A little while ago, my children and I were driving in the car, listening to the audio recording of Little House on the Prairie when it arrived at the Christmas chapter: “Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing is so charming, so full of vivid descriptions and the warmest of family moments. In this scene, after discovering a tin cup, a little cake, and a stick of candy in each of their stockings, Mary and Laura dig down deep (at Ma’s urging) and find a penny for each of them. When the joyful voice of Cherry Jones, the reader of all the Little House audio books, filled our mini van with the exclamation, “Think of having a whole penny for your very own!” my eight-year-old started to giggle. And I began to laugh too—out of the happiness of sharing this book with my sons, out of the ridiculousness of that statement in America today, and out of sweet nostalgia for Christmases sparse in gifts but overflowing in gratitude.
In the story, Mr. Edwards crosses a rushing creek to surprise the Ingalls girls with gifts from Santa. But that’s not all. He has also stuffed all his pockets with sweet potatoes to add to the turkey dinner Ma is preparing. Pa says, “It’s too much, Edwards!” And my son in the backseat is laughing, “Not enough! He didn’t do enough!”
When we stopped the car, I turned back to him and his little brother and teased, “Wouldn’t you like a tin cup, a penny, a little cake, and one stick of candy for Christmas?”
I heard a staggered, “Noooo,” little brother copying big brother’s tone.
“But,” big brother admitted, “I’d like their Christmas dinner.”
Me too, I thought. I want that glowing, peaceful, grateful-for-Christmas-miracles kind of family gathering this holiday.
How? My mind is busy wondering now. How can we pull it off?
For now, I think I’ll focus on appreciation. I’m going to keep my eyes open for “pennies” this season: surprise gifts that seemingly cost very little or nothing at all (though, as in Mr. Edward’s case, the giver may have gone to extreme effort and sacrifice).
Will you collect “pennies” with me this month? I’d love for you to share the “pennies” you find in the comments box!
Thank you, God, for the simplicity of the manger scene in which lay the most exquisite Gift (freely given to us, but so costly for You)! I ask you to help me focus my eyes, so that I don’t overlook the quiet, the understated, the humble treasure . . . so that I don’t overlook You. Amen.
“Pennies” I’ve collected in the first two days of December:
* A friend made a delicious, gluten-free cobbler I could eat at the church dinner!
* My husband (who doesn’t love to dance) danced with me to Bing Crosby, making me smile BIG.
* The clerk at the recreation center knew my name! (I relish the small-town feeling in this not-so-small suburban city.)
* My husband’s arm around me, holding me tight during the praise songs at church
* The spontaneous hugs from my sons, the joy of Christmas spilling round each other, in between reminiscing about old ornaments and finding the perfect place for each of them on the tree
* Before going back to school on Monday morning, my son looked at me with wonder in his eyes and said, “I love the tree.”
* Toddler kisses 🙂
P.S. The penny Mr. Edwards gave Laura would be worth about as much as a quarter today.