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A Red Kettle Day

Kathleen Kohler

Eyes wide with excitement Gracie dashed from the living room window and threw open the front door to greet me.

"Are you ready to go, Sweetie?" I said to my six-year-old granddaughter.

She clapped her hands. "Yes, Grandma. What took you so long? I've been waiting all day." Not pausing for an answer, she tapped one of her glittery ballet flats on the hardwood floor, then twirled in a pirouette while her pleated red skirt flared. "See my dress and new shoes, Grandma."

"You're a beautiful princess," I said, and she smiled with a pleased look on her face.

Rain poured from a gray Northwest sky when we parked in front of The Cabbage Patch restaurant. Inside the restored Victorian home, a hostess seated us at a round oak table in what was once the parlor. Lace curtains adorned floor-to-ceiling bay windows. Evergreen boughs decorated with red and white bows draped the white marble mantel, while logs crackled in the enormous fireplace.

Gracie gazed around the room in awe. "Oh, Grandma, look how pretty."

The waitress arrived at our table with a tray of miniature scones and raspberry preserves served on china plates, and a steaming pot of peppermint tea. With all the charm and poise of a southern belle, Gracie sipped from her cup. "I've never had real tea before, Grandma. This is yummy."

"I'm glad you're enjoying it. Would you like to stop by the store on the way home and pick up some tea to share with your mom and sisters?" I said.

We chatted over lunch as I refilled our cups. "You know, when I was a little girl my grandma took me to tea every Christmas, and it's one of my favorite childhood memories."

After devouring the last crumbs on our plates, we strolled the streets of old Snohomish, peering into shop windows, admiring the Christmas displays.

On our drive home we swung by the grocery store to pick up a box of the promised peppermint tea. Out front, when we left, an older man stood next to a red kettle ringing a bell. I tapped Gracie's shoulder. "Wait," I said digging in my purse until I felt the smooth leather of my wallet.

I counted four quarters into her chubby palm. "Drop those through the slot in the top of the red kettle." I pointed.

She hesitated, then watched a person entering the store toss in some money.

"Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas," the bell ringer called after the person.

Gracie stepped forward and plunked her coins into the kettle.

Bundled against the cold, the bell ringer paused. He flashed a big grin and leaned down eye level with her. "Thank you, miss. You're going to make someone's Christmas a little brighter this year."

I gave the man a thankful nod, and taking Gracie's hand we splashed across the wet parking lot to the car.

She tilted her head up at me and a puzzled look clouded her face. "Grandma, why did we give that man money?"

"Did you enjoy going out to lunch, and buying a box of your very own tea?" I said.


"Well, some people don't have money to eat in a fancy tea room," I explained. "There are families who can't afford to buy the food or clothes they need."

"Oh, that's sad," she said climbing into the car.

Rain drizzled down my jacket. "Do you know when my grandma took me out at Christmastime, she always gave me a bit of money to give to those who needed extra help."

As I buckled Gracie into her car seat, she said, "Grandma, someday when I have a little girl I'm going to show her how to put money in the red kettle."

Tears filled my eyes as I remembered my grandma nudging me forward with a handful of coins to offer a blind man in a tattered coat by the store where we shopped. Grandma would be pleased knowing I was passing to the next generation our tradition of sharing God's blessings.

© 2020 Kathleen Kohler