Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chapter 19: Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus

"Laura was anxious because Christmas was near, and Santa Claus and his reindeer could not travel without snow. Mary was afraid that, even if it snowed, Santa Claus could not find them, so far away in Indian Territory. When they asked Ma about this, she said she didn't know."

Winter has come to the prairie. The days are short and cold, but no snow falls. Only rain, rain, and more rain.

Mary and Laura stay close by the fire and work on their nine-patch quilt blocks. Or they work on cutting paper dolls from scraps of wrapping paper. Laura is worried that Santa won't be able to come see them since there is no snow, only rain.

At last it is Christmas Eve. The rain still falls, but by noon the clouds break apart and the sun shines. Laura and Mary can hear the creek roaring down in the creek bottom. Now they know they will have no Christmas because Santa Claus will not be able to get across the flooded, rushing creek.

Pa goes hunting and brings back a giant turkey. It is for Christmas dinner, but Mr. Edwards will not be able to join them because there is no way for him to get across the creek. Ma says it is too bad, having to eat bachelor cooking on Christmas Day.

"A man would risk his neck, trying to cross the creek now," Pa says. "We'll just have to make our minds up that Edwards won't be here tomorrow."

No Santa Claus and no company. Laura and Mary try not to mind too much. They are lucky little girls to have a nice, warm house and a good turkey dinner to look forward to. Ma tells them that they have been such good girls this year that Santa hasn't forgotten them---he will surely come next year.

But Laura and Mary are still not happy.

At night Laura and Mary lie down in their beds. Pa and Ma sit silently by the fire. Ma asks Pa to play the fiddle, but he says, "I don't seem to have the heart to, Caroline."

Ma gets up. "I'm going to hang up your stockings, girls. Maybe something will happen." Laura's heart gives a leap, but then she remembers the swollen creek. Nothing can happen. But Ma hangs up the stockings, anyway, one on either side of the fireplace.

The next morning, Laura wakes up when Jack begins to growl and the door-latch to rattle. Pa lets Mr. Edwards into the house. His teeth are chattering and his voice is shivering. He says he carried his clothes on his head while he swam the creek.

"It was too big a risk," Pa says.

"Your little ones had to have a Christmas," Mr. Edwards says. "Nothing could stop me after I fetched their gifts from Independence."

Laura sits bolt upright in bed. "Did you see Santa?," she yells.

Mr. Edwards says he did, and Laura and Mary are so excited they pepper him with questions. It is hard for them not to peek while Ma puts the presents in the stockings, but Laura and Mary listen to Mr. Edwards tell the story of how he met Santa in Independence and how Santa asked him to deliver the gifts for two sweet, pretty, good little girls on the Verdigris River.

At last Ma says the stockings are ready. Laura and Mary race to the fireplace and begin to explore their treasures. The first thing they find is a bright, shiny, new cup, one for each of them!  Then they each find a stick of red and white striped candy. Next are pretty cakes sprinkled with white sugar, and then down in the toes, each girl gets a bright copper penny. Oh, there has never been such a Christmas!

Ma, Pa, and Mr. Edwards look like they are about to cry, but Laura and Mary are just happy, happy, happy.

Imagine if you gave your children a Little House Christmas. One tin cup, one small cake sprinkled with white sugar, one candy stick, and one bright, copper penny. OK, you can be really nice and allow for inflation---give them 15 cents. You might get excited shrieks on Christmas morning, but I doubt they'd be from joy!

It can be hard to impress the jaded young whippersnappers of today, but every year parents keep trying. They know that almost nothing feels better than seeing that look of pure delight on their child's face and knowing that they put it there. 

"When Ma opened the door, Laura and Mary heard the creek roaring. They had not thought about the creek. Now they knew there would be no Christmas, because Santa Claus could not cross that roaring creek

But sadly, as we all know, not every child is able to experience a happy Christmas. In fact, on a global scale, probably most children don't get one. That is why a program like Operation Christmas Child is so valuable and has such enduring success. For those of you who don't know, Operation Christmas Child is a program that collects shoe boxes filled with small toys and gifts by donors and sends them to needy children around the world.

I've always wanted to fill a shoe box like all the "cool" people, but could never get past the mid-November collection date. They collect the boxes early to allow for shipping to the various countries in time for Christmas. And I never had my "Christmas" hat in place and operational until after Thanksgiving.

But last year I managed to pack one shoe box and get it mailed off by the collection date. That's all it took---I'm a shoe box addict now.

The year is still young, but I've been collecting things for boxes, hitting all the post-holiday sales to pick up little odds and ends on clearance. So far I've collected a pretty decent size pile, and if I keep this up all year, I'll be able to pack a bunch of boxes to bring happiness to little kidlet hearts.

Some of the things I've found so far are gloves (those stretchy kinds that are $1 for 2 pairs this time of year), jump ropes, hair sets, little handbags, and animal shaped soaps from the after-Christmas sales, mini dinosaurs and mini purses from the party favor area, stickers, heart stamps, and disc shooters (you may thank me, grateful international parents) from Valentines day, and various other little things.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Edwards! Thank you!," they said, and they meant it with all their hearts. Pa shook Mr. Edward's hand, too, and shook it again. Pa and Ma and Mr. Edwards acted as if they were almost crying, Laura didn't know why. So she gazed at her beautiful presents."

But I wanted something that I could hand make. The Operation Christmas Child Pintrest boards have lots of good ideas, some of which I hope to try by Christmas. However, I wanted to come up with something original for this blog----some little project that could be made to make some child as happy as Mr. Edwards made Laura and Mary with his simple gifts.

So I (out of my very own head, said with pardonable---yet modest----pride) designed this easy-peasy T-shirt bean bag.

 Don't freak out if it looks difficult and complicated. I made the first one and thought the whole way through that it wasn't going to work---my seams weren't straight, it didn't look right, etc. But as soon as I cut the fringes, it looked fine and worked just the way I'd hoped. Afterward, I helped my 12 year old nephew make his own, cutting, sewing, and everything, and it turned out fine, too. It's really a very forgiving project.

Step 1: Pick T-shirts in whatever color combination you want. This is a great way to use up shirts that are stained or torn.

Step 2: Trace 6 circles on your T-shirts---2 small, 2 medium, and 2 large, varying the colors. I used a 9 inch, an 8 inch, and a 6 1/2 inch circle.

Step 3: Cut out circles. OK, so this one is a no-brainer, but I'm trying to be complete with my instructions here.

Step 4: Sew one of the medium circles to one of the large ones. I measured three inches in from the edge of each fabric piece to make my seam line . Repeat with the other medium and large circle.

Step 5:  Put the small circles on top of the two circles you've sewn together. Measure 3 inches in from the edge of the smaller pieces of fabric. Sew the small pieces to the top of the medium circles (the large circles are underneath the medium, already sewn will sew through all the layers). You should end up with two halves that look like this. Now you are ready to sew the halves together.

Step 6: Measure the same distance of three inches from the edge of your large fabric pieces. When you sew your halves together, right sides out (this means all the fabric pieces are on the outside), make sure that you don't catch any of your other fabric pieces in the seam. Keep them pulled back as you sew. At the end, leave a small opening in your seam to stuff the beans through.

If you're like me, it will never be big enough and you'll have to open it more to make it work.

Step 7: Fill the bean bag with beans to the desired weight. When you have it as full as you want, stitch the opening shut, either with the sewing machine if you can make it work, or by hand-sewing.

Step 8: Now you are ready to clip the fringe. Work with one layer at a time, being careful that you never clip through a seam.

Step 9: I found it worked best to make cuts dividing it into fourths, then cut fringe in each of the fourths until every layer has been completely fringed. It should look like this when you are finished...

Step 10: Shake it out and play with it to your heart's content! This is a super-fun, awesome update to the classic bean bag.

Even if you're not a handy person and the mere thought of sewing sends you into a cold sweat, I hope you will still give shoe boxes a try. You don't have to make everything yourself like some mutant Martha Stewart clone; with a little time and forethought, a shoe box can be stuffed very easily and inexpensively. It's a great way for kids to realize how blessed they are and it gives them a chance to give back just a little.

"Pa, and Ma, and Mr. Edwards sat by the fire and talked about Christmas times back in Tennessee and up north in the Big Woods. But Mary and Laura looked at their beautiful cakes and played with their pennies and drank water out of their new cups. And little by little they licked and sucked their sticks of candy, till each stick was sharp-pointed on one end.

That was a happy Christmas."