recounted as, “One of your favorite things is for me to push the button on your clock and do my silly dance. When I say ‘Lauren do it,’ you sit in your bed and say ‘papa’ and I keep dancing, falling, running into the wall, turning around like an uncoordinated fat ballerina, and you keep laughing.”
Behind Her Back
Upon sitting straight and taking in the moment, Ren couldn’t believe that her grandpa had spent so much time working on this amazing present. Not to mention the fact he was also taking care of her at the same time. Ron would use his time wisely, paying close attention to Ren and always spending quality time with her. Then, when she would take her afternoon naps, Ron would open up the books and start documenting the events that had just transpired.
The Dwindling Days
Time would prove to be what ultimately separated Ren and Ron. As she got older, Ren became more independent and didn’t need her grandpa as much. Ron decided to stop writing and felt like the best material came when they were constantly together. The reality was that Ron no longer needed to take care of Ren. Although he completed the books when she was five, Ron knew that he had to find the perfect time to share his work with his granddaughter.
Tugging At Her Heart
It didn’t take long before Ren realized just how much love and effort Ron had put into this present. She began to break down in tears and it was undoubtedly the most special thing she had ever been given. Upon multiple reads, she discovered more and more forgotten memories that she didn’t even realize existed in the first place. Despite there being so much content, there were a couple of entries that she held extremely close to her heart.
One of the pair’s shared favorite past activities was when they would regularly go to the zoo together. “The rescue zoo — we’d go there every day except Monday, when they were closed,” Ron said. “And we’d go look at all the stuff, and then I’d buy her every trinket in the gift shop.” There was no denying how excited young Ren was when she saw all those animals at such a young age. For her, every trip to the zoo felt like Christmas.
Spreading The Love
Despite being overwhelmed with emotion, Ren was quick to take to social media and share her incredible present with the public. Her tweet was an instant viral sensation, being retweeted over 160,000 times. Ren referred to her grandpa as “one of the most influential people in [her] life.” One thing was for sure, Ron had left such a massive impression on Ren in throughout her life and the books were just a cherry on a delicious cake of a relationship.
The Tide Changes
This didn’t mean that all the reactions towards Ren’s tweet were positive. As the post gained popularity, it was bound to attract some critics who are just looking to start a fight online. Amazingly, some cynics simply thought that Ren was exploiting her grandpa’s act of kindness so that she could get some cheap fame. “It wasn’t [about] me being famous,” she said in an interview with The Daily Mail. “It was about my grandpa’s love for me becoming famous.”
Ren’s appreciation for her closer relationship with her grandfather was increased by the outflowing of support she saw on social media. She told Buzzfeed in a recent interview, “I’ve had so much feedback from other kids my age who say they want to get closer to their grandparents. Or, it’s been a real eye-opener for them to appreciate their grandparents while they are still here. I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this,”
Following His Footsteps
Ultimately, the heartwarming story received overwhelmingly positive reactions online and even got the pair some interviews in a variety of media outlets. In an interview with Today, Ron simply explained that what he did wasn’t the first time it’s been done and that anyone could repeat what he did. “I just want the grandparents that are in their 40s and 50s to know that they can do the same thing,” he explained. “If that’s the only thing that comes out of this, then that’s just fine.”