Plenty of girls approaching their sweet 16th birthday throw themselves into planning a party involving fancy dresses and styled hair. But not everyone has such elaborate “coming of age” celebrations. And, for some, it’s the sentimental birthday gifts from family members that mean the most to them.
Indeed, one young woman from Texas will probably never forget a present she was given on her own 16th birthday. Lauren Blank reached that milestone in March 2017; on her big day, moreover, she received something from her grandfather that made her heart melt.
And, to top it all off, the present was something that Blank had never even seen coming. Indeed, it was a total surprise for the teenager. As it turned out, however, her grandad had been planning to deliver such a gift for years.
But Blank didn’t receive a piece of jewelry or some cash for her birthday, like many 16-year-olds do: what her grandfather did for her was far more individual. And many would agree that his gift is much more significant than any store-bought trinket could ever be.
But then Ron Petrillo had always been very fond of his granddaughter. The two of them had had a special bond ever since she was a baby, in fact. And while Blank was young, before she had started school, she had spent every day with her grandad.
That gave the pair plenty of opportunities to get to know each other, play silly games and make memories to last a lifetime. It was during those special years, moreover, that Petrillo decided to do something to document the happy times that the grandfather and granddaughter had had together. And it all started with a notebook and pen.
But then the years passed by, and his little granddaughter grew up. During that time, however, Petrillo kept what he had done concealed from Blake – and he would only reveal his long-kept secret when the occasion was just right.
“I had three dates in mind – I had 16, 21 and then when I was gone,” the grandad told Today in March 2017. “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.”
So, when the big day came, he finally passed over the gift that he had kept to himself since his granddaughter was five years old. Specifically, he handed the birthday girl three notebooks, each with a number on them. The first one, for instance, had writing on the front which read, “Lauren book number 1.”
And, at first, Blank wasn’t sure what the notebooks were about. But upon opening up that first book, she quickly realized how special the gift truly was. That’s because it began with a message from Petrillo to Blank herself, which read, “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.”
That first entry was dated February 16, 2003. And after Blank and her other family members had read it, they couldn’t help but let the tears stream down their faces. But that wasn’t all the notebooks contained: indeed, there were pages and pages for Blank to pore over.
And those pages were filled with wonderful memories from the years that Blank and her grandfather had spent together. Furthermore, they showed that the two of them clearly had a lot of fun before Blank had started school. For instance, as the teenager would tell Today, there was a reminder in one book of a particularly silly game that they had played all those years ago.
That was the “See Ya” game – something that involved Blank’s grandfather repeatedly making a fool of himself just to make her laugh. “He would run into the wall over and over and over, and I would die,” the 16-year old told Today.
In addition, Petrillo had recorded his reminiscences of a particular store that the two of them had once visited. That store had an elevator that Blank enjoyed going up and down in, although she referred to it instead as an “alligator.”
Petrillo had only short periods in which to jot down his favorite memories of the pair together, though: specifically, when the younger Blank was taking naps. In the process, however, he filled 185 pages full of joyful recollections for Blank to enjoy now that she’s old enough to appreciate them.
And it was only after Blank started school that he stopped writing in the notebooks; from that point on, they didn’t spend as much time together. But there was still one crucial decision for Petrillo to make after he had finished compiling his gift. Namely, when should he pass it over to Blank?
Well, at first, Petrillo had considered giving the books to Blank’s mom so that his granddaughter could have them when he died. In time, though, he had a change of heart: he wanted to be able to laugh about the memories together with Blank while he still could.
And his granddaughter couldn’t have been more delighted with the gift. “I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this,” Blank told Fox News Boston in March 2017. After all, the man whom she affectionately calls “papa” has been “one of the most influential people” in the teenager’s life, as she would also relate to The Huffington Post that month.
In addition, when the 16-year-old shared photographs of the notebooks on Twitter, the post was retweeted more than 160,000 times. But Blank has since deflected any suggestion that she publicized her gift in order to gain online fame. “It wasn’t [about] me being famous, it was about my grandpa’s love for me becoming famous,” she explained to the Daily Mail in March 2017.
However, Petrillo himself is more than content with just inspiring others to follow his lead. Indeed, while speaking to Today, he said, “I just want the grandparents that are in their 40s and 50s to know that they can do the same thing.” He added, “If that’s the only thing that comes out of this, then that’s just fine.”