Little Flossie gripped her own paper bag filled with precious bits of hard candy and an orange. Fruit was rare in December.
Songs from the Christmas program at church still danced in her head. She'd nearly forgotten her own short piece of the program but managed to recite in a quiet monotone. Standing in a line with the other children her age, she'd tried to still her pounding heart as the children after her mumbled their own lines.
"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." That had been her part to say.
She wondered about a baby who had to sleep in a manger. Why hadn't there been room in the inn? He came to a poor family, she thought, and they didn't have much.
But now her family huddled in the tiny living room. Her sister was peeling an orange and the sweet citrus smell blended with the pine scent from the Christmas tree. Flossie touched a string of popcorn, remembering how she'd poked herself with a needle as she strung thread through the puffy popcorn.
They'd already read the nativity account from Luke at church so her father now led the family in singing "Silent Night." Her father was German but he couldn't manage the original German lyrics.
There would be gifts this Christmas, Flossie knew, but things were tight. Their farm was small and their family large. At least they still had the farm. Some of the neighbors had lost theirs due to the low crop prices.
"Merry Christmas!" Her mother handed her a parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string.
Flossie didn't open it right away. Savoring the moment, she watched her older brother handing out small packages to the other children.
Then, her heart skittering in excitement, she slowly slipped the string off the paper and unwrapped the package. Inside was Bessie, her doll. Bessie had been washed and her hair combed, a ribbon threaded through the dark curls.
And a new dress, dotted with the pink blossoms imprinted on the flour bag that had yielded the fabric, clothed her sturdy body.
Flossie drew the doll to herself, sniffing the freshness of the dress mingling with the orange and pine. She could smell Jesse's shampoo and the soap that had scrubbed Esther. The closeness of her family, all peering at their own gifts, warmed the room.
What kind of Christmas had baby Jesus had? Flossie popped a red piece of candy into her mouth. Jesus was loved, Flossie thought. And she knew that was enough.