It was Christmastime, and the three young Rogers girls, LeOla, Ruby, and Alice, were excited. Not because of any special gift they were expecting to receive, but because of the one gift they were planning to give.
Christmastime was always exciting in Snowflake, Arizona, but this year needed some extra cheer. Grandma Rogers had died a short time earlier, and Grandpa Locy—we all called Grandpa Rogers by his middle name—was sad and lonely.
A kind and gentle man, he loved every child in the town, and they loved him in return. He always had an encouraging word to give, or a piece of candy to share with any child who asked for one. In fact, he was affectionately known as “Candy Man.” Whenever the neighborhood children saw him, they ran to him. He was always cheerful—until this year, anyway.
Grandpa’s sadness settled on everyone. Something had to be done! How could anyone be cheerful when Grandpa Locy was so unhappy? A family council was called. For several nights the girls and their parents discussed the problem. Finally they came up with an exciting plan.
“Let’s not have any gifts this year!” LeOla exclaimed. “Instead, let’s give something extra special to Grandpa to make him happy.”
“What if we helped him do something nice for the children in town with the money we save?” Ruby suggested. “We could make a Santa suit for him, and on Christmas Eve, he could pass out the candy and toys we’ll buy for him to give to the children.”
Alice, the youngest of the three girls, added, “I want to help pick out all the toys and candy!”
LeOla, Ruby, and Alice spent the next few days poring over the Sears and Roebuck catalog, ordering lots of candy, and sorting through every small toy that the children might enjoy. They made one list for the girls and another for the boys. Their mother’s job was to make the Santa suit for Grandpa. She was an excellent seamstress, and it was soon ready. Father’s part was to put an ad in the Snowflake Herald: “Attention all children eight years old and under: Come to the Rogers’s place on Christmas Eve to see Santa and receive a gift.”
The day the gifts arrived was the day the work really began. The Rogers girls and their best friends became a squad of gift wrappers. Paper and ribbons flew as each gift was adorned in bright Christmas array, and candy bags were filled. What fun it was! Best of all, the family could see that their plan was working—Grandpa was pleased that he had been asked to dress as Santa and pass out gifts.
Each year, the Rogers family festooned a huge blue spruce with hundreds of colored lights. The festive tree was on one side of the front yard and across the street from the Social Hall. The three girls particularly enjoyed lighting it each night. All the Christmas programs and dances in the area were held in the hall, and the family hoped that their lighted tree added to everyone’s Christmas spirit.
Long evenings were spent making decorations for the old tree. Mother popped corn, and the girls strung it into long strands. They also made great chains of colored paper. These were hung carefully around the tree’s boughs after the lights had been put on. LeOla, Ruby, and Alice took turns decorating and then redecorating the tree until it was just right. They made sure each limb was trimmed perfectly before Father turned on the lights.
At last Christmas Eve day arrived. A feathery snow began to fall, blanketing everything in fresh, bright white. The Rogers girls thought the tree looked even more beautiful than before as its colored lights reflected in the snow.
After supper, LeOla looked out the window. It was only five o’clock, and the street was filled with people! There was a line of fathers with children on their shoulders, and mothers with their arms filled with toddlers, all waiting for a chance to see Santa. Others milled around, just enjoying the sights. It stopped snowing, and the stars began to peep out from behind the clouds. Upstairs, behind the snow-topped rails of an uncovered porch, carolers began to sing. Below them, Leon and Thalia Kartchnew were strumming along on their guitars.
At last Grandpa, dressed in his bright red suit, came out of the house and stood behind the snow-laden picket fence under the tree. The soft strains of the Christmas carols drifted down over the crowd, and a feeling of peace and quiet sifted among the people.
As each child came up to Santa, he handed him or her a gift. There were bracelets, lockets, or dolls for the girls. For the boys, a top or some marbles. Each child was also given a sack of candy and nuts.
LeOla could not recall seeing so many smiling faces before. All the children were happy—except one.
A young boy burst into tears of great disappointment when he saw his gift. “But Santa,” he sobbed, “I wrote you for a pocketknife!”
“Santa” knew that the young lad’s father had died several years before and that his mother was quite poor and probably couldn’t afford the gift he wanted so badly. Putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, he whispered, “I will leave it in your stocking tonight!”
Although it was quite late when the last visitor left, Grandpa Locy changed his clothes, put on his heavy winter coat, and trudged out into the now-bitter night air. He crunched a path through the snow to the town’s only general store. By the time he arrived, the storekeeper and his family were already in bed.
Grandpa Locy knocked on the door until the sleepy-eyed storekeeper opened the door and let him in to make his purchase. Then he headed for the boy’s home on the far side of town. Though he had smiled many times in the past few days, his biggest smile came as he thought of the little boy’s happiness upon finding the pocketknife in his stocking.
The next morning, there were no gifts waiting under the tree for LeOla, Ruby, or Alice. There were no new dolls, no tea sets, and no frilly new dresses. There was, however, one gift for the entire family—Grandpa Locy’s smile! And many, many years later, when the Rogers girls were grandmas, they would remember and tell their own grandchildren about the very best Christmas that they ever had!