January 27, 2021

Letter: The true meaning of Christmas according to Grandma Rose

From Gay Anne Smith Appelhans, Ankeny

Christmas will be different this year as all my children live away and won’t be here, However, I am reminded of a Christmas long ago in 1969.

I was 9 years old and somewhat of a pampered little girl being adopted as a baby into an awesome family. It was Christmas time in Creston, where I lived with my parents Frank and Shirley Smith and my older brother, who was also adopted.

I remember very clearly it was a cold December day. We had snow on the ground and my brother and his friend had teased me and told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus. I was devastated as I truly believed! I was upset and ran two doors away to where my grandma Rose Smith, my dad’s mom lived. Crying as I ran through the door, I told her what the boys had said.

Grandma was in her small kitchen baking something good to share or crafting. Grandma was the kind of woman who always told it straight and she was the best, fun to be around and spend time with. Grandma gave me a big piece of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake – the kind only your grandma can make – and she told me stories of growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s in a large family and how Christmas is about giving and how the magic is in your heart. And that’s where Santa is in – your heart.

I didn’t understand, but I was about to learn a lesson that would last a lifetime. Now as a 60-year-old grandma myself, the memories still warms my heart today. I can’t tell you of a gift more valuable than what my grandma taught me that day.

Grandma called a cab, which at the time was 25-cents each way and we went to Places dime store. She gave me $10 – which was a lot of money in 1969 – and told me to think of someone I knew and deserved to be thought of at Christmas; Someone who really could use a gift.

Grandma sent me in to Places dime store, all by myself. I looked and I thought, I had never had that much money to spend and never had shopped alone. I finally found a big doll with a pink dress and pink bow in her hair. It was so beautiful. I wanted that doll and then I thought of a little girl who lived on the other side of town. She and her mom walked everywhere. She didn’t have a dad and always seemed sad at school. I knew I had to get that doll and give it to her. I took the doll to the counter and handed my $10 bill grandma had given me to the lady.

We went to my dad’s clothing store on Pine Street – Smith Brothers Clothing – and wrapped the doll in brown paper and tied it with a piece of twine. I looked up the address, went to her house, rang the doorbell and she and her mother opened the door. When she saw the package, her face lit up and a huge smile came on her face. I will never ever forget the feeling of joy or the lesson I learned that Christmas.

I am 60 years old and believe it or not, that little girl from so long ago and I are still friends 51 years later. I wanted to share this story because my grandma Rose was amazing and I miss her to this day. She taught me that day the greatest gift is giving and to love. Grandma died in 1979, but she left behind a lot of lifelong memories.

This Christmas season I hope everyone can take the time to pass on Christmas cheer to those less fortunate or in need.