Miss Laura Comes to Christmas
When your grandparents own the Mansfield Livestock Auction in Mansfield, Missouri, you never know what you’re going to get for Christmas. There, they had a giant room that used to be the feed store. We kids called it the treasure room—the adults had other names for it.
You see, when people couldn’t get rid of something at their yard sale, they brought it to the auction. My grandpa would always start out the bidding. If no one else bid, then he became the proud owner of whatever was inside the box. Sometimes the treasures – costume jewelry, a giant pig piggy bank, a pair of roller skates – made an appearance under the tree, but most of the treasures stayed in the abandoned feed store and collected dust.
I loved going to the auction with my grandparents and often they would tell me stories about my great-grandpa’s neighbor, Miss Laura. Miss Laura’s husband was crippled and Grandpa Lindsay had to help them when a storm blew the trees over. Miss Laura wrote books and sometimes spoke to ladies’ groups. Miss Laura was buried in the same cemetery as Grandpa Lindsay. My dad remembered meeting Miss Laura.
But I didn’t remember any of that. It was too long ago. I’d rather play with the kids hanging around the auction than hear about an old friend of my grandparents’. I’d met a lot of their friends, and so far none of them were that exciting. But one Christmas, the family conspired to force Miss Laura right into my favorite day of the year.
The wrapped box had looked promising. It was heavy enough to be another pair of roller skates, but it didn’t rattle. What could it be?
Breathlessly, I tore off the paper to find a yellow box of books. The illustrations on the box looked interesting, but then my mom spoke the soul-crushing words:
“Those are Miss Laura’s book.”
Miss Laura? The old lady who used to live next to my great-grandparents? My shoulders slumped. The box slipped out of my hands and thudded against my knee hard enough to leave a bruise. And Miss Laura hadn’t written just one book, but nine books.
I couldn’t imagine the torturous hours it would take me to make it through all those pages filled with stories about an elderly woman, but everyone looked so excited, that I knew there was no getting out of it.
And I’m glad I went along. Nothing prepared me for the little girl I met on the first page. This Laura was nothing like the white-headed lady whose picture was pasted inside each cover. This Laura had adventures, she was energetic, and she was always in trouble — just like me. I read those books straight through and on into the new year. I kept reading until I’d finished them all, and then I sat down and started reading the first one again, but this time I read it aloud to my little sister.
Going through the books gave me another way to appreciate my grandparents. Although they hadn’t been covered-wagon pioneers, they’d grown up in an era and a region where many of the homesteading ways were still in use. Now I had questions that they were especially suited to answer. Taffy pull? Making butter? Butchering a pig? Watching their eyes light up as they dusted off long-neglected memories, was more fun than decorating the tree.
And that was perhaps the best gift to come out of that yellow box of Little House books. It was an understanding of how stories can bind years and generations. As unbelievable as it seemed, my grandparents had once been children themselves, and just like Miss Laura Ingalls Wilder, they had stories to tell about when they were children, or young adults, or new parents. Because of those books, I was ready to listen. Maybe before that Christmas, I didn’t truly understand how thrilling our past was, but Miss Laura taught me an appreciation for our history, and for the people who lived it.
More about Holding the Fort
Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance
Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.
Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.
When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess—they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty—but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?
Award-winning author Regina Jennings knows a thing or two about auctions, having worked at the Oklahoma National Stockyards as a “Weighmaster” for years. Now she writes historical romances set in the Missouri Ozarks, Oklahoma Territory and exotic places like Texas. She is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with an English degree and a history minor and lives west of Oklahoma City.
Her newest release, Holding the Fort, is set at Fort Reno, Indian Territory, a place not far from home.