The Time of Christmas


New snow had fallen during the night, and Judi heard the scraping of a snow shovel as she walked to school with her friends Andrea and Sandy. When the girls turned the corner, Judi caught sight of a little old lady working behind a high shrub.

“Good morning, Mrs. Kraus,” Judi called.

The woman looked up and smiled. “A fine morning to you, Judi.”

“How is Mrs. Mueller this morning?” Judi asked.

“Some better, thanks,” Mrs. Kraus answered. “She hasn’t had as much pain in her back these past few days.”

“I’m glad,” Judi added before hurrying to catch up with her friends.

When she finally reached them, Andrea turned and looked strangely at Judi. “Why did you stop?” she asked. “Are those funny old ladies your friends?”

“Brigitte Kraus? And Helga Mueller? Yes, I know them. I often talk to them when I go past their house.”

“I don’t know why,” Andrea grumbled. “They always talk so different and wear old-fashioned clothes!”

“I guess they are a bit old-fashioned,” Judi agreed. “They’re sisters, and when their husbands died, they decided to live together. They don’t have much money, but they work hard to make things look nice. Last summer they had some of the prettiest flowers in our whole neighborhood.”

“Well, I don’t see why you bother,” Andrea insisted. “Everybody thinks they are just funny old women!”

“I heard that one Halloween the boys put a scarecrow on their porch,” Sandy laughed. “And those two old women came flying out the door so upset that they started scolding in German a mile a minute!”

“Now when the boys go past and see one of those old ladies outside,” Andrea went on, “they make noises to sound like they are talking German too.”

Just then the bell rang, and the girls hurried to class. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation, and Judi was so excited about the program and party that she didn’t think about the two sisters again until she was on her way home.

I’m really glad we’re friends, she thought as she passed their house on her way home from school.

Then she decided she would visit them during the Christmas holidays, and she began to think about some little gift she could take to them.

Last year Grandma had liked the Santa Claus face Judi had made from felt with two small bells sewn on the red ties to fit over her front doorknob. Judi decided to make one of those for Brigitte Kraus. And for Helga Mueller she would make a pincushion shaped like a snowman. She would sew black buttons on for eyes and a bit of red felt for a mouth.

When the gifts were finished and Judi went to see her two neighbors, Brigitte Kraus opened the door.

“It’s the smiling girl,” Brigitte called over her shoulder. “Please come in,” she invited Judi.

“How nice that you would come,” Helga Mueller greeted.

“I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas,” Judi smiled. “Now that winter has come, I don’t see you outside very often.”

“No, cold days keep old ones beside a fire,” Mrs. Kraus explained.

“I’ve brought something for you, just little things I made,” Judi said shyly, “but—“

“If you’ve cared enough to make, we will like,” Helga Mueller nodded.

Judi explained to Mrs. Kraus how the Santa Claus face should be placed over the doorknob. The two women smiled when they heard the bells. They were both pleased with the pincushion.

Mrs. Kraus looked at her sister for a moment. Then she looked at Judi. Her eyes were shining when she said, “Only today Helga and I were wishing there might be children near us for this time of Christmas, as once there was in our old country. And now a child has come to us to say ‘Be merry for the time of Christmas.’”

Brigitte Kraus put a hand on Judi’s arm. “Could you stay or come again to help two old ones make marzipan in honor of Christmas?”

“What is marzipan?” Judi asked.

“Of course, you wouldn’t know!” Mrs. Kraus shook her head as if laughing at herself. “It’s a treat from Germany. A candy.”

“Candy? That should be fun!” Judi said eagerly.

Judi learned that marzipan was a very special candy. She was glad as her two friends showed her how to form the almond candy into shapes of flowers, leaves, animals, birds, tiny Christmas wreaths, and toys.

“In Germany marzipan is always made for children,” Mrs. Mueller explained. “It goes on the tree.”

“It tastes as good as it looks,” Judi smiled. “Thank you for letting me help.”

When they had finished, Mrs. Kraus looked at the big plate of candy and laughed. “So much we made in the joy of remembering. You must take some candy home with you,” she said. “I’ll fix a box.”

“My family will like that,” Judi told them.

“And your friends?” Mrs. Mueller asked. “The pretty girls who go each day to school with you must also have marzipan for the time of Christmas.”

Judi suddenly remembered how Andrea and Sandy had laughed at the two women. If only Andrea and Sandy could get to know Mrs. Kraus and Mrs. Mueller. But how? Judi wondered. Then an idea came to her.

“Thank you,” Judi said, “but I think they would like it even more if they could visit you and see how marzipan is made. May I bring the girls to your home sometime soon?”

“Oh, yes,” chorused the sisters, “if you think they’ll want to come.”

“I know they will!” Judi answered.

And suddenly she knew that even if it weren’t the time of Christmas, both Andrea and Sandy would like it very much!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Nina Grover