As I get older, I can often tell the beginning of a story but not the ending. This is such a story.

My Dad was a boy during the Great Depression, when winters were cold and money was scarce. One Christmas morning, Grandpa told him to put on his boots, two pairs of socks, and an extra layer of clothes because they had to walk through deep snow to a neighbor’s house.

Grandpa was a hard man who never smiled, so my Dad did not question what he told him to do. This morning was so cold that a boy would not want to go outside, not even to play, yet Dad bundled himself so he could scarcely walk and they set out for the neighbor’s house.

The neighbor lived in an old log cabin set far back from the county road. There was no driveway to the house, just a path, and it had drifted deep with snow on Christmas Eve. So Grandpa and Dad struggled through the drifts to make it to the door. The neighbor man was surprised to see them, but invited them inside, where children played on the dirt floor under a scrawny cedar tree with a few strands of tinsel.

Grandpa came right to the point. “I’ve come to collect the money you owe me. It’s long overdue,” he said, unfolding a promissory note he’d pulled from his coat pocket.

The neighbor was aghast. Tears welled up in his eyes. “I’m sorry you’ve come all this way, but I have no money,” he said. “My wife’s been sick and I’ve had no work since Thanksgiving. We couldn’t even buy gifts for the children today.”

Grandpa grunted. “What so special about today?”

“Why, it’s Christmas.”

“Christmas? Today? Son, why didn’t you tell me this was Christmas?” He glared at Dad, who didn’t know what to say. Surely Grandpa knew what day this was. Grandma had baked hot cinnamon rolls; Grandpa had read the Christmas story from Luke at the breakfast table; the family had sung Christmas carols around the piano. All this before Grandpa ordered their trek through the bitter December cold. Dad was speechless.

But not Grandpa. His face softened as he turned back to their neighbor. “I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mistake,” he said. “It’s against the law to collect a debt on a legal holiday. I hope you won’t press charges. Let’s forget all about this.” And he tore up the note.

That’s how the story begins. It has now entered your story, so I don’t know how it will end; but I hope you tell me someday.