Corncob Dolls and Christmas Coming

It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob. Sometimes Mary let Laura hold Nettie, but she did it only when Susan couldn’t see. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

I caught my breath on these words, picturing Mary and Laura playing for hours in the dusty-spicy attic with nothing but a rag doll and a corncob. Life was very hard, I know, and sometimes the romanticized view of pioneer life does it such injustice…but still. Still.

Having no flat, dimensionless drivel flashing before them incessantly such as modern children are subject to, these girls had the freedom to develop the creative power of a brilliant sunrise. That Laura’s corncob doll was given such power of feelings, and never a second’s thought as to her stature, speaks volumes for the strength of simplicity.

I told my children to guess what Pa did with the pig’s bladder. First, they had to be informed what a bladder was, for they didn’t know. In 1870, a four year old knew what a pig’s bladder was, and what fun it could be! Pa blew it up into a little white balloon, which the girls batted about and bounced along with endless joy. Who needs a bounce house? Oh, and the pig’s tail was even more fun!

I’m sort of old fashioned and nostalgic, so I need to not get carried away with sentimentality. I know that about myself. I live in the 21st century and I’m glad I do, but still. Good literature always demands a response from me. I can’t read something meaningful and not come away with an action, however small.

With Christmas just days away, and since tomorrow’s reading with the kids is the Little House chapter entitled “Christmas,” I have a reply. If you know Little House, you know that simple is not dull. Ma loved beautiful things, and I’m amazed at how she used so very little and so common a thing to make her home charming. I hope to create beauty with simple things.

Laura loved to look at the lamp, with its glass chimney so clean and sparkling, its yellow flame burning so steadily, and its bowl of clear kerosene colored red by the bits of flannel. She loved to look at the fire in the fireplace, flickering and changing all the time, burning yellow and red and sometimes green above the logs, and hovering blue over the golden and ruby coals.

Maybe I’ll make pancake men for breakfast for the kids on Christmas morning, like Ma. We’ll bake together, sing carols, make pictures in the snow, sit and look at the fire, read stories, and of course talk about the birth of Jesus.

Anyone have a pig’s bladder to lend me?

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5 Responses to Corncob Dolls and Christmas Coming

  1. Tipper says:

    I’m a little house fan too!! I could re-read my old books over and over and never tire of them. Another thing me and you have in common : )

    Just yesterday-we were all helping un-load a load of wood into the basement for the stove-and my girls got started remembering-when they made dolls of logs and had log babies. Unlike Laura and Mary-they had plenty of real babydolls-but somehow loved those little log babies too : )

  2. Jen says:

    Tipper, how darling, “log babies”–who would’ve thought?? Love their creativity.

  3. Becky says:

    Neat post. I’ve never read those books but I need to find them and get lost in their pages.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

  4. Jen says:

    Merry Christmas, Becky!!! It’s never too late for Little House… definitely look them up. :-)

  5. Kristin says:

    Would love to stare at a colorful fire like the one described in the lovely excerpt. We were given one of those lamps with the “glass chimney”… I’ve never thought to light it… maybe this would be a good time to try. Please send over a few of those pancake men for breakfast :-) and thanks for a lovely read — your words are as rich as the ones in the excerpts.

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