Every morning Earl Olsburg would crawl from under the blankets, place his bare feet on the dirt floor, quickly pull on his woolen socks over his thermals, and then light the fire in the coal-wood stove across the room.
The one-room cabin would warm as his siblings slept on the
bed. He would carefully stoke the blaze until he could feel its
cheerful warmth. Then he would completely dress in his clothes and
outer-garments. Next he fed and watered the chickens and one cow. By
then his younger sister would be gathering the eggs. Earl would chop the
kindling and stack the wood against the wall near the stove. The room
would be warm as mother readied a breakfast of eggs and toast. They
would all eat together around a small table in the corner.
the death of their father a few months before, Earl at twelve was the
man of the house. When his father was living, he would bring a small fir
home so that the family could decorate it with with ribbons and
popcorn. On Christmas morning each of the children had small stockings
filled with an orange and small bits of hard candy. Earl would save bits
of the candy to remember Christmas.
Without a father, they
wouldn't have much of a Christmas. Still this Christmas Eve, mother
pulled out the last of her sugar and flour and made cookies. The
children sang carols as they decked the small room with fire boughs.
They fell asleep under the blankets.
On Christmas morning, Earl
slipped out of bed and started his morning routine. Turning towards the
door, he stopped. In front of him were two black-polished boots filled
to the brim with candy. His heart stopped and started. He looked to see
if his mother was up. Surely she didn't have enough money to buy these
beautiful boots, let alone the candy. He knew how much money they had to
the last penny.
He knelt down and looked at the boots again in
their black shiny surfaces. Around the boots were four oranges. He
looked up and saw his mother climb out of bed. When he saw her face
filled with astonishment and yes, tears, he knew she had not done this.
carefully divided the candy. Then Early put on the boots. They fit
perfectly. For the first time in months, Earl believed in hope.