I am going to tell a story that happened when I was a child. The story of St. Nicholas and his grandmother.
My grandmother was small and slight and seemed very old to me. Not because she had wrinkles or white hair, but because of the clothes she wore, always dark and old-fashioned cut. He also always wore a black apron, even on Sunday. The Sunday apron was silky and noisy on the floor.
Every year in early December, Grandma came to our house. It was winter with us in the city. As soon as Grandma arrived, the Christmas season began for me. In the twilight of winter afternoons, we both sat in front of the ceramic stove. It was a large green stove and radiated a very comfortable heat. In the other rooms, the stoves were iron and rarely lit.
The stove had a hatch behind which was an iron plate where you could bake apples. As I baked, the smell was scattered around the room, and Grandma read me stories aloud. We also made Christmas gifts.
But our best joke was “Let’s go to Bethlehem,” which we repeated every year. It lasted several days, maybe even weeks, and left the house in swamps.
Nothing was safe when we were looking for the equipment for our trip. We needed sheets for our tent – where else to sleep during the long trip to the Holy Land? We needed boxes and crates to make a boat – how else could we cross the Mediterranean? We needed chairs and blankets to make pack animals that would carry us and our luggage.
At that time my father always felt that he was missing something: the hammer, the pliers, the nails, or the coil of rope. I even once said that the bicycle’s tube had disappeared. And he was right. We had needed her at the last minute for our water supplies. The road passed through the desert, and travelers are known to be thirsty there if they don’t get enough water.
It was always a long trip full of adventures. On land we had to win fights with bandits and ferocious animals. At sea, we were passing storms that almost sank our boat. I once saved my grandmother by the skirt, even at the moment when I was going to be spit off the edge
But we always arrived safe and sound in Bethlehem. And, as if by magic, always on December 24!
When Grandma was in our house, mysterious things also happened. Once when I got into bed, I found a grain of gold in my pillow. Grains of gold! Where do the gold grains come from? They can only come from the wings of angels! Some angel should have flown over my bed!
When I asked Grandma, she smiled but didn’t answer.
One morning a star hung from the ceiling with a transparent thread. No one knew who had put her there. Nor could anyone explain how the tiny crib made in a nutshell had come to rest among my crayons.
The most wonderful fact was that my grandmother met St. Nicholas. She really knew him! I know! I was there when he spoke to her, in the park.
I told you grandma was old-fashioned. But it wasn’t just old-fashioned in clothing. In the rest too. She often talked about the time when things were scarce and she thought that people should be spared more money and things.
Grandma was it. So I wanted to bring the dried branch that was lying in the way.
“It’s still for the stove,” she said. – Catch him, please.
But I did not want.
– Not! – I said. And when she tried to catch him, I pushed him away. – We don’t collect firewood. They’ll take her home.
At the time, I didn’t know why I had been so naughty with my grandmother, but now I think it was because of the people passing by. I didn’t want them to think that we needed to get firewood from the street.
The grandmother hesitated. I noticed I didn’t know what to do.
Suddenly, in front of us, an elderly man appeared. It was there as if by magic. Tall and respectable, with a white beard and shining eyes.
“Please, my dear and honorable lady,” he said with a slight bow. The voice was deep and sonorous.
I shuddered as if struck by lightning. That voice! Those eyes! That long white beard! It could only … was, of course … I didn’t even dare to keep thinking. “My dear and honorable lady,” he had said to his grandmother. She had bowed to her and her grandmother had smiled and thanked her.
Then it disappeared. As suddenly as it had appeared.
On the way home, I didn’t open my mouth. I tripped over the sidewalk stones and sanitation covers, and inside me was a great mess.
Now he saw – I thought. “Now he knows how I sometimes behave.”
Grandma walked beside me in silence. The half-dried branch was dragging the floor. At the door I couldn’t stand it anymore. I buried my face in the folds of my grandmother’s raincoat and burst into tears.
Grandma let me cry. He did nothing to comfort me, and I thought, “Now you’ll be mad at me forever and that … that park stranger, too.”
But then I noticed that she had leaned over me. I could feel her warm breath on my hair and hear her speak to me very softly. What I was saying I didn’t understand, because I was still sobbing so hard. Couldn’t stop.
The grandmother then took me a little away from her and asked:
– Do you want to take him up? It is already a little heavy for me.
Of course I realized immediately that I was referring to the branch and for a moment I held my breath. Then I fumbled in my pocket, pulled out a handkerchief, and blew the tears from my nose.
– Give it here! – said. I picked up the dry branch and clattered up the stairs.
We immediately put it in the ceramic stove and heard it crackle and crackle.
Does he know that I carried him up? I thought. Grandma nodded to me and laughed. Then I saw that everything was fine again and was very happy about it. Tilde Michels Anne Braun (Org.) Weihnachtsgeschichten Würzburg, Arena Verlag, 1991