A big hit with my kids last spring and summer was the Little House on the Prairie series. We enjoyed nearly all the books (long car trips are perfect for the ones on CD) and watched a number of episodes of the TV series from the 1970's--you know the one, starring Michael Landon as an improbably buff and clean-shaven Pa Ingalls?
I seldom sat through more than a few minutes of any given show, but in the scattered scenes that I caught, I noticed something I did not appreciate as a child. Pa and Ma, as portrayed on the small screen, had a sweet and genuine love and affection for one another which they regularly demonstrated.
At least once an episode Charles (Pa) gave Caroline (Ma) a big hug, a hearty kiss, or a tender touch. Perhaps this adds a note of falseness to the sometimes-strained storylines...after all, they were hardy pioneers, more focused on daily survival and never-ending chores than on "keeping the romance alive" as promoted in today's portrayal of married couples.
Many of the Little House books showcased Christmas-related tales of love and kindness, such as the time Mr. Edwards walked 40 miles to Independence to meet Santa Claus and pick up gifts for Laura and Mary in Little House on the Prairie. Less dramatic, but still very significant to the books and the Ingalls family's well-being, is the lesson of Ma and Pa's ongoing tender regard for one another.
So here we are, Christmas day on the horizon, and few of us will experience anything like another memorably difficult holiday the Ingalls dealt with—the Christmas described in The Long Winter when they came close to starvation during a seven-month spell of blizzards.
Their Christmas day was incredibly bleak by today's standards: one small present each and watered down oyster soup to supplement their otherwise bland rations of toast and tea. Yet, " 'Oh what a lovely Christmas,' Carrie sighed. Laura thought so too. Whatever happened, they would always have a merry Christmas."
I think I will try to make it a more loving season for us, too, as my own sort of gift in addition to the wrapped ones under our tree. I will think of Ma and Pa—the real Ma and Pa, not just the TV characters. They endured harder times than I have ever known and trials that I cannot even imagine.
Whether celebrating a meager Christmas in Kansas territory or putting a bright face on the worst of holiday circumstances during the long winter, loving kindness surely played a role in their daily lives. A little more tenderness...let us see what it does for our little family this season, as well as all the year long.