My Marisol – An Early Valentine’s Day Story

In Ish (Readeo’s Book of the Month for January), Ramon is a budding artist. Unfortunately, his brother, in the way only brothers can, laughs at his drawings. Just as Ramon is ready to give up, he discovers that his sister (Marisol) has been saving his drawings and hanging them in her room. Her favorite is a drawing that looks vase-ish. Her belief in Ramon and love of his work completely changes his outlook. Not only is he re-energized to continue drawing, but he also adds writing and poetry to his “ish” repertoire.

My grandmother, Madge, recently passed away. This Christmas was our first one without her. She inspired me and many others with her selfless love.  Just like Marisol with Ramon, she believed in my siblings and me, even when we didn’t believe in ourselves.

Grandma Madge taught second grade. Over 50 years ago she had a special student — Dan Crandall. In first grade, Dan had a tough time with a difficult teacher and he no longer wanted to go to school. As a second-grader, he had two things working against him in his quest to no longer attend: his dad was the bus driver, and Grandma Madge was his teacher. Every day, his dad would take his hand and walk him from the bus to the door of the school, where Madge would take him by the hand and walk him to her classroom.

This simple act of kindness helped Dan feel more certain of himself. On Valentine’s Day that year, Dan gave Madge a heart-felt valentine. Each year thereafter, a valentine from Dan would show up at Madge’s door. Grandma Madge reciprocated this kindness with her own valentine to Dan and the tradition continued for many years until he reached his early 20s and joined the Forest Service. Shortly after that, Dan was fighting a forest fire and was involved in a tragic helicopter crash that took his life.

After Dan’s death, his parents began exchanging valentines with Madge each year until they died. Dan’s siblings were next in line to carry on the tradition with Madge. Now that she has passed on, my mom will exchange a valentine with Dan’s siblings and, after 50 years, the simple act of taking a child by the hand continues to inspire us and live on.

We’ll be giving away 5 hard copies of Ish this weekend. You can have multiple entries to win. You’ll get one entry each time you use BookChat this weekend and one for posting a comment here or on Facebook telling us about someone who inspires you. The winners of the books will be announced here and on Facebook on Monday!

Grandma Madge with me and Oliver


  1. That is amazing! My dad has always called me a winner since I was little & has instilled in me a belief that I can do whatever I set my mind to. That has helped me do many things over the years.

  2. Great story. It is inspiring to know that there are people like grandma Madge in the world and comforting to hear their stories.

  3. How lucky for Dan to have your grandmother Madge as his 2nd grade teacher. She was probably doing what came as second nature to her as a primary school teacher: care, give, try again and again, doing whatever necessary” to help meet the needs of “her kids”. One may never know the depth of one’s touch. How neat to have the Valentine card tradition continue. Now that takes commitment!

  4. This story reminded me of the special bond that can develop between teacher and student from simple acts of mutual kindness. As a teacher, I feel a tender responsibility to that possibility.

  5. I am inspired by my my wonderful parents who taught me so much. My loving children and grandchildren, especially Tanner, inspire me.

  6. As a quilter I’m inspired by this story. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying at attain perfection and worrying about how others will judge my art I forget the joy of creating. As a retired elementary teacher I hope I made my students feel Ishfully about all their accomplishments. I know my 2nd and 3rd grade teachers gave me that gift.

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