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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #107

[Hetty and Minnie Woodlawn have been visiting a neighbor woman, Mrs. Nightingale, who gets lonely when her husband must travel for his work. They call her Aunt Molly. She has a china doll named Adelaide that Hetty and Minnie love to play with, and she has made a new costume for Adelaide every Christmas for the last thirty years. A month before Christmas Aunt Molly’s papa falls ill. As the weeks go by the two little girls wonder if Adelaide will get her new outfit this year, and they decide to make one for her. Their first attempt is unsuccessful, and they have to ask their older sister Clara for help.]  Usually Clara was not one to tell things, but somehow the news of what Hetty and Minnie were doing got around the family circle. No one plagued or teased them about it. But the day before Christmas, when they were still taking turns at setting in the tiny stitches (which sometimes grew larger for very desperation), and when the end seemed very nearly in sight, Tom and Warren came in from the woods with a doll-sized Christmas tree. It was really a little beauty, of a most perfect shape, and they had risked their necks in the swampland to get it out for Adelaide. And then it seemed that Clara had baked tiny star-shaped cookies with loops of thread baked into them for hanging them upon the tiny branches, and Caddie had been carving and gilding tiny hazelnut baskets and stringing red cranberries. Suddenly Adelaide’s Christmas had become more important to the Woodlawn children than their own. [...] [Later that day they hear that Grandpa is on the mend and would like to see Hetty and Minnie.] Then Aunt Molly was opening the door for them, and crying out in surprise at the sight of the little Christmas tree. “No! It’s never Christmas surely!” “Yes, it is!” cried Hetty. “Merry Christmas, Aunt Molly!” And little Minnie said, “Yes, it is, Aunt Molly!” Aunt Molly’s face had lost the white, troubled look which it had worn for the last month. Her little black eyes sparkled. She was almost beautiful. “And you have brought us a tree!” she cried. “The roast fowl is for Grandpa and you and Dr. Nightingale,” said Hetty, “but the tree is for Adelaide.” “Adelaide?” said Aunt Molly. Suddenly her bright face clouded again. “Adelaide! Why, it’s Christmas, isn’t it? The first Christmas I ever forgot all about Adelaide. How very odd! I never thought I should –” “Aunt Molly,” Hetty said in an excited rush of words, “I hope you won’t be angry with us, but we went ahead and did it. It isn’t very good; but Minnie and me, we made the Christmas costume.” “You made the Christmas costume?” said Aunt Molly. There was something strange in her face, and they could not be sure whether she was glad or sorry. She drew them into the kitchen and closed the door. Then she opened the package they held out, and looked very carefully at the wine-colored alpaca costume without saying a word. She turned the hem inside out and looked at the stitches they had made, some that were very small and neat and some that were in a hurry. Hetty stood inside the kitchen holding the little tree with the candle, and Minnie clung to the back of Hetty’s cloak, and they were suddenly afraid that maybe they had done the wrong thing. “It isn’t very good,” Hetty repeated hesitantly. “We got in kind of a hurry,” Minnie said. “What do you mean it isn’t very good!” snapped Aunt Molly. “It’s ever so much better than I did on my first one!” Then Hetty saw that there was a glint of tears in Aunt Molly’s eyes, and she knew that Aunt Molly had taken so long to speak because she had wanted to cry instead. It was quite strange. But when Aunt  Molly kissed them, they knew that everything was all right – because she had never kissed them before, and this was a happy kiss. The light of the Christmas candle was bright on Adelaide’s china cheeks. It seemed to make her eyes dance, and the costume fitted perfectly. Carol Ryrie Brink, Magical Melons: More Stories About Caddie Woodlawn (1939), pp. 139-142

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