Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Short Stories on Wednesdays - Journey into Christmas by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Journey into Christmas
first story in the collection, Journey into Christmas and Other Stories
by Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881-1954)
Illustrations by James Aldrich
published, 1949
17 pages long

This collection of Christmas stories was given to me by a dear friend just this year, with the directions to 'open before Christmas!' I've had this book, and its author, Bess Streeter Aldrich, on my reading radar for a number of years, and I am so happy to finally own some of her work. As I read about her life here, I couldn't help but think this story was very close to her heart. It tells of a sixty year old woman, Margaret who is facing Christmas utterly alone. Although her children are grown and have families of their own, still every year some of them have been back at the family home at Christmastime. Her husband has been dead for a long time. Bess Streeter Aldrich' own husband died young, leaving her to raise four children, which she did through her writing.

Margaret understands the reasons why they can't be home. But as she says,
The head may tell the heart all sorts of sensible things, but at Christmastime the heart is stronger.
She begins to take a journey back through Christmases past, and the memories she finds there help to sustain her on this first Christmas Eve without any of her family around her. And then the phone rings, and she receives the best Christmas gift of all.

I loved this story. It was heartfelt and genuine. There were sad moments, but they were real moments. Anyone whose children are grown, and especially those whose children live far away will certainly understand Margaret's feelings. It is reminiscent of one of my most beloved books called Little Christmas by Agnes Sligh Turnbull. I wrote about it in one of my early letters. Coincidentally, the mother's name is also Margaret, and it was written about the same time. It saddens me that such writings are not published anymore. I long for the days when Family Circle Magazine contained stories like this, by writers such as Gladys Taber. There are still stories in various publications, such as The New Yorker, but I'm quite sure something like Journey into Christmas would never be accepted. When I was a girl, I read about people my own age, but I also read about older people. That is one way we learn about life and growing up and the way people think at different stages of life.

I am especially fond of the cover illustration. This is much the way my home town looked at Christmastime while I was growing up. Oh, for the days of diagonal parking!!

Short Stories on Wednesdays is hosted by Breadcrumb Reads.

I am offering this as a contribution to The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.


  1. Nan, I just came in from the rain with a copy of Stillmeadow Daybook. I came upon it yesterday and asked the antique dealer if she could hold it for a day, which she did. Of course, I looked around the shop some more and came across a pile of Good Housekeeping and Family Circle from the '70's. None with Gladys Taber, but, it was fun to look. How I miss those magazines and long for the wonderful stories they held back when.

    This book by Aldrich looks like something I would like. I'm wondering if the illustrator, James Aldrich is a relation.

  2. It is rare to find books about people close to my age and I will try to find this one.

    There are still a few towns that have diagonal parking Nan. One that I can think of is Fort Collins Colorado ..which has other things that remind me of my childhood.

  3. As much as I love Christmas it is different through the years. Sometimes sad sometimes great fun always full of love. I am enjoying this Journey into Christmas with your postings of all sorts of christmas stories. I can remember that first Christmas without my children at home. It sure takes some adjustments and getting used to.

  4. Sounds lovely - I'll make note of this author, as I haven't heard of her. I like stories where characters are confronting loneliness.

    When I was a girl, I read about people my own age, but I also read about older people.
    I agree this is important. Not just to read about people who are most like you.

  5. Nan, this is one of my favorite Christmas books. I can't think of one bad story among them. Bess Streeter Aldrich was one of my mother's favorite authors and she has passed some of her books down to me. My favorite is "The Rim of the Prairie" followed by "A Lantern In Her Hand." You must read them!

  6. Oh, Penny, I'd sure like to have been there with you! Now it seems these mags are all about health, and makeup, and how to fit things into a busy schedule. Sad.
    I think he may be her son, but I'm not positive.

    Sallie, I've always loved books about older women particularly. And this year I bought one about an older man, the new Julian Barnes.

    Thank you for your words, Lisa. I suspect that is true for most of us. We do things a little different as changes occur. The first Christmas after my father died, my mother put up only white lights outside instead of the colorful ones we'd always had. And the first Christmas after she died, our friends and neighbors did a wonderful job keeping Tom and I cheered up.

    HKatz, I suspect there isn't a book out there that has a character like me! :<))

    Jill, I will! I've jotted down the titles. Thank you!

  7. This sounds like just the book for me. This will be my first Christmas without any family at all - my mother died this summer, and the family is down to me, one Aunt in Kansas City and three dispersed cousins. After 65 years of sharing Christmas with my mother, it's quite different. It's always good to see how others cope.

  8. Shoreacres, I'm so sorry. It is sad to see the older family slip away. The depletion hits afresh each year as I write my Christmas cards. Thinking of you.

  9. I read this story a year or two ago and I found it too sad. Perhaps because we weren't having any family home for the holidays... I'm not sure if I even finished the story. Perhaps I should have. This will be another Christmas without "the girls." But it's getting easier as the years pass. We know one will probably come home eventually and the other we will hold in our hearts and in our memories forever.

    On a cheerier note, I agree with Jill. I loved A Lantern In Her Hand! I read it shortly after moving to Lincoln and it spoke to me as a newcomer to this prairie land.

  10. Les, I do understand. This woman's children were alive; they just weren't 'home' for Christmas. In some ways, I thought the woman expected too much. There are lots of parents whose children are rarely home all together, even at Christmas. May I recommend the Turnbull book for a more optimistic view, though it may be because the husband in the family was still alive. This woman may have felt extra alone because she didn't still have her spouse. I also think Turnbull's writing is better.

  11. Nan, I just had to share with you that this was one of the presents I received this year. I put it on my Amazon wishlish and much to my delight opened it on Christmas morn. I know I'll enjoy working my way through it.

    Love your pillowcase idea in today's post!

  12. Oh, Penny, isn't that just wonderful!! And thanks about the pillowcase idea.


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