Guest post by Jaime Brooks
Once again it is Christmas Eve at the Ingalls homestead. Everyone is busy with their Christmas preparations, looking forward to the Christmas tree in town. Unfortunately the snow and wind had started and Pa decided not to risk the trip to town. Instead Laura and Ma make popcorn balls, while Carrie and Grace make pretty pink bags full of Christmas Candy; there is even one bag extra.
Laura remembers times when the family did not have as much at Christmas time, Christmas in Indian Territory with Mr. Edwards walking 80 miles to bring Mary and Laura one stick of candy each. Also on her mind is the Christmas when Pa was caught in a blizzard, finding shelter under the creek bank, and eating all of the Christmas candy to survive. Laura is missing Mary, and she is not trying to think of Almanzo. When he first left, his letters came frequently, now no letter for three weeks. Laura was afraid that would forget her, or even worse regret giving her the ring.
Pa broke her thought by telling her to bring him the fiddle. While Pa was playing all of their favorites, he started a song about coming in and shutting the door. Towards the end of the song there was a loud knock on the door. Pa told Laura to open the door, at first the snow swirled around the person, but then she was in shock to see Almanzo. He came back early! He was greeted by the family; he brought oranges for a treat, and a special gift for Laura. Ma decides to clear the room, Pa gets more coal, and the girls help Ma in the kitchen giving the couple a few minutes alone. Laura opens the package and nestled inside is a gold bar pin. Etched on the pin were a little house, a lake, and some tiny leaves and grass. She tells him it is beautiful, Almanzo thinks she can thank him better than that. Laura gives him a kiss and tells him she is glad he is back.
Once the family is settled back in the sitting room, Almanzo describes the sites of his journey. Camping on the open prairie, seeing Omaha, and Des Moines, farmers burning the corn because they cannot sell it, and of crossing the Missouri river were just some of the adventures described. With such interesting talk, it was soon midnight. Ma stood up and wished everyone a Merry Christmas. When Almanzo left, Laura asked Pa if he heard him arrive, he said yes, and that there was no one more welcome. In the morning would be surprises from Santa Claus, and for dinner a big juicy fat chicken hen stuffed and roasted, along with Almanzo’s company, for Ma had invited him to Christmas dinner. As Laura blew out the lamp, Carrie told her that this was the nicest Christmas, and then she asked if Christmases get better all the time, Laura simply said “yes they do.”
This has always been my favorite of the Little House Christmases. This chapter also sees a change in Ma, for the first time she is accepting of Almanzo, and welcomes him into the family. I think that Ma must be remembering her own time with Pa as an engaged couple, by giving the couple a few minutes alone with each other. I also love the fact that Almanzo could not stay away from Laura any longer. It makes me wish she had written a chapter from his point of view during his journey and his time at home. All the while Laura is missing him too.