Everyday Heroes:

Secret Granddaughters

by Elizabeth C. Zaleski

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    All year long, young women and their “grandmothers” enjoy a delicious suspense as surprise follows surprise. No wonder it’s become a tradition everyone savors.

    “I don’t know who my secret granddaughter is, but I just love her.” Sister Joseph, her eyes sparkling with light, says fervently.

    Each Beehive, Mia Maid, and Laurel in the Parowan Utah Second Ward picks from an envelope a slip of paper. This reveals the name of her own “secret grandmother” from among the ward’s widowed sisters. The young woman then acts anonymously in giving to that grandmother throughout the year.

    During the 1989 calendar year these southern Utah girls enthusiastically made a variety of gifts for their secret grandmothers, including decorated cakes, stenciled minirugs, birthday surprises, and handwritten cards.

    At Christmas time the Young Women teamed up with the Young Men to fill fruit baskets for older ward members. At certain houses a shout rang out: “My secret Grandmother lives here. Some of you guys come so she won’t figure out it’s me!” One white-haired sister reached out to accept her laden basket saying, “You girls keep me going, doing all these nice things.”

    During the holidays several secret grandmothers sought out Young Women leaders, exclaiming, “Please tell my secret granddaughter she has made my Christmas delightful.” Others brought a gift to be taken to their young, unknown friend.

    Climaxing a year-long adventure, the Young Women worked together in providing and preparing a colorful salad bar for these special sisters. Leaders supplied warm bread sticks and apple crisp for the January event. With kitchen duties completed, the guests of honor were eagerly waiting for their “granddaughters” to identify themselves. As each young woman came forward, spontaneous embraces linked these friends, old and young.

    Following the meal, Sister Bentley, who is 89 years old, spoke on behalf of all the secret grandmothers. Raising her hand to her ear, she commented about her anonymous Beehive:

    “I’d hear a knock at the front door and I’d go to answer it. Nobody was there, but down on the step would be another gift.” Pausing, she peered around at her listeners rather mysteriously. “I’d always call out, ‘Thank you,’ but nobody ever answered.”

    After the laughter subsided, she expressed gratitude to all the girls. “Your smiles are what we all love to see. Please keep smiling at us. This evening has been just lovely.”

    The youth shared a final offering singing one of their Young Women songs. “I have never been more impressed with our Young Women,” stated their leader, “or loved them more than when they stood before these sisters and sang beautifully, ‘I am of worth, of infinite worth.’ I could see that their secret grandmothers had no doubt as to the truth of those words.”

    Photography by Jed Clark

    Deed by deed, the understanding and appreciation grow. When each “grandaughter’s” identity is revealed, the bond of love is completed and it’s almost like a reunion.

    A window-washing project left everyone seeing more clearly. The young women saw the satisfaction of hard work; the grandmothers saw the love and dedication of a younger generation.

    They paid the price in long hours, broken nails, and sore muscles. The rewards were fellowship, spiritual experiences, and—perhaps most treasured of all—warm thank-you hugs.