Contributor: trishkovach Created: 7 months ago Updated: 7 months ago
It was nearing Christmas time. To be more exact Christmas day would come during the week. It was just about dark at four o’clock – as darkness comes early on the Canadian prairie.
Marie watched anxiously for the children to come home from school. They would be cold and hungry. The fire was burning brightly in the cook-stove. Burlap sacks were lying on the floor by the outer door to help keep out the frost and snow. Marie saw the children coming and turned from the window to open the oven door from which came an appetizing odor.
Baby Willie, a brown eyed, brown haired little boy, who had been sitting on the table cutting pictures out of a magazine, now held out his arms to be lifted down. As Marie lifted him down, she kissed the top of his head and whispered, “The children are coming,” and Willie gave a squeal of delight!
Just then, the door burst open and in trooped the six children of school age. Lida with curly-hair, turning from fair to brown, and blue eyes with black eye lashes. Arthur, with white curly hair and blue eyes. He was Lida’s constant companion. Laughing Emma, with brown wavy hair and eyes so brown as to appear nearly black. Anna, fair haired and blue eyed – so shy she hardly dared speak. Truly a Monday’s child as the rhyme goes – “Monday’s child is fair of face.” Anna was born on a Monday. And last but not least there was Morgan with soft brown hair and sparkling eyes. They all talked at once, saying – “Anything to eat?” “My, I’m hungry,” “Just about starved”, and “When do we eat?”
Marie opened the oven door and carefully lifted out a pan of scalloped potatoes which was: peeled potatoes, lightly salted, and baked in water to keep them from burning. As Marie set the table she started the game they played so often of late. They would start naming something they would like to eat and pretend they were all on the table for supper.
Just as they were ready to sit down, Marie stepped to the bedroom door and called softly, “Mary. Come, dear, supper is ready.” As the invalid sister came into the room she took one look at the table, then burst into tears crying, “Just potatoes again? Oh Marie, I’m so hungry. If I could only have a little piece of bread I would be so happy. I wish Papa would come home.”
Marie took Mary into her arms and held her tight until her sobs grew quieter. Then speaking softly she said gently, “You know dear, Papa has to work so Nelsen won’t have to come home from his mission for lack of money. We wouldn’t want him to come home before he was honorably released, would we dear?”
As Mary shook her head Marie said, “Edward has gone to see if his money has come yet. You know he worked so hard building the road so he could earn money for food. He hates it when all we have to eat is potatoes, too.” Then Marie continued, “If we all unite and pray, Heavenly Father will give us the strength we need, even if all we have to eat is potatoes. Shall we pray now, Mary?”
Mary said, “Will it make things easier?” At Marie’s nod of assent they all knelt in a circle around the table. It was a simple petition asking Heavenly Father to give them strength to carry on and to help Papa earn the money to keep Nelsen on his mission, and to bless Nelsen so he could stay on his mission until he was honorably released. As the prayer was finished they all knelt silently – each sending up their own silent prayer. Anna’s voice broke the silence with, “Please bless Santa Claus to come this year.”
Supper was eaten in silence with Marie saving part of the potatoes for Ed. He came into the house as the family was finishing supper saying, “My, it is cold outside.” Mary asked him if his money had come and Ed replied, “No, but here is a letter from Papa. Here, you read it Marie.” Marie opened the letter and read:
“Dear ones at home: I cannot be home with you this Christmas, but I know you will make the best of the situation. I know I have left you in good care. You, Marie, as the eldest, are capable of holding and keeping my little flock together. You, Edward, as the oldest brother at home (two brothers were away) are faithful to your trust to provide for my little flock. You, Mary, so ill since the death of your mother, try to be brave, dear heart, and do not grieve too much. Try to be cheerful and help your brothers and sisters all that you can. I know it is hard, dear one, but try to be brave. You, Lida and Arthur, study hard and gain knowledge while in your youth. Obey your older brothers and sisters and never do anything that would grieve your Savior and Redeemer.
Now my little ones, Emma, Ann, Morgan and my little William Leroy – help Marie and Edward all you can by obeying them always; study hard and know this – that Heavenly Father is watching over you and His Guardian Angels are around you to keep you and help you.
I love every one of you and pray that I soon will be with you. I am ever praying the Lord to bless you and guide continually. I remain, Your loving Father – James. E. Hansen”
As her voice ceased, Marie looked around and her little charges. Edward had his face turned away. Mary was leaning her head against the chair back – her eyes closed – her lips moving in prayer and the tears rolling down her cheeks unheeded. Lida and Arthur with clasped hands and heads together and Morgan quietly rocking in the little rocker. Emma and Anna with their arms twined around each other. Willie had his face buried in her lap.
Marie spoke cheerfully, “All right, it is bedtime. The last one in bed is a rotten egg.
After the children were in bed, Ed said, “My money is at Waterton Park. I will go after it in the morning.”
Marie asked, “How will you go?” Ed replied, “I’ll walk.” Marie exclaimed, “But Edward, it is twenty-six miles to the Park.” Ed answered, “I know it is and that will make fifty-two miles in all but I can get a ride for twelve miles and that just leaves forty miles to walk. I can make it and besides I would have to go even if it were farther than that. Today is the twenty first of Dec. and Santa Clause must come to bring the kiddies shoes, overshoes and clothes to wear. And they’ll need candy, nuts, apples, and oranges. We also need bread for Mary.” Marie said, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
Before Ed left the next morning he and Marie knelt by the table and asked Heavenly Father to give him strength for the journey and to let His Guardian Angels to watch over those at home.
Ed’s journey to the Park was just ordinary. He secured a ride for twelve miles, then he walked briskly the rest of the way. He knew the need to hurry in order to get back home that night.
As he walked along he sang snatches of songs and now and then he would sing a song from beginning to end He also recited poems such as “The Death of King Arthur,” the “Ancient Mariner,” and “Home” by Edgar A Guest, “Only a Dad” and many others. He was facing the west wind most of the way and it was cold.
On arriving at Waterton Park, he received his money and immediately started back home. He still walked briskly but he could feel himself getting tired.
As the day grew to a close the wind grew colder and Ed could feel his feet beginning to drag. He had to walk slower. He began to get colder and colder – almost beyond endurance.
While still about five miles from home he grew so tired, cold, and hungry that he began to get drowsy. He wanted to lie down and rest but knew that would never do. He must keep going. His knees began to hurt and send sharp, keen pains to his head. He had thrown his knee-cap out of place while participating in athletics in school. It still bothered him, especially when it got cold.
Finally his knee began to stiffen with the cold until he had to drag it up even with the left leg, and always step out with the left leg. As he fought to keep going and stay awake. He prayed in short disconnected phrases, “Dear Father in Heaven, help me. Please don’t let me fail. Dear Father, I must keep going. Oh, Father, give me strength.”
At last he stumbled and fell full-length. He lay still. He struggled to fight off his faintness but he was so very sleepy. His knee began sending sharp pains through his
system. He muttered, “Oh, Marie. I just can’t keep going.” Then a little more distinctly he heard his voice, “But I must.”
He endeavored to rise and as he reached his knees he knelt there and prayed, “Oh, Father in Heaven, I know Thou hast granted strength unto me this day as in all my days, but merciful Father, I cannot go on without Thy aid. It is just a little thing I’m asking, but it means so much to my loved ones. Thou knowest, Oh, Father in Heaven, that they are hungry. This little money means Christmas to them. They need clothes to keep them warm. We know that we could be joyful on Christmas without money or presents for we have love and faith abiding there in our little home. Nevertheless, thou hast said for us to provide food and shelter for those we love, so grant me strength to go the remaining two miles. All glory and praise be thine – in the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.”
Ed struggled to his feet and plodded wearily on. Yet he was more light-hearted and hopeful. His knee ceased to send sharp pains and just throbbed enough to keep him awake.
With the welcoming light shining from the kitchen window, he was able to drag his stiffened leg the remaining way to find his faithful sister, Marie, waiting for his coming with a dish of steaming potatoes and a cup of cold water.
Once again Christmas came to the humble little home in the heart of the Prairie.
Written by Mary Hansen Nom de plume – Edith Darling