Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Craving the Magic

It seems to be a point of honor for bloggers to showcase how well-read they are. We have gadgets like "Shelfari" available to us, where we can show off all the wonderful books with which we are currently enchanted. Me? I'm still wading through The Audacity of Hope (I've committed myself to reading at least a few pages every night until I'm finished…I may be done by the Inauguration…) So, yeah…I guess, in the end, I'm not much of a reader.

Series novels have always been big. Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and now the "Twilight" series. Okay. I can play that game, too. I have a favorite series. The one I have read over and over and over and never tire of. I love it as much today as I did when I first checked the books out of the grade school library a lifetime ago. I can nearly recite the best parts by heart. (And, do you know, I still do not own my own copies of these books?)

My favorites? Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.

Christmas time always brings Wilder's stories to mind. Especially this Christmas—as we watch our consumer economy undergo the trial by fire that will distill it to the essence of necessity. I consider all the things we think of as part and parcel of Christmas… The standing in line outside of whichever store commands the largest supply and lowest price on the latest electronic toy or game without which our child cannot live. The ubiquitous animated reindeer and giant inflatable snowmen appearing on every other lawn the day after Thanksgiving. Twenty-dollar-a-pound chocolates and forty-dollar bottles of champagne; crown rib roasts, caviar, chanterelles, artisan breads and parmegiano reggiano.

And then there are the Little House stories. Stories of a family, one hundred twenty years ago, drawn by the pioneer spirit of its young patriarch out of the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to Indian Territory in Kansas, back to the creeks of Minnesota and then to the Dakota Prairie.

How I love the stories of the Christmas magic in each of those places. Young women crimping their hair and starching their finest lace collars for a holiday dance in Wisconsin. Three little girls heading to bed on a Christmas Eve out on a lonely claim, miles from anyone; thrilled upon discovering one candy stick and a small cake made with real white flour nestled in the toes of their stockings on Christmas morning. Or the year of the Long Winter of blizzards and near-starvation, when Christmas—in the form of barrels of clothing, food, books and newspapers—arrives in April, on the first train able to get through since before Thanksgiving.

Can you imagine? Can you for one moment imagine being twelve years old, enchanted to speechlessness by the sight of the first Christmas tree you had ever seen? To us, that sounds like something from some emerging nation, maybe in Africa or the Far East. But it was here, on our continent, in our own country…not so very long ago.

That wide-eyed wonder…that child-like naiveté.


What has happened to the magic of Christmas? Is it me? Am I just too old, too tired? Have I seen too much, yet not enough?

Have I had too much? Yet…not enough?

No, please don't lecture me about "the Reason for the Season."

And don't point me back to the simpler times of MY life—fir trees, tinsel and big, hot lights; marshmallow Santas, jello, onion dip and cans of whipped cream; vinyl dolls, wooden sleds, Monopoly and Candyland… Yes, those were less complicated times, but they still foreshadowed our great monster of a consumer society.

I crave the truly simple days I never knew. The life that was anything but simple, but which thrilled to plain and humble pleasures.

I am so very aware that my life is not nearly hard enough. So simple pleasures could never be enough to satisfy my craving for the magic.

And that is not a good thing.

Cross-posted at Women On…


  1. Oh, I loved those books, and you're right -- the Christmas stories are the most moving. I remember my dad telling me stories of getting an orange for Christmas. That was it, and it was an indulgence. (We always got oranges in our stockings as kids.) In trying to make everything perfect and wonderful, we have lost so much real magic.

  2. A woman after my own heart!! I loved and cherished every single Laura Ingalls Wilder book at a young girl! I read them over and over too, probably wishing I lived with THEM instead of MY crappy family, whatever their hardships! Oh for sure, I can imagine being that 12 yr old girl at Christmas! My love of all things Laura was passed on to my kids...on long car trips with my two youngest, I'd read them a Little House book, so they were treated to them too! Oh yeah! Memories. Thanks for this Lisa!