(m) The unexpected present

 It was the 24th of December. Frau Schuster was getting everything ready for the family Christmas celebration. Her thoughts turned to her own mother. This was the first year that the family was not spending Christmas Eve at Oma’s house – she was now in the Aged Care Home with not enough room to celebrate. Instead they would all visit her on Christmas Day.

 Frau Schuster felt a bit sad and guilty so she decided that her daughters could bring Oma the Christmas cookies they had baked especially for her. But Monika and Sabine were reluctant. “Why do we have to go?” they pouted, “we don’t want to miss the Christkind.”

 Their mother said, “Off you go and remember Room no. 238.”

 Monika and Sabine slowly made their way to the Home, which was not far away. They took the elevator and then followed the numbers. To their astonishment, there was laughter coming from the room. Was this the right one? They carefully opened the door, there was Oma in her comfortable little sitting room with Mr. Reinhard and Miss Anneliese.

 “These are my grandchildren”, Oma said proudly to her guests. The girls shyly said “Good afternoon.”Would you like to try my special Christmas cocoa?” “Yes please,” answered Monika and Sabine.

 They noticed some old photo albums they had never seen before and sipped Oma’s cocoa.

”This tastes different.” said Sabine.

“I know, it has cinnamon in it,” replied Oma. Sabine took another sip. “I like it. How come we never had this before?” “I don’t know” replied Oma, “We three have been talking about old times and I remembered when I was a little girl and lived in a far-away country, where they used many different spices. The cook always prepared this for me. It’s strange that when you start reminiscing, all these things come back to you.”

 Oma showed them pictures of her as a young child in front of a huge white house and photos of the cook and the maid. “Please tell us more” said Monika. “Not now, let’s light the candles and get into the Christmas spirit.”

 “Oh, the candles” said Mr. Reinhard and opened his photo album. “When I was living in Brazil, it was summer and hot and the candles were so bent, we could not light them”. “Did you have a palm as a Christmas tree?” “That would have been a good idea” added Mr. Reinhard.

 Miss Anneliese remembered one Christmas when the snow was so deep, you sank into it. “We were obliged to wear a long skirt and had to lift it up high so that it didn’t get wet.”

 Suddenly the phone rang. It was the girl’s mother, she was worried because the girls had not come home.

Going home, Monika and Sabine thought about the stories they had heard. They were surprised that they’d enjoyed their visit so much, fascinated by the stories. With no distractions, they had actually listened and learned about their grandmother’s life. Maybe they should do it more often.

 While they had not given their Oma fancy gifts, they had no doubt given her something she really wanted: some of their precious time, to sit and listen about her life. They too, had not received fancy gifts, instead their horizons had been broadened by a first-hand account of the lives of others.

 Maybe this is what we should all do now and again. Instead of running around trying to buy our elderly relatives presents, we could sit with them and listen to what they have to say.

 Based on“Weihnachtsgeschichten für Kinder“ by Bergit Zimmermann, shortened and adapted by Resi Schwarzbauer and edited by Herta Uhlherr.