Matt stormed into his grandmother’s kitchen and plopped onto a chair, an angry frown marring his cherubic face. His father, Michael, following close on his heels, didn’t look happy either.

“What’s the matter with you two?” Myra said, staring at her son over grandson’s head.

“Daddy wouldn’t let me put any money in the big red kettle at the Stop and Shop!” Matt wailed. “The lady in the cape was ringing the bell like when we went to buy cookie dough, and I asked Daddy if I could put some money in the kettle. He pulled me right past her— “

“There’s a Salvation Army set up in front of every entrance to every store. Jeez, Mom, if I put money in every kettle I passed, I’d have to get another job, and I’ve got two of them already. They take enough out of my taxes for government handouts–“

“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” Myra said, sending her son a meaningful glance that cut his rant short. “Michael, I’m surprised at you. You weren’t raised that way.”

Myra tousled Matt’s hair and smiled at him. “Why don’t you go in the den and help grandpa with the trains? He’s got a plate of sugar cookies in there with him.” Matt hugged her and raced toward trains and cookies.

She turned to her son, who had swiped a cookie off the cooling rack. “How could you deny him? You always liked to put the change in the kettle when you were little.”

“It’s all your fault,” Michael said, through a mouth filled with cookie. “You got him started on this kick.”

“Nothing wrong with teaching the boy to help others. Besides, you know how your father feels about the Salvation Army. They were right up there on the front, giving free food and coffee to the G. I.s, while the Red Cross stayed behind and charged them. We always give to the Salvation Army.”

“Well, good for you, Mom. I can’t afford to hand out money like that.” Michael lowered his voice to a near whisper. “If I did, Matt wouldn’t have much of a Christmas. I think that’s more important.”

Myra looked pointedly at the pack of cigarettes in Michael’s shirt pocket. “Seems to me Matt shouldn’t have to be the one making the sacrifices…”

“Don’t go there, Mom. I’ve got to go or I’ll be late for work.”

****

In the line at the convenience store, Michael asked his son if he’d like a piece of candy.

“Can I hold the money, Daddy?”

Michael smiled knowing the boy liked to pay for his own treats and handed Matt a dollar bill.

While Matt surveyed the candy aisle, Michael paid for his cigarettes. He bumped into an old friend as he left the counter, and they took a few minutes to catch up on old times.

“Hey, sport! What did you decide to spend your money on?” Michael said, when he finally walked up to Matt, who was patiently waiting for him by the exit. “Milky Way?”

“Nope.”

“Twizzlers?”

“Nope.”

“What then?”

Matt glanced out the glass door to the man ringing the bell beside the big red kettle. “I put it in the kettle so the needy kids can have some candy for Christmas too.”

Michael nodded, feeling a blush creep up his face, embarrassed by his son’s generosity. As he left the store, he dug deep into his pocket and let Matt toss the money in the pot. All the way to the car Matt babbled happily about getting to put money into the kettle twice in one day. Michael laughed to himself and decided if he went to the drive-up window at McDonald’s to get Matt a Happy Meal, he could avoid another donation bucket.

~Elise Skidmore ©2020

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