Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Birds' Christmas Carol

The Birds' Christmas Carol
(1887) is another Christmas favorite from early in my memory, the story of beautiful little Carol Bird, who was born on Christmas morning as the choir boys were singing "Carol joyfully . . . Carol merrily" and, sadly, dies on Christmas night ten years later, to the faint strains of "My ain countree": "A wee birdie to its nest . . . To his ain countree."

How I loved having this book read aloud to me by my mom's mom, Grandma Lindsey; especially Chapter Four, when the next door neighbors, "the little Ruggleses" get ready to attend the dinner party that Carol is hosting in their honor. Bath time, etiquette lessons, the feast, the presents -- it was all so much fun! And then came the sad ending.

Wiggen's best-known heroine, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, was a nice girl, but she never won my heart the way Carol Bird did. There are antique copies to be had, floating around on the used book market, and also a lovely reissue, illustrated exactly as the original. I have one of each, a new one from amazon and an 1892 treasure -- a gift from my mother.

I only recently discovered another Christmas story by Kate Douglas Wiggen, The Romance of a Christmas Card (1916), containing a plot about breaking into the greeting card business (something I've always wanted to do myself) and a subplot about mothers and children and childbirth. Wiggen has a lovely name for Christmas Eve, calling it " . . . the Eve of Mary, when all women are blest" ( 74). She is also amazingly astute in her description of post-partum depression, when one character advises another not to be too critical of her sister - in - law's lack of interest in her newborn twins: "Eva's not right; she's not quite responsible. There are cases where motherhood, that should be a joy, brings nothing but mental torture and perversion of instinct. Try and remember that, if it helps you any" (37). Insights such as that more than make up for any sense of datedness.

More Holiday Favorites
On my Book Blog

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