Spending some father time this afternoon, helping him put up Christmas lights, reminded me of one of our favorite shared classics, Little House on the Prairie. One of the most well known stories within the book is the story of Mr. Edwards, the friendly backwoods' man, trekking through bad weather and a swollen creek to bring presents to the Ingalls girls from Santa Claus. The story goes where the Ingalls girls, knowing there was no way Santa Claus could cross the creek, fell asleep in their beds hoping they would wake to something. And something was exactly what they woke up to: Mr. Edwards soaked through and teeth chattering.
"No creek could stop me, after I fetched them their gifts from Independence."
Laura sat straight up in the bed. "Did you see Santa Claus?" she shouted.
"I sure did," Mr. Edwards said.
"Where? When? What did he look like? What did he say? Did he really give you something for us?" Mary and Laura cried...
When he saw the creek rising, Mr. Edwards said, he had known that Santa Claus could not get across it....And Mr. Edwards reasoned that if Santa Claus couldn't cross the creek, likely he would come no farther south than Independence...
And there, coming down the street in Independence, he had met Santa Claus...
Well, the first thing Santa Claus said was, "Hello, Edwards..."
So Santa said, "Hello, Edwards! Last time I saw you you were sleeping on a cornshuck bed in Tennessee..."
Then Santa Claus said: "I understand your living now down along the Verdigris River. Have you ever met up, down yonder, with two little young girls named Mary and Laura?"
"I surely am acquainted with them," Mr. Edwards replied.
"It rests heavy on my mind," said Santa Claus. "They are both of them sweet, pretty, good little young things, and I know they are expecting me. I surely do hate to disappoint two good little girls like them. Yet with the water up the way it is, I can't ever make it across the creek. I can figure no way whatsoever to get to their cabin this year. Edwards," Santa Claus said. "Would you do me the favor to fetch them their gifts this one time?"
"I'll do that, and with pleasure," Mr. Edwards told them.
Then Santa Claus and Mr. Edwards stepped across the street to the hitching-posts where the pack-mule was tied. ("Didn't he have his reindeer?" Laura asked. "You know he couldn't," Mary said. "There isn't any snow." Exactly, said Mr. Edwards. Santa Claus traveled with a pack-mule in the southwest.)
And Santa Claus uncinched the pack and looked through it, and he took out the presents for Mary and Laura...
Then he shook hands with Mr. Edwards and he swung up on his fine bay horse. Santa Claus rode well for a man of his weight and build. And he tucked his long, white whiskers under his bandana. "So long, Edwards," he said, and he rode away on the Fort Dodge trail, leading his pack-mule and whistling...
From Santa Claus they received a shiny tin cup, heart-shaped cakes, peppermint sticks, and a penny for each of them. To our own ears—such simplicity! But Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the story so fondly, you would think the tin cup was made of gold, the little cakes made from the best baker in NYC, peppermint imported from Europe, and a million dollars! To Laura, this was one of their most memorable Christmases, where the simple joy in presents from Santa Claus brightened the day. The story is a good reminder to be grateful for what you have and there is great joy in simplicity. (One of my most memorable birthdays was when my family and I were snowed-in, I received a single gift of a birthstone ring, we watched a movie borrowed from our neighbors, and my mom made spice cake from a box found in the back of the pantry with leftover Christmas whipping cream.)