Ashlie watched Mrs. Barnewald lean on her cane and walk slowly over to a padded rocking chair.
Mrs. Barnewald sat down. “I’m glad you came to visit me today, Ashlie,” she said. “You and your family are good neighbors.”
“I like to come to your house.” Ashlie looked at a photo that sat on the table next to the rocking chair.
“That’s my family in front of our home in Germany. I was born in that house,” Mrs. Barnewald said.
“Is your family still in Germany?”
“Oh, no. I’m the only one left. My husband, Hans, and I came to America many, many years ago. You know, we were never blessed with any children, and when he passed away a few years ago, he left me all alone.” Mrs. Barnewald sounded sad.
Ashlie placed her hand on Mrs. Barnewald’s wrinkled hand. “Are you lonely?” she asked.
“Sometimes, especially during the Christmas season.” Mrs. Barnewald took the photo in her hand and looked at it for a minute. “We used to have such fun at this time of year. When I was a little girl in Germany, we had many traditions. We sang songs and baked special treats.” Mrs. Barnewald smiled. “Hans and I kept some of those traditions, but now I’m too old for them.” She turned to Ashlie. “I’m glad to have a friend like you. I feel like you are my family.”
Ashlie grinned. She glanced over at the clock that hung on the wall. It was time for dinner. She got up and gave Mrs. Barnewald a hug. “I better go home.”
“Thank you so much for visiting me today.”
“See you soon.”
Ashlie kicked at the ground on her walk home. She opened the front door and heard her mom in the kitchen, so she walked in and sat at the table. Resting her head on her hands, she let out a big breath.
“How was your visit?” Mom asked.
Ashlie shrugged her shoulders. “Mrs. Barnewald is so lonely. I want to do something special for her this Christmas.”
“That’s a wonderful idea,” Mom said.
Ashlie went to her room and lay on the bed, trying to think of something wonderful to do. She thought and thought and thought. Christmas was only a few days away. Ashlie thought about what Mrs. Barnewald had said about traditions. She rolled over on her stomach and saw the handout from Primary she’d set on her desk. She had an idea.
Ashlie called her Primary teacher, Sister Jensen, because she often told the class about her mission to Germany. After she talked to Sister Jensen, Ashlie knew just what to do for Mrs. Barnewald.
On Christmas Eve, Ashlie and her family went to Mrs. Barnewald’s house for a visit. They took her some turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and freshly baked cookies.
Ashlie turned down the lights in the living room and handed candles to each of her parents and to her sister. Softly, in German, they started singing “Silent Night” while Ashlie lit the candles.
Ashlie couldn’t sing the last few words because of the lump in her throat.
When they were finished, Mrs. Barnewald had tears on her cheeks and Ashlie’s chest felt warm and tingly. She couldn’t take Mrs. Barnewald back to Germany, but she could bring a little bit of Germany to Mrs. Barnewald for Christmas.
Illustration by Maryn Roos