94: The Doorbell

94: The Doorbell

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

The Doorbell

A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.

~Author Unknown

My youngest son, Donald, was always happy to hear that we were going to see my parents. He loved to visit his grandparents in Milwaukee and was always the first one in our station wagon when it was time to leave Chicago, long before his three older siblings were ready. He’d keep urging them on until they hurried just to keep him quiet.

Once we started on our way, it was Don who always asked, “How much longer before we get there?” It didn’t matter how many car games we tried to play, how many cows we counted, how many Burma-Shave signs we read, it was always, “Are we almost there?” I didn’t realize at the time why he was so eager to visit. After all, once we arrived, he didn’t spend a lot of time with either of his grandparents. In fact, he spent more time on the front porch than anywhere else. He loved to ring the doorbell and hear the ding-dong. It got to the point where my father would finally insist that Don stop ringing that bell and come into the house. He always obeyed, of course, after one last push of the button. And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave that he begged to ring the bell “just one more time.” It got to be a family joke that the only reason Don wanted to go to Milwaukee was to visit the doorbell.

One Christmas, as usual, we drove up to see my parents, laden with pies, cakes, and gifts. This year, Dad met us at the door and, before Don could ring the bell, told him very solemnly that he never wanted to hear him ring that doorbell again, unless it was when we first arrived. Crushed, Don looked at him, on the verge of tears, but he agreed. Then, with Dad’s permission, he rang the doorbell one last time. Or so we thought.

After the usual sumptuous dinner was eaten, the leftovers safely stored away and the dishes washed and put into the cupboard, it was time to open gifts. Don was still crestfallen and reluctantly moved into the living room where the fresh fir stood, its branches covered with ornaments collected for over forty years. He had complained of a stomachache soon after we arrived and had eaten very little dinner, so we were all somewhat concerned.

He agreed to hand out the gifts and expressed little interest in most of them. I saw a small flicker of excitement when he looked at the battery-powered car that his older brother, John, unwrapped. Linda’s doll didn’t interest him at all, nor did Paul’s chemistry set. It appeared that all the gifts had been opened before he found one way behind the tree with his name on it. The box was about a foot square and a foot high and was covered with white tissue paper and tied with a red satin ribbon. He tore the box open and pulled out more white tissue paper. There at the bottom of the box was a piece of wood about eight by ten inches in size. Mounted on the front was a doorbell with the push button to ring it. In back was all the wiring connecting the two.

He looked at my father questioningly. “Go ahead,” said Dad, “It works. I made it for you.” Don gingerly pressed the button to hear the sweet sound he had always loved when he visited Milwaukee. His smile was the biggest ever seen in that house and the hug he lavished upon my father was a wonder to behold. That doorbell became his favorite toy for years.

Don was only six years old the year when Dad made him his very own doorbell. My father has been gone for many years now, but when we visited Don on his farm recently, he took me out to his garage to show me where he had hung the doorbell his grandfather made. It still works.

~Elsie Schmied Knoke

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