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Growing up as a kid, I never really had the opportunity to grow a close relationship with my grandparents, unlike most of the other kids my age because most of mine passed away before I was born. My childhood best friends grandma, is the lady who I gladly consider my grandma, after not having any of my own growing up. Her red, curly hair and smile as bright as the sun is the image that will forever be in my head when I think about her for the rest of my life. Her name is Carolyn. Carolyn stepped into my life and willingly made it clear that she would take me and my best friend on all the crazy, fun adventures that all 8 year old’s dream about, and I will forever be thankful for each summer day spent with her.

I would wake up early in the summer to go over to Caitlin’s house, the average little house at the end of the cul-de-sac; there wasn’t one day where Carolyn didn’t take us out to do something exciting. I distinctly remember Carolyn and my mom “arguing” each morning about how she doesn’t need to keep spending her money on me every single day. As a kid, I had no clue what was going on. I was just there to have a fun time, and, trust me, that's what we did. Carolyn would take us to the movies, to the park, to lunch, to get ice cream, and to the store to buy us more toys all in one day. The feeling of excitement I got from sitting in the very front row of the movie theater, with dragons flying towards my face, while Carolyn just sat a few rows back and laughed, will forever be a memory in my head. The look in Caitlin and I’s faces would immediately get so excited when Carolyn told us we could go pick out whatever we wanted from the store. These simple memories that don’t seem like much, are the ones that have the most meaning to me.

Looking back now, I don’t think I have ever met someone as selfless and loving as Carolyn, and it is very obvious that she showed her love through finding every possible way to make each day special. As a child, I was only focused on what was happening in the moment, but now I am able to see how her presence helped me grow into the person I am today through her role in developing my childhood years.

Sometimes you don’t even realize the most important people in your life until you actually take time to reflect on it. The day I realized how grateful I was for everything Carolyn did for me was the day of her 70th birthday. Caitlin and I decided to make Carolyn a huge cardboard poster with all of our old memories and jokes as kids to give to her as something to show her how much we love and appreciate her. We included all of her favorite candy, gift cards to all of the places we used to go to, and pictures of us as kids. As much as I wish I could go back in time to the 8 year old little girl who was so excited to go see Frozen in the theater, I am now an adult who can only hope to be half as great of a person as Carolyn. After growing up without grandparents and realizing that there are so many other people in the world who can quickly fill roles in your life, I aspire to be this type of role model in someone else's life, which is why I feel passionate about going into the elementary school teaching field! I aspire to have an impact on the lives of young children, like Carolyn had on me.

© Anna Tharp . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.