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Darci Hannah | The Impact of Unexpected Gifts


We all have them, those unexpected gifts that in one way or another change our lives for the better. Like the long-eared, yet-to-be-housebroken puppy Santa left under the tree that swiftly became our dearest confidant and taught us what it meant to care for another soul, or the shiny ten-speed bike that gave us our first taste of freedom.  My kids might argue that it's the IPod Touch, putting the world (for better or worse) at their fingertips.  But the gift that surprises me again and again didn't arrive on Christmas.  It was the result of a frantic phone call in the spring of 2006, when my best friend Jane rang to tell me they were moving to London.  I supposed it was bound to happen when one marries an Englishman, and the thought of adding more distance to our already long-distance friendship was staggering.  However, it was her next sentence that would live to have a lasting impact.  "I want you to have my piano," she said, "that is, if you still want it."

I did, and made my husband drive 350 miles to get it!

The piano in question was an old, abused and neglected baby grand Jane had rescued from somebody's basement.  Since my move to Michigan three years before I had been on the hunt for a free piano, and Jane, an expert bargain hunter, had found the perfect one in Illinois.  The moment she did it instantly became the source of our adoration, and over the next few years as we chatted on the phone, I listened as her young twins went from banging in the background to playing their first tunes.  It was a magical transformation and one I hoped would be replicated in my house, when the old piano met my three rough-and-tumble boys. 

It didn't happen overnight, but eventually they came, one by one, and took their place on the old wooden bench.  And their friends came too.  In fact, nearly everyone who entered our house made their way to the piano to pluck out a tune, perform a well-rehearsed song or to create something that no one had ever heard before. My sport-loving, science-minded sons had found a new outlet and music began to fill our home.  

the baby
grandFor me every time I sit at the old piano I think of Jane.¬† She was with me while I was writing THE EXILE OF SARA STEVENSON, my debut novel, because the piano was an integral part of the process.¬† I'd play for a minute or two every time I went to heat up my coffee, which was quite often. But it was during the writing of THE ANGEL OF BLYTHE HALL that the music began to spill onto the page.¬† The novel is a rollicking tale set on the Borders of Scotland in the late 15th century, incorporating a compelling mix of history, angel lore and fiction.¬† I was working away when one of my sons made the remark, "Mom, music is very spiritual; in fact, it's rather divine."¬† This remark caused me to observe the music that was being played in our house more closely, including a curious study of a particularly gifted friend of theirs.¬† I came to the conclusion that this young man's gift was truly divine—however he chose to use it—and glimpses of it appear throughout my novel.

The other day the boys and their friends gathered around the piano to practice a lively rendition of Auld Lang Syne.  It was beautiful, especially so since I have a bit of a thing for Robert Burns.  "Mom," my middle son said, turning to me while fondly caressing a chipped and yellowed key, "this is such a great piano.  I'm so happy we have it."  

I am too, although, truthfully, I could never have imagined all those years ago when Jane had graciously given us her piano that it would have such an impact on our lives. 

At midnight on New Year's Eve the old piano will once again be called on to accompany those poignant words written so long ago. I know I have much to be thankful for.  I have a wonderful family and have been blessed with many friends, both near and far.  But I'm especially thankful for those unexpected gifts that enter into our lives.  Sometimes we're aware of them; sometimes it takes a while before we recognize the value of what we've been given. And sometimes, sometimes we are the ones who pass the gift forward, and that is a gift in itself. 

Comment below on the unexpected gifts you've received and you may be the winner of a copy of THE ANGEL OF BLYTHE HALL




57 comments posted.

Re: Darci Hannah | The Impact of Unexpected Gifts

The unexpected gift I received two years ago was when my family realized my
mom had overcome cancer.

Thank you so much for this opportunity!
(Hyunjin Jeon 12:18pm December 30, 2011)

A tiny bag of lavender I received on Christmas Day, it was the only gift I had not bought for myself
(Mattie King 12:31pm December 30, 2011)

I guess it would be the cats that were given to me over the
years, for they have all been wonderful additions to the
household and all sweeties to the core
(Melora Brock 12:37pm December 30, 2011)

wow - such great gifts! The gift of my family - not really unexpected, I guess - LOL - but definitely the best.
(Felicia Ciaudelli 5:00am December 30, 2011)

The unexpected kindle - now I can take my books with me everywhere.
(Karen Gervasi 6:56am December 30, 2011)

I know what you mean about how special an old piano can be. My Mom has her grandmother's player piano and when we were little we would put a roll in the piano and use or hands on the pedals to make the music go as fast as possible!
(Renee Pajda 8:27am December 30, 2011)

That's so sweet! :) what a lovely story. :)

Hmm.. I can't really think of any unexpected gift... I did love all my gifts this yr....
(May Pau 8:57am December 30, 2011)

My husband is forever surprising me with gifts including a Tahoe, my piano, and a house. He can always surprise me because I trust him implicitly. He seems to be the only one that can do that.
(Renee Brown 9:06am December 30, 2011)

(Linda Bass 10:31am December 30, 2011)

I have received several unexpected gifts - the time my ex dropped my off to buy a raincoat...when I got back in the car, I could hear the music to Waltzing Matilda the glove compartment was a stuffed musical Koala bear. He knew I loved Koala bears. Several yrs ago, I was going through a very hard time & my youngest daughter was in college. On the days of her studio classes, I would wait for her so that we could go home together. One night there was a terrible thunderstorm, & on the way home there were cats running all over the streets. My daughter told me about the cat she had seen on her way to school. When we were a block from our house, she saw it. She stooped down & the cat jumped into her arms. Both of them gave my the puppy dog eyes, so I allowed her to carry him home. His name is Thor (Norse God of Thunder). He became my lifesaver at that time in my life. He was a gift from the powers that be. I also have several friends, who I consider my earth angels - I consider them my unexpected gifts too.
(Beverly Beltz 10:33am December 30, 2011)

The best gift I could have is the unconventional love from my Girlfriend. She has stood by me through good times and bad, throughout all these years. When my Husband and I lost our house 4 years ago, she opened her house to us, but she lives too far away. We opted to live in our pop-up camper, and move from campsite to campsite. Once we found a place to live, and money was extremely tight, she mailed us a care package, along with funds to help us out. She's always sending me a card with something in it or a package with something I can use. When we don't see eye to eye, she's still there. Even though my family is mad at me about losing the house, she stands behind me on everything, and is like my sister. I am truly blessed to have a friend like her, and wouldn't trade her for the world!! I've never asked her for a thing. She does this all on her own, and more. This is friendship, and I reciprocate with my knitting needles by making items for her when I can and surprising her with them. Have a Happy New Year!!
(Peggy Roberson 10:44am December 30, 2011)

I would love to be entered in your contest. The book sounds great. Happy New Year. Nancy
(Nancy Reynolds 11:02am December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gift was that I found a baby kitten in my wood pile...she is so adorable and loving.
(Dawn Staniszeski 11:36am December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gift is my special lady beagle---she is the best dog I've ever had---even if she has cost me a fortune in vet bills.
(Sue Farrell 12:11pm December 30, 2011)

An unexpected gift I received was a box of Omaha steaks delivered---yum, yum!
(Shirley Younger 12:24pm December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gift(s)would be my boys. I was actively using contreception each time. After my 1st child was old enough to realize he was an only child he began requesting a sibling. We tried for 7 years and after 2 miscarriages and the fact that I was 38 we told him, then age 9 that it was not safe to keep trying. Then at 40 I thought I had the flu and went to my pcp. It was the flu alright the 18 yr kind. I gave birth to a 9lb 12 oz perfectly healthy boy. In fact based on how big he was getting they took him 25 days earlier than my due date so he was a premie. While neither was planned I can help but think that God gave me my boys just when I needed them most. I have never stopped counting them as my biggest blessing.
(Marcelle Cole 12:28pm December 30, 2011)

My most unexpected gift is that I have lived beyond 80!
(Marjorie Carmony 12:44pm December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gifts are my three children. My parents raised me to "Pay it Foward". My Mom would say "I raised you, now you raise your kids." Luckily neither of my parents really needed my help. Now that I am getting older and have knee problems my kids always seem to pop up whenever I need help.
(Kathleen Yohanna 1:13pm December 30, 2011)

My most prized gift is the love given to me by children and grandchildren.
(Anna Speed 1:43pm December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gift was my Kindle. My husband claims it was the best and the worst gift he's ever given me, since I now spend way more time reading than I did before!
(Rebecca Whitehead-Schwarz 1:45pm December 30, 2011)

My most treasured unexpected gift was on the first Mothers's Day after our daughter died my husband gave me a cross necklace with her birthstone.
(Sheila True 1:51pm December 30, 2011)

One of the most beautiful unexpected gifts I received was from a beautiful loving girlfriend. My friend was very poor. She took a cutting from a plant I gave her and grew a full size beautiful plant and gave it to me on my birthday. It was the best present I have ever gotten.
(Kathleen Bianchi 1:54pm December 30, 2011)

There was a Mother's Day many years ago that my husband seemed to have forgotten. As the day progressed, he read the paper, walker the dog, and puttered around the house. Shortly after lunch he told me had an errand to run and would be back in a few hours. Before he returned, the door bell rang. Standing there was our oldest son holding a huge bouquet of flowers. Rob had flown in from Germany and my husband had driven to the air port to pick him up. I still tear up when I remember seeing him there.
(Robin McKay 2:18pm December 30, 2011)

I love it when my niece or nephews call - always lovely to
talk to them about what is going on in their lives. We used
to live 10 minutes apart, but now they've all moved out of
state and I miss seeing them as often as when they were
growing up.
(Diane Sallans 2:41pm December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gift was my first cell phone from my son-in'law he was afraid I'd get over some where and need to call.
(Theresa Norris 2:50pm December 30, 2011)

My house is usually filled with music as my boys & hubby all
play. 2 of my boys are drummers. My unexpected gift was a
kindle fire this year. I expected nothing from the people
who gave it to me as a thank you.
Having a lot of fun with it!
Your book sounds like an amazing read.
(Ivy Truitt 3:02pm December 30, 2011)

My unexpected gift has yet to arrive.
(Sandra Spilecki 3:08pm December 30, 2011)

(Silvana Moscato 3:15pm December 30, 2011)

When my youngest son was only 11 yrs. old, he asked me to take him to the mall. He marched into the large jewelry store located in the center and started talking to his best friend's father (the owner). The next thing I knew my son was telling me to pick out any ring, I liked, for my Christmas/Birthday gift, and he'd buy it for me! He felt bad, that I wouldn't be getting any gifts from his own father, since he'd left home to live with his co-worker, girlfriend; then wanted a divorce. So we picked out a Black Hills gold & opal ring together (even tho, I protested that I didn't want him spending all his savings on such a big purchase). It brought tears to my eyes, that my son had such a big heart. He still checks my fingers, whenever he sees me, to see how 'his ring' is holding up (which I still wear everyday) 17 yrs. later! It's the most unexpected and the best gift I've ever received and cherish so much, that he wanted to take on his father's role that year. Love your piano, Darci and your memories that you'll always have that go with it! I also have three, grown boys and my oldest loved playing guitar and also, is a very good artist (painter). Music is wonderful for kids--brings the family and friends together. Really enjoyed reading your blog and loved the subject matter to comment about!
(Linda Luinstra 3:22pm December 30, 2011)

Over the years (I have had many) there have been presents that didn't seem like much to the giver but have meant a great deal to me. The first Christmas after my divorce, my mother bought me a small little musicbox and signed it from my children who were babies at the time. She wanted me to know that I wasn't then nor would I ever be alone. That someone would always be there watching over me. It is something I try hard to never forget.
Thank you for your lovely post.
(Patti Paonessa 3:36pm December 30, 2011)

Your sound wonderful,I would to win it. That would my unexpected gift. Thanks for giving me a chance to win it. Happy New Year.
(Linda Hall 4:01pm December 30, 2011)

a kindle from my sister and her family. i love it!!!
(Jennifer Beck 4:30pm December 30, 2011)

ah, these unexpected gifts bring tears to my eyes, I think mine was an unexpected bottle of perfume from my husband when we lived in Germany. He was enlisted and it was a big extravagant gift for him but he thought I'd like it. I kept it for years (it really didn't smell that great on me, but sitting there on my dresser made him feel good, so why not?).
(Fresh Fiction 4:41pm December 30, 2011)

The book sounds wonderful, I'd love to win it.
(Wilma Frana 4:46pm December 30, 2011)

some great stories. the hugs and kiss from the grandkids---one was already on the porch, having said his goodbyes and round of hugs and i looked up and he was throwing kisses and kept doing it until his mother insisted he get into the car---i might cry again!!!
(Barbara Studer 5:26pm December 30, 2011)

A neighbor who had in times past showed comtempt for me and caused problems over the years, volunteered to give honest testomony in a legal matter. He went on to give an honest testomony even against those who did not like it. We came together skeptically, but became friends. Time changes things! No greater gift than to make a friend that once was not.
(David Christian 6:38pm December 30, 2011)

Music is a wonderful gift. My mother sent us her piano when my daughter wanted to learn to play.
(Maureen Emmons 6:49pm December 30, 2011)

The unexpected gift I received was a IPAD 2, from my husband, all my family for Christmas
(Debbie Ellis 7:02pm December 30, 2011)

Wow! I can't tell you how moved I am by these stories! THIS is
quite a wonderful, unexpected gift! Love reading these. A big
thanks to you all for taking the time to post. Best Wishes and
a very Happy New year to everyone!
(Darci Hannah 7:14pm December 30, 2011)

Singing around the piano is one of my favorite highlights for the holidays and times when someone else plays.
(Alyson Widen 7:48pm December 30, 2011)

Our new granddaughter!!!!!!!!!!! She was due next week, she arrived on the 28th!!!!!!!!!!! YIPPIE!!!!
(Joanne Bozik 8:09pm December 30, 2011)

I was told at 17 that I could not have children.
Despite operations the news remained the
same, my unexpected gifts were my children.
One born in Dec (he is 17 this year), one near
thanksgiving (she is now 13- acting 23). They are
my blessings, my gifts, and my angels (although
the horns occasionally hold the halo up). Looking
at the sadness and depression I was in and then
having my hopes and dreams realized not just
once, but twice, no competition, they are my
(Carla Carlson 8:25pm December 30, 2011)

Every year my family gets together on Christmas Eve at our mothers home. Im one of 4 kids and with all of our kids and spouses there are 26 of us with most of those children. We have a nice lunch together and then we have a massive gift opening extravaganza. Its always been great fun with all the kids. A few years ago we added a new tradition. We all get into our family groupings and sing the 12 Days of Christmas. My mom has her solo as the "Partridge in a pear tree", and my 96 year old Granny has her solo with "5 Golden Rings"-though we have to remind her when it comes to her turn...Though it is sung off key and sometimes we forget our words I have to say it brings tears to my eyes to see all my family in one place with my mom and granny singing with all the kids...What was unexpected about this gift was how it truely touches my heart each and every year..
(Karen Somers 8:26pm December 30, 2011)

I did not have any Christmas this year but one year I was a
big winner with Oprah Winfrey Contest and Won $1100 dollars
worth of merchandise from Macy's Stores and that was a True
Blessing. Please enter me in your fantastic contest. Looks
like a great book. Thanks so much. Cecilia CECE
(Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez 9:17pm December 30, 2011)

This year I got the unexpected and totally loved gift of my daughter still believing in Santa. I will forever carry that with me. It was beautiful!
(Jennifer Beyer 9:51pm December 30, 2011)

The year I won a trip for 4 to a Hollywood premier was a great Christmas surprise as I received the email about the win 2 days before Christmas.
(Angee Bartlett 10:07pm December 30, 2011)

This year I didn't get very much that was a surprise. Unfortunately most of my presents were prearranged with my husband and daughters.
(Molly Wilsbacher 10:53pm December 30, 2011)

My favorite unexpected "gift" was getting to see my son for Christmas last year. He had stated a new job and didn't think he could be home but showed up bright and early Christmas morning.
(Cindy Murphy 10:57pm December 30, 2011)

When I was 17 my mother surprised me with a Bichon Frise puppy for Christmas. I had no idea I was getting him. She put him down on the floor, and he walked into my room and I said, "Whose dog is this?!" Mom said, "Yours! Merry Christmas!" He went on to live to be almost 18 years old and was a truly wonderful, loyal, loving companion for me.
(Kelli Rolvaag 11:00pm December 30, 2011)

An unexpected "gift" is receiving a card in the mail from
someone I've not heard from in a long time!
(Leanna Morris 11:26pm December 30, 2011)

Apart from my children I don't think I have ever received a truly unexpected gift.
(Mary Preston 4:45am December 31, 2011)

I couldn't help but smile while reading your post. What a beautiful gift. I have always been a believer that music is food for the soul and that a simple song can lift ones spirits.
(Christine Stack 10:30am December 31, 2011)

my most unexpected gift has been witnessing the daily kindnesses and generosity of other people - family, co-workers, customers, friends - to me and one another. I appreciate their examples, and try to live up to their expectations, and the opportunities to make someone else's moment a little better. I am grateful for each day.
(Beth Fuller 11:28am December 31, 2011)

This year I won tickets and a meet and great to a country concert.
(Mary Smith 5:23pm December 31, 2011)

being taken to see the holiday lights on Christmas Eve
(Kay Lettner 6:25pm December 31, 2011)

My husband almost never surprises me with gifts. The first 1 was the first time he said "I love you" with a grand bouquet of flowers. The next/last one is for Christmas/New Year - a Thomas Kinkade Town Bouquet delivered the 23rd to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
(Debra Simning-Chapman 5:33pm January 1, 2012)

One year for my birthday, two friends took me to see a horse show. Unexpected because we never gave each other Birthday presents!
(Penny Mettert 2:13am January 3, 2012)

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