THE RED AND BLUE BASEBALL CAP. A short storyby Wolfgang Wolf, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was fall 1956. 10 year old Jack was riding his father’s bike on their farm near Georgetown, Illinois. An old bike. He hadn’t known his father. A few months before he was born his father joined the army. Then, his mother told him, he soon went to Italy. He never came back. Now his mother did run the farm on her own as good as she could. He helped whenever he could. Now, he was “the man” of the house.
When Jack came back to the house his mother was in the kitchen washing the dishes. On the table was an old Time magazine. He sat down and started disinterested flicking through the pages. One article made him stop. There were many pictures of children in German refugee camps. The headline read “No presents this christmas?”. He never got many presents himself at Christmas, but looking at these pictures he could imagine how it would be to go without. He didn’t like it. He was sad.
In the refugee camp Stuttgart Stammheim Erika Sauer could not sleep. The big event was keeping her awake. She organised it every year and the closer it got, the more nervous she got. It was the same every year. In her head she went over everything, again and again, checking one item after the other. The decorations, the choir, Mr. Moderhack, who would play Santa Claus, and of course, the presents. The presents were the most important item on her imaginary list. She had asked Mrs. Allen, the chairwoman of the “League for American-German Friendship” to bring them to the school hall on the day. They had, like every year, gathered the presents through an appeal in the States. There would be a present for every child. Blue wrapping with Christmas bells for the boys, and red wrapping with an Angel figurine on it for the girls.
It was well after midnight when she finally fell asleep.
A lot of work, but it was worth it. She would be rewarded through the smiles on the children’s faces.
Jack’s mother wrapped up the parcel just as he had asked her to. The postman, Mr. Rather, would take it back to the post office when he came to deliver the mail. He didn’t come out all the way where they lived every day. There were not many letters these days. Mostly bills. Dreaded bills!
Mrs. Allen and a friend from “The League” pulled up at the camp’s school hall in two station wagons. Erika Sauer smiled. Both cars were full of presents. It was 3.00 pm. Only three hours to go. She was nervous. Butterflies – just like every year. Again, she went over everything in her head. Now the most important thing, the presents, were here. What a relief! Everything would be all right, she was sure of it.
Dusk fell over the camp. This time of the year it got dark at about 4.00 p.m. It was a6.00 p.m. start. Slowly the hall filled up. It was only 5.30 p.m., but it was warm inside. This was more than could be said for the room people called their home. Most families didn’t have the money to heat their room.
It’s been cold during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Tonight, Christmas Eve, was no different. So, the – 5° C outside were a good reason to come early. Apart from that the children had been nagging their parents all afternoon. They didn’t want to miss out. It was the highlight of their year. They knew they would get presents from ‘Amerika’.
There was a somewhat eerie, but at the same time festive, atmosphere in the camp. Most windows in the camp were lit up by candles. The younger children thought this was what you did at Christmas. Their older brothers and sisters, however, knew that their parents did it to remember their relatives and friends they had left behind, some husbands had perished in the war, and others were still imprisoned in Siberia.
Almost everyone in the camp put a candle in the window. Even when there was not much money around, which was just about all the time. But they always managed to buy a candle for Christmas.
On the left side of the stage was a large Christmas tree. It was quite colourful. The children who were in Kindergarten had made decorations over the last few weeks. They now graced the tree. On the right was a big “Adventskranz”, a traditional wreath made from pine twigs. There were so many presents, they didn’t all have room on the stage.
The evening started with the choir, made up of first, second and third year school children, singing “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (Silent Night). At the back of the stage the older children were lined up, holding candles. Next, some of the children performed a nativity play. The play finished with roaring applause. Then, Erika Sauer introduced Mrs. Allen. who gave a short speech talking about the meaning of Christmas and that it was the time of year to think of less fortunate people, wherever in the world they might be. Not that the children understood (or even cared) much of what was said, but they got more excited because they knew it wouldn’t be long until they would get their presents.
Now Santa Claus appeared on the stage. The big event started to take place. Behind him his little helpers were busy bringing the presents on the stage. Next to him an angel who handed him the presents. Erika Sauer asked all children to come on the stage and collect their present. First the smallest ones who were in the audience. Some so small they were carried by their mothers. Then the ones who had performed in the play. They were followed by the choir. The older ones who had been standing at the back of the stage with their candles came last. One after the other lined up to meet Santa Claus. Once they were face-to-face with the man in red, he asked them whether they had been a good kid during the year. Of course they all answered “yes”.. He handed them their present. A blue one with Christmas bells for the boys, and a red one with an Angel on it for the girls.
After the children had their present they started unwrapping it even before they got back to their parents. They were very excited. Some couldn’t wait unpacking it and pulled off the paper on stage, showing their present to their parents from up there, very much to the amusement of the whole audience. There were gloves, children’s books, toys, wooden tools for the boys, and dolls for the girls. Soon many children blocked the stage and Miss Sauer had to ask them to go back to their parents and unwrap their gifts at home.
Rolf took a few steps and was standing in front of Santa Claus. He looked at the red robed man with the white beard. He didn’t trust strange men with odd clothes. He knew they were not always nice. This one, however, smiled at him and gave him his present. He muttered a shy “Thank You!” and ran off the stage. When he was back with his parents he looked the first time at the blue parcel he held in his hands. Not being allowed to open it just yet, he wanted to go home now.
Hardly through the door Rolf started unpacking his present. His mother told him to sit down and wait for his father to light the candles on the Christmas Tree.
“But,…”, he said.
Before he could continue, his mum, without saying a word, pointed to a chair, for him to sit down on it.
The wrapping paper of his parcel broke as he clutched it even harder. After finishing lighting the candles his father sat down and Rolf impatiently pulled the paper of his present. When he saw what it was a smile came over his face. He held it in his hands, put it on, and was obviously mighty proud.
Jack sat in the living room in front of the big fire place. They did not use this room very often. They spent most of their time in the kitchen. But today it was different. It was Christmas Morning.
His mother watched as he unwrapped the present. There was only one present. Jack had been quite excited anyway. He had not slept very well. Carefully he opened his present so he didn’t tear the paper because he knew his mother would be using it again next year. Even before he started unwrapping, he squeezed and felt the gift and tried to guess what it was.
As he removed the paper he saw something red and blue. It was a new baseball cap. Just like the one he had liked so much. The one he had asked his mother to sent to Germany.
*The opinions expressed are the bloggers own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Health Innovation Summit.