A Dear Little Girl’s Thanksgiving Holidays

In this 1912 novel young Edna’s mother received a letter from the girl’s grandma, inviting the entire family to an old-fashioned Thanksgiving. It’s decided that Mother and Edna would go early in the week to help out, and Father and the older children would come a couple days later.

Edna tells one of her friends about the visit to her grandparents’ home and says “It is real country and yet it isn’t, for it is a village.” Grandpa had a farm, but across the street was a store, a church, and lots of neighbors within walking distance. The perfect arrangement for a book about a little girl who will soon have lots of adventures.

When Edna and her mother arrived at Grandpa’s farm they greeted Mother’s parents, and met Reliance, a thirteen-year-old orphaned bound girl, who was legally obligated (bound) to stay with Edna’s grandparents until she was eighteen. Grandma had gone to school with the girl’s grandmother, and it was decided to have the orphan come and help Amanda, the family’s aging cook, and train the girl to eventually take Amanda’s place.

Soon Edna’s immediate family, along with a couple dozen aunts, uncles and cousins, are together at the farm, eating a Thanksgiving meal consisting of two turkeys, a large chicken pie, an oyster pie, plus pumpkin, lemon and apple pie for dessert. (If there were any potatoes or vegetables they weren’t mentioned.) In the evening the family served themselves sandwiches and leftovers, so the servants could have a couple of hours off, seeing as it was a major holiday.

The next morning, in true children’s-novel fashion, Edna awoke with a fever and head ache, and felt so miserable she couldn’t eat a breakfast of waffles and fried chicken. It was determined she would be unable to travel for at least a week, and Mother and one of her aunts stayed behind with her when the rest of the family left for home.

Edna spent the weekend inside, but by Monday the girl who was too sick to travel was allowed to dress warmly and go outside to visit with a few neighbor girls. The first thing they did was to explore a “haunted” house, closed up since two spinster sisters died several years ago. Bossy Ester Ann knew a back door was unlocked, and talked all of the girls, except for Alcinda, into going inside. Ester Ann then said they should each take one pretty item to take home as presents for their mothers. (Reliance chose something to give to Edna’s grandmother.) Those mothers then taught the girls – and the readers – that taking things from abandoned houses is stealing. (I think a better lesson would have been to not listen to bossy people.)

The next day the girls had to return the would-be gifts, and afterward met up with Alcinda, who was upset over her missing black Pomeranian, Jetty. She was sure her dog had been stolen, and told them Jetty always barked at the butcher boy, the man who drove the mill wagon, and the man who brings the laundry. It was thought that someone who got barked at would be most likely to steal a dog, so they all agreed to investigate the suspects, with Edna and Reliance going to the flour mill.

They discovered poor Jetty swimming in the cold mill pond, and Reliance rushed off to find some boards to push into the pond for the worn out dog to climb onto. I wouldn’t think to look for planks of lumber around a water-turned flour mill, but Reliance found some to push out to the dog, and Jetty was able to crawl onto the closest one and get to shore. The girls then went to the miller’s house, who said he’d just fired the man who’d drove his wagon. He speculated the man had put the dog into an empty sack, and planned to sell Jetty, but after he got fired he’d thrown the dog into the pond. Boy, some people really get upset by dogs barking at them!

During the dog rescue adventure Edna got her feet wet, and Grandma feared she’d catch cold all over again, so she put her to bed and said she couldn’t go outside the next day. But Alcinda came calling, inviting Edna and Reliance to be the guests of honor at a party given by her rescued dog. Edna pleaded with her mother, and was told she could go across the street for the party if she bundled up, and wore her rubbers. Reliance had a bigger challenge to overcome, for the party would interfere with her work, but she was finally given permission to go, if she did some of her work early.

At first Edna was going to wear her best frock to the party, but decided she shouldn’t be better dressed than the bound girl who’d done most of the dog rescuing. The girls both wore pretty dresses, went to the party and were served hot chocolate and cake, and then each received a medal for bravery – a new quarter with a hole drilled through the top so that a ribbon tied into a bow could be attached to it. Both girls declared they’d keep their medals forever.

That should be enough adventure for one Thanksgiving holiday, but the girls decided they wanted to start a service club, with Edna as an honorary member. Their club would be called The Elderflower Club, and the children would do acts of kindness for elderly neighbors, especially Nathan Keener, a poor, sickly old man, who was always in a bad mood. Edna’s mother had heard that children annoyed Nathan and called him names, so she suggested the girls politely say good morning to him when they see him on his porch, and gradually work up to having short conversations with him.

Most of the girls thought polite greetings to Nathan was a good idea, but Ester Ann, the bossy girl from the “haunted” house troubles, had what she felt was a better plan. Ester Ann chose Edna to go with her when she walked up to mean old Nathan and handed him an apple. But alas, the old man had had apples filled with red pepper left on his doorstep, his bread stolen, and salt put in his milk, so he grabbed Ester Ann by the arm and raised a thick walking stick as if to strike her. Ester Ann screamed, and some school boys came to help, ready to fight the feeble, elderly man.

Oh, what a dreadful mess. If only Edna’s older cousin Ben would happen by, on his way to escort his mother to the train station. Since his mother had told him about Nathan, he could talk about what a great baseball player the man used to be, and promise to take him to a baseball game next year. He could ask Nathan to keep his temper under control, and say he’d come back to punish any boys that continued to play tricks on the poor man. That seems about the right turn of events for a Dear Little Girl book.

There were four Dear Little Girl books published, and this was the last of the series. It kept my interest, though I admit to finding Edna, the main character, rather dull compared to some of the other characters, such as Reliance, the bound girl. But few children’s novels were written about the Thanksgiving holiday, so I felt this would be a good November story to share.

If you’d like to know the entire story A Dear Little Girl’s Thanksgiving Holidays can be downloaded free of charge at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/30007