The events of Dec. 7, 1941, had startled all the world, but for a 7-year-old, the magnitude of the whole situation didn't quite register. Some place . . . far away . . . had been bombed and suddenly men in uniform - soldiers, sailors and Marines - appeared all over Salt Lake City. It was Christmastime, and the adults didn't seem to be aware that the BIG day was just around the corner. But Christmastime was still exciting to the children, and we couldn't quite understand why the usually happy and pleasant parents seemed a little sullen and distracted. They hugged and kissed us more often and more intently, but the smiles on their faces were overshadowed by a faraway look.
Grandpa King had died Dec. 24, 1940, the year before, and that Christmas had been subdued by his death. He had died on Grandma King's birthday. This year, 1941, Grandma had come from Idaho to spend Christmas with our family. It was fun having her come all the way to see us. She played with us and teased us. I felt quite honored because Grandma had decided to spend Christmas with our family instead one of our many cousins' house. This made me feel very special and even a little bit arrogant.About a week before Christmas, I was given the honor of going shopping with Grandma and my mother to Salt Lake City. We boarded the old interurban in West Jordan (the station was called Hibbard) and off to Salt Lake we went. This was quite an outing for me. As we bounced along on the train, it seemed nice to be sitting between Grandma and Mama. I felt quite grown up.
We went to many stores that day, and when we went to Auerbach's on the corner of 300 South and State, Mama asked me to stay with Grandma. She said she had to go talk to Santa for a while. Naturally, I understood that this time of year, parents spend quite a bit of time in secret conferences with Santa, and so I was happy to stay with Grandma.
In all my life, I believe those few minutes were the only time I really ever spent totally alone with this sweet little grandma (even though it was in the middle of one of the busiest stores in Salt Lake). We looked at toys and many things, and when I would see something special, Grandma would say, "Do you like that?" I just knew that Grandma was looking for me a Christmas present. I didn't know if she should spend money on me, so I kept telling her I didn't like anything. Then I saw a little sewing set with needles, thread, thimbles . . . even cloth. My eyes lit up, and Grandma could see that I really did like that.
"You like that, don't you?" she said. "Yes," I said. I was sure that Mama would not be happy with me if she knew I had told Grandma I liked it, because Mama would think Grandma couldn't afford to buy me a Christmas present. The Depression was still upon the country and my Grandma was now a widow. I watched as Grandma got into her money purse and started bringing out quarters, dimes, nickels and even pennies. I can still see her wrinkled hands as they found each coin and carefully handed the coin to the store clerk (hands that showed the result of many years of hard labor). The vision of those hands today is more clear than it was on that day. Finally she had enough money to make the purchase. The store clerk put the sewing set in a sack, and Grandma smiled with great approval and she held the package close to her.
On the train ride home, I kept my secret from my mother and watched that special package held tightly in Grandma's hand. It seemed to bob up and down with the motion of the train as we swayed back and forth. I had five sisters at home, and I thought that I must be awfully special to Grandma for her to buy a pres-ent just for me.
On Christmas morning when I got up, I quickly went to the present that Grandma had bought, but to my amazement, not only my name was on it, but the names of my five sisters were on it. She had bought the pres-ent for all of us! It was then that I realized that Grandma couldn't afford to buy each of us a present, and even though she treated me as though I was a special granddaughter to her, all of her grandchildren were just as special. I must confess, at that moment, I felt a little bit selfish and embarrassed in thinking that she had brought that present just for me and had not bought anything for my sisters.
Many years have come and gone, but I will always remember the happiness on Grandma's face as she dug the money out of her purse to pay for that present, and the happiness continued on Christmas morning when she gave her six granddaughters that present. That must have been a hard Christmas for her, the first one since Grandpa's death and the uncertainty of World War II just beginning. I don't think I ever thanked Grandma enough for that present, because I know now that it was truly a sacrifice for her and the love manifested in that gift has grown in importance over the years.
Now I am a grandmother myself, but I will always remember that special moment with my grandmother and hopefully she knows that I realize what a special gift she gave me that Christmas so many years ago.
Margaret Atwood Brough was raised on a farm in West Jordan with five sisters and one brother. She moved to Kaysville when she married Grant Harvey Brough and has lived there ever since.
Brough worked at Hill Air Force Base for 20 years. Since her retirement, she has been active in community theater, writing and producing everal original plays and musicals.
"I enjoy writing and working with children," she says. "I feel the most important thing you can give to your children is a sense of responsibility toward themselves, their families and the community and to establish some traditions with your children and your community."
The Broughs are parents of five children and have nine grandchildren.