Summary: Little Joe learns something special about Christmas, with the help of his brothers.
Rating: T, WC 947
Christmas was coming and ten year old Little Joe Cartwright bounced around the house. Oh he was excited for Christmas but what added to that joy and energy was the fact that it was the first Christmas since his oldest brother had returned from college. Once December arrived, Little Joe became more aware of his behavior and attitude. His father and brothers noticed how hard he tried to be helpful, compliant, and just plain nice. Joe’s complete turnaround brought a grin to Hoss’ face, a slight smirk to Adam’s and a wistful smile to Ben’s, wondering as he did each year, if any of the changes would last beyond Christmas Day.
This year, Ben noticed that the overall feel of the family was lighter and brighter with Adam’s return from college. Although Adam had had a rough start over the summer in settling back in, he now had rediscovered his “cowboy legs”. Ben chuckled at his use of the old sea metaphor as he settled at the table for breakfast. Before he took his first sip of coffee he was surrounded by his three sons. Adam and Hoss were talking excitedly about finishing chores and riding to town to do some shopping. Ben noticed they didn’t include Joe in their conversation, and that’s when he also noticed that Joe was not begging to go with his big brothers.
“Joseph, are you going to town with your brothers?” Ben caught his other sons’ eyes to confirm they had asked them.
Joe nibbled at his eggs and shook his head.
Ben turned toward Adam and Hoss. “Boys?”
Adam paused in drinking his coffee. “We asked him but he said he wasn’t interested. If he changes his mind we’ll leave in a couple of hours.”
Ben nodded and breakfast continued with light conversation among three of the four Cartwrights.
After breakfast, Adam and Hoss headed to the barn to finish their chores. As he curried his horse before saddling him, Adam broke the brotherly silence.
“Any idea why Joe was so quiet?” He tossed the brush over to Hoss and reached for his saddle.
“Nah. He seemed okay till we asked him ta go ta town with us. I figured he’d want to shop for Pa or see some of his friends.”
Before any more could be said, the brothers’ heads turned in unison at the vehement words coming from the house.
“You lied Pa an’ I don’t want anything to do with Christmas ever again!”
Joe burst into the barn. “An’ you two can disappear for all I care for lyin’ to me too!” Joe ran from the barn leaving his brothers dumbstruck.
Joe ran wildly through the trees and up the well-worn trail behind the house. Shoving branches out his way he let his feet lead the way, unaware of two shadows following him.
Tearfully, Joe crouched by his mother’s grave. “Why mama? Even you told me about Pere Noel, and how he’d bring gifts for me if I was good. An’ every year, the tree and the gifts would magically appear on Christmas morning. Why mama, why did you lie? He’s not real. All those gifts were from you and Pa. I ain’t believin’ in Christmas ever again. Never!”
Hoss stepped from the bushes and sat by his brother.
Joe shifted away. “Go ‘way, both of ya. You ain’t gonna change my mind.”
“Oh little brother, I know it’s hard to keep believing when you know you’ve been deceived. But you know what, Joe? We didn’t deceive you. Santa, Father Christmas, Pere Noel –”
“And Jultomten, as Mama Inger taught me…..” Adam joined his brothers.
Hoss smiled, “Yeah, all them are names for the same person, an’ his name was Saint Nicholas.”
Little Joe brought his head up, skepticism showing heavily in his young face.
Adam clarified, “He was a Greek Christian bishop who lived long ago. He was wealthy and wanted to share with the poor, so he left food, supplies, toys, even a dowry in one case, but all in secret. Stories of his generosity changed over the centuries and throughout countries, but generally it was the same, giving to help others, or to children, and usually done in secret.”
Hoss nudged his brother, “We didn’t realize you still believed in Santa, but you know what? Now that you know all about him, you can be Santa.”
Joe looked puzzled so Adam explained further, “You can do things that help others, and in our family we sometimes give secret gifts to surprise each other.”
Joe smiled as things slowly made sense. “You mean like the saddle Santa left for Pa last year? Was that you Adam?”
“Me, Hoss, and Grandfather Stoddard. We didn’t think Pa would accept it if he knew who it was from, ‘cause of the cost, and we did it out of love. But as you know he figured it out anyway.”
“And the tickets for Hop Sing to go to San Francisco to see family he hadn’t seen in years?”
“Ya see Joe, God gave his son as a gift to us, an’ He gave it out of love. So we can do the same. We can give special gifts to others out of love.”
“So Santa is real, in a way.”
The brothers laughed. “You betcha. Let’s go. We ‘Santas’ are workin’ on somethin’ special. Wanna help?”
Joe’s enthusiasm returned in full force. “You bet I do!”
Together, the trio made their way home. While Hoss helped Joe saddle his horse, Adam let their Pa know all was well and quickly explained. Fifteen minutes later three Santas rode to town on a mission of love.
Other Stories by this Author
- Card Trick aka The Card Trick Quilt (by AC1830)
- A Christmas Journey (by AC1830)
- Christmas Child (by AC1830)