CHRISTMAS MORNING dawned as bright as the previous days had been. Ellen stretched her arms wide before standing up and dressing. After barn work and breakfast she had decided she would put on one of Madeline’s pretty dresses. There were even two pretty aprons she could wear.
Slade was awake and his eyes were twinkling.
“What is on your mind?” Ellen asked. She was suspicious of his humor so early. He was never grouchy in the morning, but he was generally rather taciturn.
“Nothing.” He said briefly.
“Hmm.” Ellen returned. “What time did you go to sleep last night? I wish you had called me. Did you hurt your leg getting around by yourself?”
“I’m fine.” He answered her. “Unfortunately, I’m going to need your help to our little house this morning. This leg is very humbling to a man.”
“Ha!” she answered. “You will have to wait just a minute til I get the coffee started. What shall we have for breakfast? Something special or plain old mush? “
“I would order bacon and eggs, but I’m afraid we don’t have any so I’ll take what ever you make…. Wait! How about those griddle cakes you made a few days ago? Yep, that’s what I want.”
“Well, then that will have to wait too. Sarah doesn’t like waiting to be milked.”
She came over and helped him stand. “Still in your clothes, I see. I guess you did have a hard night.”
“Never you mind. I got a long just fine.” He retorted.
Slade stood and it was evident that his independence the night before had cost him some recovery time. He bowed his head.
“I think we maybe should put the blanket on again. I did hurt it.”
Ellen didn’t say anything, but she helped him back flat on the bed and brought her rolled blanket and the strips to hold the leg still. When she finished, she helped his stand again. Still with compassion, but no comment.
He leaned on her more heavily as they made their way across the room and he slid his bare feet into his boots. He got his coat on and jammed the hat on his head.
Ellen was already dressed for outdoor work and moved into position under his arm again. He held tightly as they went out and down the steps. Then she brought the chair for him to use as a support. The trip was long and grueling for Slade. The leg was definitely worse than it had been before his insistence on helping himself to bed. But, he considered, it was worth it. He had been able to finish the gifts he had planned for Ellen.
When they got to the out house, Slade held to the wall as he maneuvered his own way into the little building. Ellen returned to the house and collected her buckets and water for the cow. By the time she had carried them to the barn, Slade was using the chair and making his slow way toward the house.
She helped him up the steps to a seat and left him sitting at the table with a pan of hot water and the things to give himself a brief bath while she was out.
Breakfast was a happy meal. Slade was in a good mood and enjoyed watching as Ellen mixed the batter for the griddle cakes. They ate the hot cakes with the same peach sauce she had made before. When the sauce was all gone, Slade ate the last cake with his coffee.
After breakfast, Ellen quickly stacked the dishes and cut the big roast from the slab of beef that had thawed over night. While Slade leaned on his elbows and watched, she rubbed it with salt and pepper and placed it in the Dutch oven. It barely fit! They were going to have a feast! She situated it to the side of the fire and surrounded with hot coals.
When she was ready to wash the dishes, Slade insisted on helping her. She washed them and poured hot water over each one before she handed it to Slade to be dried. The work went quickly with pleasant teasing and conversation.
It was becoming evident that Slade was in pain. She helped him back to his bed, but he refused to lie down until he had donned a clean shirt and another pair of pants. After weeks of being forced to accept her help in the most personal matters, he was less embarrassed to have her help him into a clean shirt and pants. As soon as he had clean clothes he consented to let her smooth the quilt over his bed and help him to get comfortable on it.
“Now,” he said, “go do what ever you need to do.” And as soon as he closed his eyes, Ellen knew he would be asleep for a while. She left him and went to get her clean dress and things for a quick bath.
When she was clean and wearing Madeline’s pretty dress she retrieved the shirt and muffler. She made her careful way down the ladder and laid the gifts back against the wall on the little writing table. She still had the rest of their meal to put together.
There had been some turnips in the root cellar that she had taken out the day before. With the pretty apron covering her dress, she scrubbed the wrinkly skins and peeled them. They went into the roast pot with a heavy layer of onions spread over top. She set dried apples to soak. It would be easy to turn them into apple dumplings just before dinner.
When Slade awoke from his morning nap they had some coffee and cold cornbread. The combination had become Slade’s favorite lunch. The wonderful fragrance of roasting beef with onions and turnips filled the little cabin. But Ellen ignored their cooking dinner and focused on more important things.
“Come on, come on,” Ellen urged as they sat over their coffee. “Can we open gifts now? I’ve been patient. I want you to see your presents!”
“Now you’re acting like a ten year old!” Slade laughed at her. “But seriously, I think we should read the story of God’s gift to us before we get too greedy.”
A little bit ashamed of her self, Ellen agreed and brought the Bible from its place beside Slade’s bed.
“I don’t know how familiar you are with the account of Christ’s birth. We can study it more later if you want, but God’s chosen people, the Israelites, had been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah for hundreds of years. They had a history of disobeying God, then returning to follow His edicts again and then disobeying again.
“The Lord had promised a Messiah who would lead them into victory, but the Israelites, or Jews, as they came to be called, were looking for a great and powerful leader who would lead the armies of Judaism in triumphant warfare against all their enemies. They had no thought for a spiritual triumph.
“So, they weren’t expecting a baby born of poor parents and raised in obscurity. Later when Jesus came preaching, the rulers of the Jews refused his teachings of peace and God’s love for mankind. God had seen to it that there were signs accompanying His Son’s birth so that his Lordship was established in the eyes of true believers. The story starts in the first chapter of Luke. That gives us the account of God’s witness to the priest Zacharias about the birth of his son who would be the forerunner of Jesus. It also tells the story of the angel who came to Mary, Jesus mother, foretelling her conception of Jesus and his birth.
“We’ll start though with the second chapter”.
And Slade began reading, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
“That’s beautiful,” Ellen breathed. “All those wonderful things and Mary kept them and “pondered them in her heart’. I wonder what else she thought about.
“Tia Margarita used to talk about the Virgin Mary, but I never knew the whole story exactly.
I think I told you she was very religious, but when I went to mass with her I never understood any of it.”
“Well,” Slade answered. “I have to tell you that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, but she did not stay a virgin all of her life. She had several children after she gave birth to Jesus. I’m not sure why the Catholic Church has revered her so highly as a virgin.”
“The important thing is,” said Ellen, “that the Christ Child was born and now we can celebrate His Birth and the salvation he brought us!”